Narrative 10

With the release of Jennifer Egan’s stunning new novel, Manhattan Beach, Narrative posed a few questions to the author.

1. Who is your favorite character in fiction; your fave character in life?

In fiction, Lily Bart. But life is too complicated for favorites.

2. A line (that you or someone else wrote) that continues to inspire you?

“The role of the artist is to not look away.” —Akira Kurosawa

3. The story, book, or poem you wish you could read again for the first time. What did it teach you?

Wharton’s The House of Mirth. It taught me that fiction can do anything, and everything.

4. Best part of the day?

When the light is brightest.

5. Your cure for when the spirit flags?

Exercise or a glass of wine—or both, in that order.

6. Ten words you use most on the page? In life?

To a fault, on the page: Amazed, felt, sensed, overwhelmed, stunned, feverish, struggle, impulse.

To a fault, in life: Cool, wow, amazing, incredible, appalled, shocking, horrible, unappealing.

7. What’s your current obsession?

Whether the previous occupants of an architectural space left anything behind.

8. What’s the most useful criticism you’ve ever received?

Stop doing what you do most easily.

9. What did you know at age twelve that you wish you hadn’t forgotten; and/or what do you know now that you wish you knew then?

Time really does pass.

10. To quote Auden, “O tell me the truth about love.” We’re all ears.

It is the difference between a full life and an empty one.

Finally, is there a short passage from the new book you’d like to share with our readers?

“He’d been about to get back in his car when he found himself staring into the dark of the Upper Bay, where boats and waterfront were blacked out. He’d perceived a new, dynamic density in the darkness. All at once his eyes had organized the mystery and he’d seen it: a procession of immense ships slipping from the harbor at regular intervals like beasts or ghosts. A convoy headed out to sea. There was something profound, unearthly, even, in its muted passage.”