The Candy House by Jennifer Egan review – new tech, old wounds
This companion novel to A Visit from the Goon Squad, in which memories are uploaded and shared, explores the loneliness of hyper-connectivity
A visit from the Goon Squad, Jennifer Egan’s 2010 Pulitzer-winning rock’n’roll novel, felt like the beginning of something. It was a tale as gimmicky and restless as the smartphone era threatened to be. One chapter was written entirely in PowerPoint slides; another in textspeak (“if thr r children, thr mst b a fUtr, rt?”). The cast was a neon collision of kleptomaniacs, philanderers, It girls, autocrats and a guitar band called the Flaming Dildos. And the plot ricocheted like a browsing-addled brain. But if A Visit from the Goon Squad carried the promise of a grand wave of tech-inflected fiction, that literary trend never quite materialised. In an era of screen-curated selfhood, autofiction surged instead.
A dozen years on, and Egan’s cult novel now feels like the end of something, a kind of techno-optimist elegy: a study in time’s “incremental deflations”, and the loneliness of hyper-connectivity. It’s this sense of paradoxical isolation that Egan revisits in her new book. The Candy House is less a sequel to Goon Squad than a fraternal twin. Minor characters are thrust into the thick of things; formerly major characters make Hitchcockian cameos. As befits its title, The Candy House is a novel of Easter eggs – of hidden in-joke treats. It begs to be read alongside its more extroverted sibling, and to consider, in the space between them, the deflations – incremental and otherwise – of the last decade. Continue reading...