Sep 04 2006
WTF Internet Moment: The Keep by Jennifer Egan, reviewed by Donna Bowman on the Onion AV Club
Jennifer Egan should adopt a nom de plume – “J. Egan” would do quite well. An unfortunate side effect of the popularity of chick lit and poetic, memoir-ish “women’s novels” is that a woman’s name on the cover creates a certain expectation about what’s inside.
…yessss. This unfortunate preconception is common in many demographics, for example the yeti, orcs, Snorks, amphibious robots from the original Johnny Quest, and that bell that hides the Easter eggs in France. Which is to say that that it is a problem mainly among imaginary pretend people.
Isn’t The Tale of Genji generally considered the first novel? What with it being by a woman, and things. I think the reviewer is under the impression that women writing books is somehow a new thing, started mayyyybe in the early 90′s or so. Whole thing couldn’t have pre-dated Oprah, anyway.
And Egan subverts that expectation as thoroughly as any woman writing today. Her previous novels pigeonhole themselves in typical women’s-fiction categories by their synopses (model finds self, teenage girl finds self) and cover photos (youthful female faces).
First sentence: “Egan subverts stereotypes about women’s writing being navel-gazing crap!”
Second sentence: “(And by the way, I apparently believe that women’s writing is navel-gazing crap.)”
Her muscular, lively prose achieves a haunting effect closer to Chuck Palahniuk than Marilynne Robinson – not the tenuous, lacy phrases of fragile introspection, but the stark honesty of action arrested in stop-motion.
OH MY GOD THAT IS SO CRAZY, THAT IT IS CRAZY. I don’t know who Marilynne Robinson is. Is she the archetypal woman writer now? I was not informed. I was tolerably happy with Jane Austen’s performance, did her term expire? And why the hell wasn’t J. K. Rowling’s name on the ballot?! Step up and do your duty to the community, woman!*
Also, stop-motion is for Christmas specials.
That’s my harmful preconception.
(Skip skip skip – awkwardly-worded and confusing synopsis – aaand here -)
And the immersion in these high-stakes psychological tightrope acts gives The Keep a page-turning horror.
Immersion in… high-stakes… tight-rope acts.
Oh my god that’s the best bad metaphor ever.
Just as well that the publishers didn’t slap a girl’s face on the cover; if they could take the “Jennifer” off, too, Egan might get the kind of masculine (or at least gender-neutral) reading her outstanding novel deserves.
I feel like I should read the book just to apologize to Egan for having been reviewed by this person. I guess Bowman must have read it, but her mind was clearly on something else. Is the stuff on the AV Club usually this bad?
* And is Palahniuk really the archetypal male writer? It seems like a lot of women read his books.