What’s It About: Interweaving stories about characters in the entertainment and music industry, including a record label executive and his assistant, a publicist, an actress, a journalist, a rocker, and the people whose lives they affect.
Why: Judging from the long list of awards of the front page, and the Pulitzer Prize sticker on the front, it seemed worthy of attention.
Thoughts:There’s a lot here to enjoy and a lot that surprised me. While the stories do connect with each other, they don’t exactly fit together like puzzle pieces. Each one can be read separately or as part of a collective. They vary in style and format (one is a Powerpoint Presentation) and each establishes new territory for the following chapters to explore, yet not quite resolve. In fact, very few of our characters’ live are completely resolved. We only gain descriptive glimpses into pivotal points in their lives, and the rest sometimes gets told implicitly in a later chapter via a sentence or two.
This uneasy sense of spending detailed, honest time with characters, and then rushing past large spans of their lives is fitting to Egan’s theme of time’s effect on identity. And what better way to explore this theme than with aging rockers and movie stars who embraced youthful passions only to find them changed or lacking in adulthood. The music/entertainment industry is also a fitting place to explore time, since it has rapidly involved in the past decades. We cannot even simply imagine what it will be like ten or twenty years from now, as Egan projects with two of her stories, displacing our contemporary sensibilities with strange new texting lingo and inventive ways of expression.
Perhaps because the stories were so loosely tied together, I didn’t feel quite compelled to follow the characters or the trajectory of the book. Some sections are far better than others (my personal favorite is an interview piece written about Hollywood starlet Kitty Jackson) but none really stands out from the collection. However, I’m glad to have muddled through to the end.