Transcript of conversation with Jennifer Egan
That title came to me years ago, and I was very excited by it. It felt like it had an interesting book attached to it, and I thought, I wonder what that book will be. And when I first started writing, as I described earlier, one chapter and then another, and realizing that it was a book, I thought, this must be A Visit From The Goon Squad. It's finally arrived. But of course I had no idea what it meant, except that I also knew, and I should have mentioned this earlier, that one of my inspirations-- the primary one was certainly Proust who wrote about time with a kind of excellence that I think I can't imagine anyone will ever surpass. But the other inspiration was the Sopranos, which I was watching over many of the same years that I was reading Proust. And whose novelistic qualities, which have been much discussed, I really felt powerfully, and particularly the movement between central and peripheral characters, the way that it would break open a character who seemed to be a cliché, and reveal a very nuanced inner life, and the way that it's rather decentralized. All of that, I thought, I'd like to do that in an actual book, so I liked the thought that The Goon in the title sort of gave a little wink to one of my inspirations, which was that show, but it was only in the course of writing a particular chapter, that I suddenly understood what the goon was, because a character says, "Time's a goon, right? Isn't that the expression?" And in that moment, I was so excited, I thought, yes, now I get it. If I hadn't been able to make a satisfying connection, I would, of course, have changed the title. But it continued to feel right to me. It's not one that everyone responds to, I have to say, but for me it worked.