The Candy House By Jennifer Egan

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The Candy House: A Novel By Jennifer Egan

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Book/Novel Author: Jennifer Egan

Book/Novel Title: The Candy House

 

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Named a Most Anticipated Book of the Year by Time, Entertainment Weekly, Vogue, Good Housekeeping, Oprah Daily, Glamour, USA TODAY, Parade, Bustle, San Francisco Chronicle, The Seattle Times, The Boston Globe, Tampa Bay Times, BuzzFeed, Vulture, and many more! From one of the most celebrated writers of our time, a literary figure with cult status, a “sibling novel” to her Pulitzer Prize– and NBCC Award–winning A Visit from the Goon Squad—an electrifying, deeply moving novel about the quest for authenticity and meaning in a world where memories and identities are no longer private.The Candy House opens with the staggeringly brilliant Bix Bouton, whose company, Mandala, is so successful that he is “one of those tech demi-gods with whom we’re all on a first name basis.” Bix is 40, with four kids, restless, desperate for a new idea, when he stumbles into a conversation group, mostly Columbia professors, one of whom is experimenting with downloading or “externalizing” memory. It’s 2010. Within a decade, Bix’s new technology, “Own Your Unconscious”—that allows you access to every memory you’ve ever had, and to share every memory in exchange for access to the memories of others—has seduced multitudes. But not everyone. In spellbinding interlocking narratives, Egan spins out the consequences of Own Your Unconscious through the lives of multiple characters whose paths intersect over several decades. Intellectually dazzling, The Candy House is also extraordinarily moving, a testament to the tenacity and transcendence of human longing for real connection, love, family, privacy and redemption. In the world of Egan’s spectacular imagination, there are “counters” who track and exploit desires and there are “eluders,” those who understand the price of taking a bite of the Candy House. Egan introduces these characters in an astonishing array of narrative styles—from omniscient to first person plural to a duet of voices, an epistolary chapter and a chapter of tweets. If Goon Squad was organized like a concept album, The Candy House incorporates Electronic Dance Music’s more disjunctive approach. The parts are titled: Build, Break, Drop. With an emphasis on gaming, portals, and alternate worlds, its structure also suggests the experience of moving among dimensions in a role-playing game. The Candy House is a bold, brilliant imagining of a world that is moments away. Egan takes to stunning new heights her “deeply intuitive forays into the darker aspects of our technology-driven, image-saturated culture” (Vogue). The Candy House delivers an absolutely extraordinary combination of fierce, exhilarating intelligence and heart.
I wasn’t crazy about Goon Squad and so didn’t have high expectations for this one, but the two together make a beautiful and complex but meaningful saga. Unlike the first one by itself there are layers to try to uncover with them together. I disagree with the reviews that say each stands on its own-to me they were all part of the same book.
There were to many math equations in the book. I don’t think the math added anything to the story. Good characters.
I had read quite a few glowing reviews of this book, so I decided to buy it. Perhaps it would have made more sense if I’d already read “A Visit from the Goon Squad,” but when I was barely half way through I was very tempted to stop and toss it in my to-be-donated stack. I forced myself to keep going although neither the characters nor the story seemed to make any sense to me. I finished it but still was floundering to understand what it was all about. Overall, a great disappointment to me.
The follow up to Jennifer Egan’s successful novel, A Visit from the Goon Squad, is a direct confrontation with the world of social media. Structured in an assemblage of standalone stories with intersecting characters, the novel centers around a not so implausible, sci-fi device, called “Own your Unconscious,” which allows humanity to upload its memories to a digital platform. Egan explores the implications of this technology, while pursuing deeper questions of authenticity and intimacy. The key problem with the book, to my mind, consists in tackling the subject too directly. One is so submerged in the problematic of social media, memory, identity, and authenticity, that the book doesn’t let you enter it. Perhaps a more allegorical or metaphorical approach to the same problem would have afforded greater imagination, greater feeling.
I don’t often stop reading a book and give up but I had to with this one. I got over 25% through and I just didn’t get it. It was either way over my head or I’m incredibly dumb but either way, it just wasn’t worth any more of my time to try to figure it out.
I enjoyed this seemingly chaotic mix of interlocking stories and the narrators did a fantastic job of bringing the characters to life. I love that feeling when what seems like chaos starts coalescing into a brilliantly cohesive story. Well done.

 

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