Thursday, Apr. 21, 2011

Jennifer Egan

There is, apparently, no story that Jennifer Egan can't tell. Her five books of fiction range from an achingly gorgeous coming-of-age novel (The Invisible Circus) to a gothic tale of betrayal (The Keep) to a multidecade kaleidoscopic depiction of the music business (A Visit from the Goon Squad, this year's Pulitzer Prize winner for fiction). Uniting disparate settings and characters is Egan's ferocious intelligence; she writes with the clarity and sharpness of a pane of glass.

For the past 15 years, she has also brought her distinctive lucidity to journalism, writing pieces about subjects such as gay teenagers and homeless families. No matter what the topic is, I know if Egan wrote the article, I'll want to read it.

I've had the pleasure of crossing paths with Egan, 48, over the years (yes, her cheekbones really are as magnificent as they look in the picture), and once at a reading I heard her say something I've thought of often since: that she wouldn't want to start writing a book she knew from the outset she was definitely capable of pulling off. Her ambition and innovation inspire me as a writer and delight me as a reader.

Sittenfeld's most recent novel is American Wife