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The Keep Paperback – July 10, 2007
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Q: What is your writing process like? Has it differed from book to book?
A: My writing process seems to be a strange one, at least compared with other writers I've talked to. I begin with very little: usually just a strong sense of time and place--of atmosphere--and a few abstract notions that I want to explore. In the case of The Keep, I had a yen to set a book in what I'll call a gothic environment: an isolated, crumbling structure whose heyday is long past, and where eerie things begin to happen. As for the notions, I was curious about telecommunications: the way that cell phones and the Internet have made so many of us accustomed to nearly constant disembodied communication--a state traditionally associated with supernatural experience. I loved the idea of letting modern telecommunications collide with a gothic environment and seeing what would happen.
I write by hand--usually one long draft that I scribble out quickly (5-10 pages a day) and poorly. I do this almost completely from the gut, with very little sense of where I'm going. It's often in the process of this almost unconscious writing that I discover characters and action. When the first draft is done, I type it into the computer (the parts I can read anyway; I have wretched handwriting) and see what I've got. Not a word of that first draft usually makes it anywhere near the final draft--which, in the case of some chapters of Look at Me, my last novel, was sixty to seventy drafts later. I edit by hand on a hard copy, then type in the changes and print it out again for further editing. The writing itself always remains instinctive, but there is a strong analytical counterpart, when I figure out what I'm doing in terms of plot, characters, thematic underpinnings, and then scheme about how I can do it better. I save every draft until a book is done; a towering pile of paper that I eventually, joyfully, recycle.
Q: Some of the most powerful (and terrifying) moments in the book deal with claustrophobia. Are you claustrophobic?
A: I almost never write about myself, or things that have happened in my own life, or about people I know. I like to make all of it up--or at least, I think I'm making it up, until later I realize how much of my own experience has crept into my books, disguised even from me. For example: I'm not claustrophobic, but I've certainly been paranoid, and the two are closely linked. I wanted to capture the way that paranoia (like claustrophobia) can instantly turn a benign environment into an unmitigated nightmare. One question is always at the center of such experiences: is this real, or am I making it up? We live in very paranoid times. I was interested in the way paranoia can make someone turn threatening and aggressive in exactly the ways they perceive the world to be. They become the very monster they fear.
Q: What author/s have inspired you?
A: In the big, long-term ways: Lawrence Sterne, Jane Austen, Edith Wharton, Emile Zola, George Eliot, Robert Stone, Don DeLillo, Jean Rhys.
For The Keep, the list is slightly different. There are some fantastic (and totally insane) Gothic novels that I had a ball reading: Horace Walpole's The Castle of Otranto, Charles Maturin's Melmoth the Wanderer, Ann Radcliffe's The Mysteries of Udolpho, Matthew Lewis's The Monk--those are all 18th century books--and then from the 19th century, Wilkie Collins's The Woman in White, which is an absolutely drop-dead great thriller.
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top Customer Reviews
The first narrative is a creepy modern gothic novel, complete with an ancient crumbling castle, a long-suppressed motive for revenge, a wicked old baroness who morphs into a young sexpot, ghostly apparitions, betrayals, obsessions, strange sounds, dark closed spaces, and dank smells. This narrative is told by Danny, a hip, ex-con, Generation-X, self-proclaimed cell phone junkie--a psychologically damaged survivor of a long string of failed attempts to make any kind of stable life. As the story opens, he has just arrived at a ruined castle near Prague owned by his multi-millionaire cousin Howard. Howard aims to turn the castle into a new-age psychological and spiritual retreat for people who want temporarily to take a vacation from the high-tech multi-media world and reacquaint themselves with their inner primitive imaginations. Howard has brought his cousin Danny over to the castle to help with the renovations...or is that just his cover story? The longer Danny stays in the castle away from any connection to the outside world, the greater his paranoia grows.Read more ›
Howie and Danny have a tumultuous past relationship, ever since Danny played a childhood prank that went terribly wrong. Danny has nagging doubts about Howie's motives for summoning him to his castle-in-transformation, and as strange events unfold, he's not sure who to trust and what is authentic. (It doesn't help that he's naturally predisposed to paranoia, of course.)
Early on, Egan tosses in another aspect to the story: it is actually a creative writing task for a hardened prisoner. Our author, Ray, only joined the writing class to escape his cell, but his fictional work takes on a life of his own, especially after he develops a connection with his fragile, recovering teacher. He empathizes his character Danny, but he makes it clear that Danny isn't a self-portrait.Read more ›
Egan seems unable to chose a genre and stick it out so we wind up with a mixed bag of modern gothic, part suspense thriller, part morality tale, with a bit of romance and redemption thrown in near the end.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
The pages flew by. Very suspenseful. Still trying to process how I feel about the story. Not sure how some of the pieces fit together... Read morePublished 1 month ago by Nicole Laflamme
This story was unexpected and interesting and an incredibly enjoyable read. The further you get, the more threads run together to create a fascinating web of storytelling.Published 2 months ago by Poindextrix
There's a good story here within another good story within another story. I did not like how it ended without a real conclusion.Published 4 months ago by Amazon Customer
Really terrific book--entirely original, a bit confounding, very atmospheric.Published 5 months ago by Elaine
Jennifer had me suspicious at times, sympathizing next, scared, sad, wondering, curious, laughing, and eagerly reading. Read morePublished 8 months ago by BG (stayin' alive)
I could NOT put this book down. I finished it in 24 hours, which is quite a feat for me. It is one of the most compelling page-turners I've ever read.Published 9 months ago by Kilgore Trout
The Keep, by Jennifer Egan, is a clever, weird, book full of the kind of humor that comes from the unexpected and the out-of-context, and studded with odd, surprisingly genuine... Read morePublished 10 months ago by Litocracy
I found this book to be a frustrating adventure. The author leads you in with a story about Danny, an ex-con who found his way to castle in Europe. Read morePublished 12 months ago by Jennifer E
The book must be good, but Daphne's review seems to reveal the plot so if you could remove her review for otheres that would be great.Published 12 months ago by sarah