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The Keep Paperback – July 10, 2007
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This month's Book With Buzz: "Little Fires Everywhere" by Celeste Ng
From the bestselling author of Everything I Never Told You, a riveting novel that traces the intertwined fates of the picture - perfect Richardson family and the enigmatic mother and daughter who upend their lives. See more
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In Jennifer Egan's deliciously creepy new novel, two cousins reunite twenty years after a childhood prank gone wrong changed their lives and sent them on their separate ways. "Cousin Howie," the formerly uncool, strange, and pasty ("he looked like a guy the sun wouldn't touch") cousin has become a blond, tan, and married millionaire with a generous spirit. He invites his cousin Danny (who as an insecure teenager left him hurt and helpless in a cave for three days) to help him renovate an old castle in Germany. To reveal too much would ruin the story, just know that The Keep is a wonderfully weird read--a touch experimental in terms of narrative, with a hefty dose of gothic tension and mystery--balanced by an intimate and mesmerizing look at how the past haunts us in different ways. --Daphne Durham
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
When Gurner reads conversations, he announces the name of the person before reading the dialogue. This technique is as annoying as it is helpful, making the recording sound more like a grade school teacher reading aloud rather than a sophisticated audiobook production. Inmate Ray is working on a gothic novel at his prison's writing workshop. Eagan alternates chapters between him in prison and the adventures of his alter ego, Danny, within the novel. The speech patterns of Ray's fellow inmates are nicely individualized, but the women who inhabit the embedded novel are too similar. Geneva Carr appears only in the third part of the novel (on the last disc). As the voice of Ray's creative writing teacher and love interest, Carr explores the complexities of a woman who falls for a prisoner and makes listeners wish she'd had more to do in this production. The Keep is a clever, quirky novel that ping-pongs the listener between a medieval castle that kept people out and a modern prison that fences people in until the two worlds collide.
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
Ray is the guy writing this story for a creative writing class in prison. His story alternates between that of Danny and Howie's.
The Keep is deliciously Gothic and creepy. But it is not your usual story and I almost didn't read it because reviews have been so mixed. I was given a push by a fellow tweeter and I am so glad I did.
Danny is such a great character, paranoid that Howie wants payback for the horrific childhood prank, obsessed with being connected to the outside world, so much so that he brings his own satellite dish to the castle and unfortunately loses it, rendering his laptop and satellite phone useless. And did I mention the Baroness? She comes with the castle, refusing to leave the Keep which is the tower part of the castle, inaccessible if the walls are breached.
Howie is a control freak millionaire, who wants to turn the castle into a type of spa that shuns the outside world. Then there is Mick, Howie's number two man, who resents Danny's presence.
Egan is such a great write and I was so drawn into this story, moving between the castle and prison, not sure what is reality and what is fiction. This is another book I stayed up late reading to try and finish. I really recommend giving this book a try.
It would have made my favorites of 2010 but there were so many great books to choose from. So it may not be on the list, but I loved it!
my rating 5/5