Jennifer Egan is a Bad Motherf&*(%er

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Having served four hard years of film school just up the street, I wasn’t sure just how much pontification I could stomach when I signed up to attend a new series at the Crosby Street Hotel, “Under the Influence: Writers on Film.” The pairing sounded good: Pulitzer Prize winner Jennifer Egan discussing the effect Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction had on her book A Visit from the Goon Squad. However, while I was stoked to hear Egan talk about her writing, I’ve already sat through enough nerd-boy conversations about Pulp FIction (“It’s Marcellus Wallace’s soul!” “Dude, the gimp scene was messed up!”) that I was kind of dreading the experience.

1. Writers and fans Matthew Phillp and Bryan McDonald got creative. 2. Lisa Rawlins and Jim Deskevich came for the movie and were pleasantly surprised by the conversation.

Luckily for me, Egan isn’t a nerd-boy. Perhaps she’s the best kind of nerd. Last night’s event will go down as one of the best discussions of the film and writing I’ve ever had the pleasure to attend and I’ve attended a lot. We covered the use of time, music, delays, in writing and in Pulp Fiction — all themes that I’d never really considered, but after being illuminated by Egan’s razor sharp discussion, I could hardly believe I’d missed. In particular, Egan shared that in the film Tarantino kills off Vincent Vega more or less in the middle of the story, and she remembered thinking, “Wait, you can’t kill of your main character now! And then in the next scene, he’s back. For the entire rest of the movie, the scenes with Travolta have a higher emotional intensity, and that just floored me.”

1. Writer John J. Kaminski teaches Egan’s work in his English class.

One of the first things Egan said was that after watching the film she was struck by how much happens without us knowing it, how much we’re influenced without being conscious of it. Though she claims Pulp Fiction as an influence, yesterday’s screening was only the second time she’d ever seen the film. You would never know from the conversation.

I’ve also been attending several “music meets literature” events lately, and last night Egan expressed the most adept reconciliation of the emotional impact the between the two. In A Visit from the Goon Squad, Egan uses music as a sort of emotional and temporal jumping off point when she makes her grand leaps in time from chapter to chapter. Tarantino uses music much to the same effect in Pulp Fiction. Both are equally effective.

They say music is poetry of the air. After the screening, the kind folks at the Crosby Hotel serves us all booze and hamburgers, to which I say: hamburgers are poetry of the stomach.

— Cassie Hay is a regular contributor to The Dish.

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