Jennifer Egan | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Jennifer Egan

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Danny's got a problem. It's not that the mob ran him out of Manhattan. Or that he can't get any cell reception in the remote eastern European mountains where he's landed. Or that he's seeing things--ghosts?--around the moldering medieval castle his cousin Howie has hired him to help turn into a most unusual hotel. His real problem is that by page 13 of Jennifer Egan's new novel, The Keep (Knopf), he's lost his own starring role in the story. Danny, addicted to telecommunications and his own fraying sense of self-importance, is a character in a tale penned by Ray, a convicted murderer in a prison creative-writing class, and as their stories unspool along parallel lines Egan plays a canny, assured game of shifting identities, narrators slipping one into the next and perspectives sliding about. Drenched in gothic dread, The Keep is loaded with metaphors for the ways in which we're trapped by modernity and technology, by bad decisions and haunted pasts, and by our own fragile psyches. It's a testament to Egan's ever surprising skill that after all the narrative twists and tricks of the first two sections of the book, the bluntly naturalistic third section--in which Holly, the recovering meth addict who was Ray's writing teacher, takes center stage--delivers such a decisive knockout punch. Tue 9/19, 7:30 PM, Barbara's Bookstore, 1218 S. Halsted, 312-413-2665. Also Wed 10/4, 7 PM, 57th Street Books, 1301 E. 57th, 773-684-1300.

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