Jennifer Egan on the Literary Pleasures of the Concept Album

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Jennifer Egan’s new novel, “The Candy House,” one of the most anticipated books of the year, has just been published. It is related—not a sequel exactly, but something like a sibling—to her Pulitzer Prize-winning “A Visit from the Goon Squad,” from 2010. That earlier book was largely about the music business, and Egan, a passionate music fan, has described its unusual structure as having been inspired by the concept albums of her youth. “The very nature of a concept album is that it tells one big story in small pieces that sound very different from each other and that sort of collide,” she tells David Remnick. “I thought, How would I do that narratively? I ask myself that all the time.” We asked Egan to speak about three concept albums that influenced her, and she picked The Who’s “Quadrophenia,” about a disaffected, working-class mod in the nineteen-sixties; Patti Smith’s “Horses”; and Eminem’s “Recovery.” Plus, a story about two young boys, obsessed with basketball cards, who schemed to get a rare triptych card from a third friend. Decades later, their ill-gotten prize might be worth a lot of money—but whose money is it? The staff writer Charles Bethea looks at the grown-up consequences of a childhood prank.

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