2017 National Book Award Longlist, Fiction

Jennifer Egan

Manhattan Beach, by Jennifer Egan Jennifer Egan
Manhattan Beach
(Scribner / Simon & Schuster)

ISBN: 9781476716732

National Book Foundation: Why did you write this book?
Jennifer Egan: After 9/11, I began thinking about World War II-era New York as a time and place I wanted to explore: the period when America began its ascent into the status of a superpower. I’d also been hoping for a while to write a book explicitly about female strength, and that idea somehow adhered to the first—maybe because wartime required the temporary lifting of so many rules and expectations governing feminine behavior. And then there was the waterfront, unavoidable in a book about wartime New York. That temped me into all kinds of shadowy highways and byways: organized crime, the Brooklyn Navy Yard, deep sea diving, and the merchant marine. The ocean has always been my touchstone for the eternal, and MANHATTAN BEACH was my chance to gaze at it from every angle and perspective.
Foundation: What’s your favorite bookstore or library?
Egan: I’m lucky to be one of the few remaining Americans with a bookstore just down the street:  Greenlight Bookstore, in Brooklyn, NY. It’s been amazing to see the effect a bookstore can have on a neighborhood:  people bring their kids there; meet dates there; browse there before and after dinner at restaurants nearby.  The Greenlight corner has become a locus of activity. With so much interaction happening virtually, I think we crave an occasion to connect around something mutually interesting, thoughtful, wide-reaching. Books are perfect for that, and a thriving bookstore is like a pounding heart in the community around it.


Mesmerizing, hauntingly beautiful, with the pace and atmosphere of a noir thriller and a wealth of detail about organized crime, the merchant marine and the clash of classes in New York, Egan’s first historical novel is a masterpiece, a deft, startling, intimate exploration of a transformative moment in the lives of women and men, America, and the world. 

About the Author

Jennifer Egan is the author of five previous books of fiction: A Visit from the Goon Squad, which won the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award; The Keep; the story collection Emerald CityLook at Me, a National Book Award Finalist; and The Invisible Circus. Her work has appeared in The New YorkerHarper's MagazineGrantaMcSweeney's, and The New York Times Magazine.


- WEBSITE: jenniferegan.com

- TWITTER: @Egangoonsquad

(Photo credit: Pieter VanHattem)


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