The Keep

Jennifer Egan, Author . Knopf $24 (239p) ISBN 978-1-4000-4392-7

Claustrophobic paranoia, intentionally mediocre writing and a transparent gimmick dominate Egan's follow-up to Look at Me , centered on estranged cousins who reunite in Eastern Europe. Danny, a 36-year-old New York hipster who wears brown lipstick (and whose body can detect Wi-Fi availability), accepts his wealthy cousin Howard's invitation to come to Eastern Europe and help fix up the castle Howard plans on turning into a luxury Luddite hotel (check your cell at the door). In doing so, Danny can't help recalling the childhood prank he played on a young Howie that left the awkward adolescent nearly dead—or so writes Ray, the druggie inmate who's penning this novel-within-a-novel for his prison writing workshop. Subsequent chapters alternate between Danny's fantastical castle travails (it's home to a caustic baroness bent on preserving her family seat) and Ray's prison drama. There are funny asides and trappings (particularly digital technology) along the way, and the sendup of castle narratives generates some chuckles. But the connection between the two narratives, which Egan reveals in intentionally tawdry fashion, feels telegraphed from the first chapter, making for a frustrating read. (Aug.)

Reviewed on: 04/03/2006
Release date: 08/01/2006
Genre: Fiction
Compact Disc - 978-1-60283-990-8
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