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Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan, text by Michelle Dean •
Even the best novelists are rarely congratulated on the quality of their observations about contemporary life. Realism is all well and good, but, it seems, there can be too much of it. There is something a little vulgar about writing a novel that is too close to the present, too concerned with current events, too eager to critique technological advancements. Imagine, if you will, a novel that was actually, directly, about Donald Trump. Too on the nose, we reviewers would sniff. Too much like an internet think piece.
Jennifer Egan has invariably escaped such critiques. Her last three novels have all, to some extent, presented commentaries on technology and its discontents.