Allegra Goodman is most recently the author of The Cookbook Collector.
Condition of Mr. Segundo: Confusing cookbooks with novels.
Author: Allegra Goodman
Subjects Discussed: [List forthcoming]
EXCERPT FROM SHOW:
Correspondent: Jonathan’s dialogue is so reflective of Sergey Brin. I mean, he says things like “Introduce me. I’m serious.” Very Star Trek-like in his dialogue.
Goodman: Actually, I’m glad you raised that. Because in terms of research into the dot commers, I did not go to libraries obviously and do that kind of research. You can’t research them like you would a group of rare cookbooks. But my research consisted of listening to the way they talk. I’m very interested in voices. The way somebody like Bill Gates talks. The way somebody like Sergey Brin talks. I’m interested in their militant casualness. They’re very bright. They’re very ambitious. They’re very driven. And they’re very chummy and casual. Like “Let’s all just make this happen.” In a way, anti-intellectual in some ways. In their rhetoric. Not that they aren’t intellectual, a lot of them. And I don’t mean to lump all of them together. But I listened to the rhetoric that they used.
Correspondent: Who did you listen to? Specific tapes or recordings?
Goodman: I was interested in Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, and some of the younger voices that I was reading in interviews in magazines at the time. The way researchers talk. The way techie people talk. The way programmers talk. Not necessarily just the powerful ones. But these are the words that they use. And I was interested actually – you know, Jess and George are very literary. And their dialogue and their banter has a lot of references to books and things like that. People have mentioned this about my book. But there’s a counterweight that people don’t mention. Maybe they don’t hear it because it’s so obvious. It’s like what we hear all the time. It doesn’t stick out. But it’s very not literary. It’s very anti-intellectual. Techie.
Correspondent: Well, Jonathan quibbles with “tenuous” at one point, looking at it like a mystified word. But this is interesting. Because I’m wondering if one of the motivating factors to write this novel is because the 1990s – God, that time was incredible in the way we documented everything about the dot com era. We documented everything about our culture. We wanted to publicize our own vacuity, so to speak. I’m wondering if this made things easier from a novelistic standpoint.
Goodman: Well, it’s really interesting. Because we did document that era and we still do. It’s been so well documented. But what I always thin is, “Well, what can my contribution be as a novelist?” As opposed to being a historian or an economist. Or even a psychologist. A sociologist. People talked about the different syndromes of sudden wealth at the time. There was a tremendous amount of journalism at the time. And after. The aftermath. The postmortems. So what could I contribute as a novelist? And what I contribute is to write about it from the inside rather than the outside. To give an intimate portrait rather than the broad overview. And as I did in Intuition, to talk about motivation. Which journalists are really not allowed to talk about, but novelists get to do.