Perhaps it was the upending-nature of travel, but I couldn’t shake the feeling I was living inside two different novels during my week in Austin.
The first one is obvious if you’re read it: James Hynes’ Next. His protagonist Kevin Quinn flies to Austin from Michigan for a job interview, and spends most of the novel walking the city and idly stalking a young woman he met on the plane. (This novel is excellent, with a moving final chapter that elevates the book from entertaining to indelible.) Adding to the surreality was a tweet from the author himself, recommending some good local taco joints. (I can vouch for Torchy’s.)
The second novel would be Jennifer Egan’s A Visit from the Goon Squad. You might think I’d have the experimental work on the brain, what with all the forward-thinking SXSW panels (one chapter’s written entirely in PowerPoint).
It’s more because Egan so perfectly captures the feeling of being electrified by live music. I was lucky enough to catch Jack White’s parking lot concert, and it felt a lot like a couple of the shows in Goon Squad.
Additionally, her hopscotch approach to time dovetailed with my inability to remember what day it was. The concept of “Monday” doesn’t apply to your third fifteen-hour day of conferences and networking “parties.” A week of SXSW feels like a month everywhere else.