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A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan
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A Visit from the Goon Squad (2010)

by Jennifer Egan

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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4,4143131,111 (3.7)429
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» See also 429 mentions

English (299)  Dutch (7)  Swedish (2)  German (1)  Danish (1)  French (1)  Norwegian (1)  Turkish (1)  All languages (313)
Showing 1-5 of 299 (next | show all)
A hit and miss collection of stories with a large cast of characters. The writing is solid throughout and Egan makes some inventive choices with structure, but the lack of a unifying motif was a bit frustrating. ( )
  albertgoldfain | Jul 2, 2014 |
To me, thus us a wonderful novel about getting old in America. Very enjoyable ( )
  saradiann | Jun 29, 2014 |
This novel or short story cycle or whatever you call it deserves its place on the year-end best of lists. It is a sprawling set of interlocking stories that circle around an aging rock-and-roll producer, his assistant, and an increasingly far flung cast of characters on multiple continents, in multiple decades, and most notably in multiple styles ranging from first person to second person to third person to PowerPoint. Yes, PowerPoint has finally made it into a major novel, apparently in a portion of it set slightly in the future.

Aging (the "goon" of the title) plays a role in many of the stories, usually in a not-so-happy way, often in a few compressed paragraphs at the end of a chapter that often contain a coda that looks into the future. ( )
  nosajeel | Jun 21, 2014 |
5 stars, brilliant ( )
  bookmagic | Jun 17, 2014 |
Original post at Book Rhapsody.

***

Time Warping and Shape Shifting

The sensation surrounding this novel forced me to buy it and the purchase was made sooner with the insistence of one of my bookish friends to read it along with him. I remember I was on budget mode that time, but a novel getting the nod of the jurors of both the Pulitzer and the Book Critics Circle? It must be worth it.

I have mixed feelings for this book. Upon closing it after reading the last sentence, I felt that it was okay. The next week, I realized that I like it. And then a few more months, I love it. Is that possible? Of course it is.

I think that the selling point of this novel is that PowerPoint presentation chapter, spanning 76 pages on my edition. That alone is enough for a cautious reader to try this book, but there are more reasons to read it. First, it’s more a disjointed collection of short stories than a regular novel. Second, each story is presented in a unique way, the PowerPoint presentation I mentioned being one of them and one rare chapter told in the second person point of view, which is coincidentally my favorite one. Perhaps this paragraph from that chapter, “Out of Body,” is all that it takes for me to love the novel more after the passing of time:

As you flail, knowing you’re not supposed to panic–panicking will drain your strength–your mind pulls away as it does so easily, so often, without your even noticing sometimes, leaving Robert Freeman Jr. to manage the current alone while you withdraw to the broader landscape, the water and buildings and streets, the avenues like endless hallways, your dorm full of sleeping students, the air thick with their communal breath. You slip through Sasha’s open window, floating over the sill lined with artifacts from her travels: a white seashell, a small gold pagoda, a pair of red dice. Her harp in one corner with its small wood stool. She’s asleep in her narrow bed, her burned red hair dark against the sheets. You kneel beside her, breathing the familiar smell of Sasha’s sleep, whispering into her ear some mix of I’m sorry and I believe in you and I’ll always be near you, protecting you, and I will never leave you, I’ll be curled around your heart for the rest of your life, until the water pressing my shoulders and chest crushes me awake and I hear Sasha screaming into my face: Fight! Fight! Fight!

The twin axes of the stories are Bennie, a music producer, and Sasha, Bennie’s assistant. The first two chapters deal with the two, and then we get disoriented as the focus leaps from one character to another. The so-called plot is stretched to years, probably thirty to fifty or seventy. I can’t give a good guess because there are lapses, but it’s strange having gained this knowledge, after finishing each chapter, that you know everything that happened to the characters.

But really, it’s hard to give a summary of this book. It’s almost like a small town novel: the characters, some who don’t even seem to have an impact on the general structure of the novel, keep intersecting each other’s lives like a connect-the-dots puzzle. But it’s also hardly that because despite the interconnection, there’s also a sense of discontinuity, and this is prevalent with how the novel is presented: stories that can stand alone.

As if those weren’t enough, the moods of the stories shift from one to the other: melancholy, funny, bittersweet, tragic, and just plain zany. Themes range from adolescent hopes and fears, to adult self-destruction, to middle-life reorganization, and to old age displacement. In addition, there’s no cause and effect thing going on. The narrative just unravels and it does so quickly, and then suddenly it runs out, but it isn’t over. It’s merely a pause, as the PowerPoint presentation chapter points out, and it will resume, and in what manner, we can only brace ourselves.

And it will end, right? It will, as a cassette tape is bound to, from side A to B, just like our lives are designed to, but I have a strange feeling that the novel never really finished, like it somehow rewound itself without repeating anything that has been said. This is ultimately the reason my feelings for it keep changing each time I think about it. It seems to me like an almost forgotten and seemingly irrelevant character still has something to say and wants to connect to the disconnectedness. Unfortunately, the pages have run out.

The snobbish reader can easily dismiss this novel as nothing short of a gimmick. But it pulls off. The author does not write it just because she wants to and just because she can. She does so to make a point, that life is constantly harassed by memories of what we lost and what we have left during various points of time.

If the reader prefers his novel ordered chronologically, then this is a challenge. Time leaps capriciously on its own, as if it was some robber, some goon squad ringing off your burglar alarm at the least expected date. Your sleep is disturbed, your wrists are bonded with rope or duct tape, your life is threatened. And hopefully, the robber will leave you at least dumbfounded, thinking how such an occurrence could take place, and then wait for the next day.

And the next. ( )
  angusmiranda | Jun 10, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 299 (next | show all)
It is neither a novel nor a collection of short stories, but something in between: a series of chapters featuring interlocking characters at different points in their lives, whose individual voices combine to a create a symphonic work that uses its interconnected form to explore ideas about human interconnectedness. This is a difficult book to summarise, but a delight to read, gradually distilling a medley out of its polyphonic, sometimes deliberately cacophonous voices.
 
Readers will be pleased to discover that the star-crossed marriage of lucid prose and expertly deployed postmodern switcheroos that helped shoot Egan to the top of the genre-bending new school is alive in well in this graceful yet wild novel. We begin in contemporaryish New York with kleptomaniac Sasha and her boss, rising music producer Bennie Salazar, before flashing back, with Bennie, to the glory days of Bay Area punk rock, and eventually forward, with Sasha, to a settled life. By then, Egan has accrued tertiary characters, like Scotty Hausmann, Bennie's one-time bandmate who all but dropped out of society, and Alex, who goes on a date with Sasha and later witnesses the future of the music industry. Egan's overarching concerns are about how rebellion ages, influence corrupts, habits turn to addictions, and lifelong friendships fluctuate and turn. Or as one character asks, How did I go from being a rock star to being a fat fuck no one cares about? Egan answers the question elegantly, though not straight on, as this powerful novel chronicles how and why we change, even as the song stays the same.
added by sduff222 | editPublishers Weekly (Jan 31, 2011)
 
Jennifer Egan’s new novel is a moving humanistic saga, an enormous nineteenth-century-style epic brilliantly disguised as ironic postmodern pastiche. It has thirteen chapters, each an accomplished short story in its own right; characters who meander in and out of these chapters, brushing up against one another’s lives in unexpected ways; a time frame that runs from 1979 to the near, but still sci-fi, future; jolting shifts in time and points of view—first person, second person, third person, Powerpoint person; and a social background of careless and brutal sex, careless and brutal drugs, and carefully brutal punk rock. All of this might be expected to depict the broken, alienated angst of modern life as viewed through the postmodern lens of broken, alienated irony. Instead, Egan gives us a great, gasping, sighing, breathing whole.
 
Although shredded with loss, “A Visit From the Goon Squad” is often darkly, rippingly funny. Egan possesses a satirist’s eye and a romance novelist’s heart.
added by zhejw | editNew York Times, Will Blythe (Jul 8, 2010)
 
If Jennifer Egan is our reward for living through the self-conscious gimmicks and ironic claptrap of postmodernism, then it was all worthwhile. Her new novel, "A Visit From the Goon Squad," is a medley of voices -- in first, second and third person -- scrambled through time and across the globe with a 70-page PowerPoint presentation reproduced toward the end.

I know that sounds like the headache-inducing, aren't-I-brilliant tedium that sends readers running to nonfiction, but Egan uses all these stylistic and formal shenanigans to produce a deeply humane story about growing up and growing old in a culture corroded by technology and marketing. And what's best, every movement of this symphony of boomer life plays out through the modern music scene, a white-knuckle trajectory of cool, from punk to junk to whatever might lie beyond. My only complaint is that "A Visit From the Goon Squad" doesn't come with a CD.
added by zhejw | editWashington Post, Ron Charles (Jun 16, 2010)
 

» Add other authors

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Jennifer Eganprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Ortega, RoxanaNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
Poets claim that we recapture for a moment the self that we were long ago when we enter some house or garden in which we used to live in our youth. But these are most hazardous pilgrimages, which end as often in disappointment as in success. It is in ourselves that we should rather seek to find those fixed places, contemporaneous with different years.
The unknown element of the lives of other people is like that of nature, which each fresh scientific discovery merely reduces but does not abolish. - Marcel Proust, In search of lost time
Dedication
For Peter M., with gratitude
First words
It began the usual way, in the bathroom of the Lassimo Hotel.
Quotations
"Time's a goon, right? Isn't that the expression?"
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0307477479, Paperback)

Bennie is an aging former punk rocker and record executive. Sasha is the passionate, troubled young woman he employs. Here Jennifer Egan brilliantly reveals their pasts, along with the inner lives of a host of other characters whose paths intersect with theirs. With music pulsing on every page, A Visit from the Goon Squad is a startling, exhilarating novel of self-destruction and redemption.

National Bestseller
National Book Critics Circle Award Winner
PEN/Faulkner Award Finalist
A New York Times Book Review Best Book

One of the Best Books of the Year: Boston Globe, Chicago Tribune, The Daily Beast, The Miami Herald, The Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Newsday, NPR's On Point, O, the Oprah Magazine, People, Publishers Weekly, Salon, San Francisco Chronicle, Seattle Times, Slate, Time, The Washington Post, and Village Voice

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 14:04:49 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

Working side-by-side for a record label, former punk rocker Bennie Salazar and the passionate Sasha hide illicit secrets from one another while interacting with a motley assortment of equally troubled people from 1970s San Francisco to the post-war future.… (more)

» see all 6 descriptions

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