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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.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
5,230381849 (3.68)473
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    The House on Fortune Street by Margot Livesey (BookshelfMonstrosity)
    BookshelfMonstrosity: Both A Visit from the Good Squad and The House on Fortune Street follow the often unexpected intricacies of human relationships of a handful of young adults.
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    Bigrider7: Each book is about musical performers who are struggling to find their identities and understand their place in a world without fame.
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» See also 473 mentions

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Showing 1-5 of 362 (next | show all)
I'm not rating this book yet, because I'm still not sure if I think Jennifer Egan accomplished what (I think) she was trying to do. But I liked it.

Still, it took a couple chapters for me to find that I did, in fact, like it. And to find that I could and did care about these characters, even though my connection to most was fleeting. The moment that happened was when I learned what would become of Rolph in the years to come. That chapter as a whole made the book make sense.

I think what Egan is doing is akin to what Don DeLillo did with Underworld (though I'm not sure why she won the Pulitzer for this and he didn't for Underworld). The Story is the thing to connect to, not so much the characters. The characters are cogs in the wheel for the Story, and though you may like one or two of them, you can't exactly root for them: the Story will use them up and discard them, and if they're happy or not seems to truly be an accident of fate, not anything anyone can control.

Take Sasha and Jocelyn, to compare and contrast. They both got themselves caught in the whirl of this Story, the wheel of fast-living rock n' roll. And Sasha finds herself in a small corner of the world where she can be happy with a husband and 2 kids; while Jocelyn finds herself in her 40s, with her mother, counting the days she's held on to her sobriety, and with a world of anger and hurt inside of her. There could be all sorts of reasons each girl ended up so differently. But Egan isn't shedding any light on that here. In her book, it's all about the Story.

And the Story is the passage of Time. Time marches on. The reader gets the empty, terrifying feeling that we only exist as a way for Time to have something more enjoyable to do than watch stars twinkle for eternity; at last, with the coming of humanity, Time gets to interact with some things that care what happens, to themselves and to their progeny. Egan makes it clear that it doesn't really matter what we do. Time will bring humanity to the next day, and the next year, and won't slow down no matter how much we beg and plead, and somehow seems to be speeding up instead, and will bring along all our mistakes, both personal and global. You think it's okay that you picked up a 17 year old girl, and took her in, and used her, and exposed her to debauchery, and that your 17 year old son was along for it all, too? Maybe it was okay each day; maybe nobody died that first day, or within a couple weeks, or even years after you moved on from her; maybe it was perfect that when you were exhausted from a teenager's insatiability for life that your son was there to fill that gap. But it caught up with you, didn't it, when your son couldn't find a way to make living make sense, and he shot himself. You think it's okay to be in your 20s, and in a big new city, making new friends every day, expecting each date to end in sex, regardless if you're going to see that person tomorrow. And again, maybe it is. But 20 years later, you see the world you've created for your toddler, a world where the word "friend" doesn't exist with quotation marks around it, because it's lost all meaning, having been over-used and exploited by your generation to mean nothing. Time saw what you were doing, and brought your mistakes to their logical conclusions.

Perhaps that's the only way to "win", or to beat Time at its own game: be aware of what you're doing in the present, for it will re-visit you in your future.

I do get the feeling that the march of Time is particularly hard on these people. It's as if Time is a big machine with many wheels, and they've all wound up on the one spinning the fastest, the hardest, wearing out the gears the quickest. Hence, their time around is shorter. More intense, perhaps, but perhaps not: they seem to partake in actions and substances that numb them from feeling all that intensity. So perhaps they're getting cheated even more: not only do they not get as many turns around, but they are so numbed they don't even enjoy their turn at all. That seems to be the case with Jocelyn, and maybe Scotty, too.

I'm still not sure where I see this book in my mind: it's not something I would recommend to most people, except perhaps the braver readers I encounter; it's not something I like in the way I like most of my favorite books, in that I don't want to re-visit this version of reality any time soon. But I can say I won't forget this book soon. It will linger with me, and will come forward with me through Time. What it will mean to me in a month, a year, a decade, I can't yet say. But it will be there.
  LauraCerone | May 26, 2016 |
I really wanted to like this book. There were many good interesting stories within various parts of the book; but I think the author needed a stronger and clearer link between the many characters. I liked it well enough to try to read some of her other work. (BTW - I didn't relate to the graphic sections near the end...I didn't 'get it'.) ( )
  JosephKing6602 | May 10, 2016 |
Abandoned. It started off great, but then 'suddenly' my interest collapsed in a paralytic response to the high energy. But I will try to view that more as a postponement.
  TheBookJunky | Apr 22, 2016 |
Included this book in our book group reading list because it had won the 2011 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. I cannot say this was one of my favorites and my view did not change after our discussion of the book. The subject matter was not the issue it was all the intersecting voices telling the story in no particular order. Several comic moments in the book but no character that anyone could say they liked or enjoyed, there were more that we disliked. The book is like an album you buy for the song you recognize and then the rest of the album turns out to be a waste of vinyl. That band that had one hit and couldn't go beyond being a one hit wonder. A wallow of self pity and regret that was no ones fault but their own misspent youth. I did give it a two star because of the creativity of the power point chapter but overall very disappointing may have to check out the finalists for that year and see if I missed something. ( )
  yvonne.sevignykaiser | Apr 2, 2016 |
What Jennifer Egan accomplishes in A Visit from the Goon Squad, is to masterfully link, through both space and time, a large cast of characters. In doing this, she illustrates the interconnectedness that is at the heart of the human experience, especially in our modern digital society. Admittedly, it took me a few chapters to begin to understand what was happening, but once I did I couldn't put the book down. ( )
  BooksForYears | Apr 1, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 362 (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)
 

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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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Book description
D'une écriture acérée , Jennifer Egan dépeint les compromissions , les faiblesses et le courage d'une galerie de personnages inoubliables .
Haiku summary

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 Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:25:15 -0400)

(see all 3 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)

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