- Paperback: 352 pages
- Publisher: Anchor; 1 edition (March 22, 2011)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0307477479
- ISBN-13: 978-0307477477
- Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.7 x 8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 1,187 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #7,787 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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A Visit from the Goon Squad Paperback – March 22, 2011
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“Pitch perfect. . . . Darkly, rippingly funny. . . . Egan possesses a satirist’s eye and a romance novelist’s heart.”
—The New York Times Book Review
“At once intellectually stimulating and moving. . . . Like a masterful album, this one demands a replay.”
—The San Francisco Chronicle
“A new classic of American fiction.”
“A spiky, shape-shifting new book. . . . A display of Egan’s extreme virtuosity.”
—The New York Times
“Wildly ambitious. . . . A tour de force. . . . Music is both subject and metaphor as Egan explores the mutability of time, destiny, and individual accountability post-technology.”
—O, The Oprah Magazine
“The smartest book you can get your hands on.”
—Los Angeles Times
“A rich and unforgettable novel about decay and endurance, about individuals in a world as it changes around them. . . . [Egan] is one of the most talented writers today.”
—The New York Review of Books
“It ends in the same place it starts, except that everything has changes, including you, the reader.”
—The New Republic
“Clever. Edgy. Groundbreaking. . . . Features characters about whom you come to care deeply as you watch them doing things they shouldn't, acting gloriously, infuriatingly human.”
—The Chicago Tribune
“Egan’s bravura fifth book samples from different eras (the glory days of punk; a slick, socially networked future) and styles (sly satire, moving tragedy, even PowerPoint) to explore the interplay between music and the rough rhythms of life.”
“Told with both affection and intensity, Goon Squad stands as a brilliant, all-absorbing novel for the beach, the woods, the air-conditioned apartment or the city stoop while wearing your iPod. Stay with this one.”
—Alan Cheuse, NPR’s All Things Considered
“Brilliant, inventive. . . . Emboldening. It cracks the world open afresh. . . . Would that Marcel Proust could receive [a copy]. It would blow his considerable mind. . . . Expect to inhale Egan’s A Visit From the Goon Squad. Then expect it to lodge in your cranium and your breastbone a good long while.”
—Cleveland Plain Dealer
“Frequently dazzling. . . . Egan’s expert flaying of human foibles has the compulsive allure of poking at a sore tooth: excruciating but exhilarating too.”
“If Egan is our reward for living through the self-conscious gimmicks and ironic claptrap of postmodernism, then it was all worthwhile. . . . [A] triumph of technical bravado and tender sympathy. . . . Turn up the music, skip the college reunion and curl up with The Goon Squad instead.”
—The Washington Post
About the Author
Jennifer Egan is the author of four novels: A Visit from the Goon Squad, The Keep, Look at Me, The Invisible Circus; and the story collection Emerald City. Her stories have been published in The New Yorker, Harper’s Magazine, GQ, Zoetrope, All-Story, and Ploughshares, and her nonfiction appears frequently in The New York Times Magazine. She lives with her husband and sons in Brooklyn.
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The back cover of the book does a pretty apt job explaining it: it's about aging punk rock record executive Bennie and his younger troubled assistant, Sasha. It's indirectly about them, at least. After starting off with stories focused on Bennie and Sasha as the main characters, the other stories are about people who knew them throughout their lives. Bennie and Sasha serve as the connecting thread that binds everyone together.
This kind of narrative is gutsy because you have to make sure a) each story is interesting in its own right while b) holding the reader's attention with so many different characters and c) maintaining enough of a connection to the central characters that it doesn't feel random.
Here, Egan succeeds on all fronts. With captivating characters and intellectually stimulating prose, she kept me fully engaged and eager to read each succeeding story. She even plays around with form in an exhilarating way; one story (one of my favorites) is told as a sort of PowerPoint presentation from the perspective of a young girl.
I enjoyed this book immensely in spite of not connecting with it emotionally as much as I did intellectually.
Maybe it was my state of mind, I don't know, but there was not one emotional punch that landed with me. The characters were cleverly constructed, with lots of smart dialogue and angst-ridden plot points, but I was not moved by a one. And, frankly, even after repeatedly checking the book description to remind myself of who characters were and what they were supposed to be doing, their outlines somehow kept disappearing in the meandering narrative. I couldn't keep them straight, and their vignettes and individual chapters (often with bouncing time-lines and seemingly little connection) were indistinct and, for me, ultimately forgettable.
At times I felt the writer was working too hard to be clever: the Power Point display towards the top of the third act (or maybe the third of four acts?) was likely meant to convey some sort of meaning, but on an e-reader it was illegible and though a weblink was offered, even that suggestion was emblematic of the problem: the device took me out of the story; it was pages and pages and pages, and had I actually left my book to go look at this on a website, I'd've LITERALLY been taken out of the story! As it was, I skipped ahead, just wanting to grab onto some thread that kept me as connected as possible to the difficult-to-follow narrative.
For me it never got there. There were some interesting, well written sections, but it wasn't cohesive enough to really impel this reader forward to find out what was going to happen. I did get to the end...and then...it was over. That was about it. It left no mark.
All art is subjective, I understand that, and clearly this is a case where my perspective is somewhat out-of-sync: Egan has won enough awards for this book, including the Pulitzer Prize, to make clear that whatever has eluded me was less of a problem for others! So be it. She is a skilled writer, with a mastery of language, and this may just be one piece of her work that did not resonate. Perhaps another of her books will.
When I first picked out a couple of Jennifer Egan's novels to read I decided to start with Manhattan Beach because the structure of this one sounded daunting - if flashes back and forth from past to present to future focusing on different characters of a loosely bound group. Additionally the point of view switches between first, second, and third person. So, you have to be on your mental toes while reading - I wasn't.
The two main characters are Bernie - a music producer and Sasha - his one time assistant. The books starts with Sasha then jumps to other people who know her or Bernie. It is like a set of short stories rather than a novel - except the chapters all revolve around the two main characters and couldn't stand on their own. In other words - exactly like a book of short stories except they aren't.
When one of the characters - who earlier tried to commit suicide - is high he points to the central point of the book:
"...and the question is, which one is really 'you', the one saying and doing whatever it is, or the one watching?" [Loc 2718]
As we work our way through the story, that is our job: which version of this person is the "real" version. But of course we change through our lives and we are the accumulation of all our history.
We read a couple of direct references to the goon squad; I'll leave it to you to read so I won't spoil it here.
This book really never grabbed me; as a result I'd put it aside for a few days and when I picked it up again the next chapter was in a different time with different characters and a different point of view. As a result I had to keep going back to remind myself who is/was who. My advice is dive in and swim through it quickly. That way it will likely hang together more may resonate better. The stories and characters themselves are interesting and the writing saves this from being a two star book - for me. The story about La Doll - Dolly's - fall, comeback, and retreat is especially good.