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A Visit from the Goon Squad Paperback – March 22, 2011
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"Rebound" by Kwame Alexander
Don't miss best-selling author Kwame Alexander's "Rebound," a new companion novel to his Newbery Award-winner, "The Crossover,"" illustrated with striking graphic novel panels. Pre-order today
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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
“A Visit From the Goon Squad should cement [Egan’s] reputation as one of America’s best, and least predictable, literary novelists.”
—Taylor Antrim, The Daily Beast
“Brilliantly structured. . . . We are pulled right in. . . . [Egan is] a boldly intellectual writer who is not afraid to apply her equally powerful intuitive skills to her ambitious projects.”
“This is art at its best—as a bulwark against the goon, as it embodies everything at once.”
—Austin American Statesman
“An exhilarating, big-hearted, three-headed beast of a story. . . . We see ourselves in all of Egan’s characters because their stories of heartbreak and redemption seem so real they could be our own, regardless of the soundtrack. Such is the stuff great novels are made of.”
“For all its postmodern flourishes, Goon Squad is as traditional as a Dickens novel. . . . [Egan’s] aim is not so much to explode traditional storytelling as to explore how it responds to the pressures and opportunities of the digital age.”
“Egan has accomplished the tricky feat of using metafiction techniques without sacrificing old-fashioned story-telling. . . . A Visit from the Goon Squad has a circuitous structure that seems almost designed for our Internet rewired brains.”
—The Wall Street Journal
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.
Never read a book like this before! Someone else mentioned "Cloud Atlas", but this book wasn't as "gimmicky". "Goon Squad" is sixteen interconnected stories, ranging from The Recent Past to the Recent Future. Like "Cloud Atlas", there are obvious and more subtle connections between the stories.
I was pleasantly surprised by the PowerPoint presentation (luckily I also have a Kindle Fire), and the best Vanity Fair interview to never appear in that magazine. Brava!
The book does really well creating the sense of time passing by into lifetimes lived. The characters have both lived meaningful and not-so-meaningful lives.
Those of you who are either from the city or live there now will especially enjoy this book.
Jennifer Egan is now in my wheelhouse and on my radar.