Thursday, June 6, 2013

Review A Visit From The Goon Squad by: Jennifer Egan

Title: A Visit From The Goon Squad
Author: Jennifer Egan
Publisher: Knopf
Pages: 274
Purchase: Barnes and Noble | Amazon


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.

My Thoughts: 

What this book left me with are mixed feelings and thoughts. I was excited about it especially because everyone kept saying it was full of music. Am I the only one who thought the soundtrack was trying too hard? Yes, we get the Black Flag and Dead Kennedys references, but… Then?

The most interesting part about reading “A Visit From the Goon Squad” was discovering what a talented writer Jennifer Egan is. As a huge Lester Bangs fan, when someone else writes about music or something involving a lot of music, it just doesn’t work for me. As someone who read and watched anything she can find on the “sex & drugs & rock ’n roll” generation, again, it just doesn’t work. I think Egan chose this kind of backdrop to really be able to show the phases her characters go through but, still, NO.

So, I’ll put the book aside for now, and talk about why I was impressed with the author. First of all, I love authors who can gather different characters together and does a good job at letting us see through their different points of view. I was mesmerized by this kind of narrative when I read William Faulkner’s “As I Lay Dying” and I was mad at myself for not reading it sooner. Jennifer Egan, from this aspect, is also a very crafty author.

In addition, even though what I was reading was a “novel,” I also felt like I was reading a collection of short stories. As a fan of short stories, I enjoyed this a great deal and loved the fact that they were interconnected. Different kinds of media inside the book like the Power Point presentations reminded me a little bit of Mark Z. Danileweski’s “House of Leaves.” Still, I give Egan 10 out of 10 for “style.

And now we move onto the message of the book…

“The Goon Squad” that made its way into the title is actually “time.” Egan also touches upon this in the interviews she gives. She says, “My nine-year old loves Lady GaGa and refers to Madonna as ‘old school.’ There’s no way to avoid becoming part of the past.” Do we need to read a 341-page book to assure ourselves of what we already know? For me, the ride wasn’t worth it, but I’ll let you be the judge.

P.S. Proust’s “Swann’s Way” has been on my to-read list for as long as I can remember. I’ve finally bought it, but didn’t get around to reading it yet. Jennifer Egan quoted “Swann’s Way” at the beginning of her book, which, I must admit, scared me quite a bit!

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