Greg's Reviews > A Visit from the Goon Squad

A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan
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Sep 16, 10

bookshelves: fiction, girls-girls-girls
Read from August 31 to September 01, 2010

This is the best book ever that has a whole chapter done in power point.

I hate power point. I think it was invented by the devil and given to humanity to make us even dumber than we are now. I think teachers who use power point should be hog-tied by their intestines and then sodomized by Mary Lou Retton (and probably people in the corporate world too, but I don't know about that first hand, but I'm sure they deserve even worse). I hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate power point, but Jennifer Egan can do a whole book in power point and I'd it would probably be more effective than most normal novelists are with whole pages filled with words at their disposal.

Back in November 2009 I proclaimed the ARC of Jonathan Dee's The Privileges the best novel of 2010. There are a few books that have come out that I haven't read yet, but which may be better (Citrus County is one that I think might) but I now know that this book is just as good, if not better, than Dee's.

This book has a) a lame cover, b) a lame jacket description, c) a chapter kind of poking fun (jesting?) at DFW's writing style, and d) a chapter written in power point; but still with all of these apparent negatives the book is awesome.

I'm not going to try to sell you on the book. Coming from a punk background I know that too many people liking something inherently diminishes the enjoyment one can get out of something. Since Jennifer Egan is already a fairly popular author, and me already being late to the game with liking her (for years I thought she was Janet Fitch, I knew they were different people, but I thought they were synonymous with each other) I can't risk you or anyone else that hasn't already read her finding out how great she is and stealing some of my precious enjoyment from me (for example it's a scientific fact that people who listened to Green Day when they were on Lookout! in 1993 enjoyed 97% more than they enjoyed them 12 months later in 1994 when everyone liked them. The enjoyment ratio flew way down and the music essentially didn't change. There is only so much enjoyment in the world to split up, fortunately there is an infinite amount of pain and sorrow so we can all partake in that).

Anyway, now that I've gotten that pesky talking about the book out of the way. Let us turn to one of the points in the power point chapter. For those of you who haven't read the book, and will not read the book and steal my enjoyment from me; the chapter deals with a family. The daughter of the family is the narrator, or constructor of a power-point journal. Her younger brother is semi-autistic. He has a thing for silence in music. Pauses. He makes loops of the different silences, he graphs them for duration and effect. And there is a fairly interesting description of different pauses in the history of rock music, but with two of my favorite examples left out, and with one artist who made too much use of them, but who used them effectively also left out.

One. The best use of the pause in music (well in punk music) is in the Sex Pistols song "Bodies". That NOFX is mentioned in the chapter and "Bodies" isn't, is well a travesty. While it's not as surprising a false-ending as "Please Play This Song on the Radio" or as quirky / funny / jokey, it is more effective for punk pathos. I read once in a book (I think it was England's Dreaming) that the sound of the Sex Pistol's imploding was captured at the end of "Belsen was a Gas" during their last show (in my reality they never re-formed, so we are talking 1978 here), when there was just silence for a second. That silence was preceded by the one in "Bodies" though where all of the fury was released in a string of almost nonsensical uses of the word fuck.

Two. Sunny Day Real Estate, "Seven". Here the use of short almost micro pauses and one slightly longer pause work to create a expectation, excitement and anxiety. One could argue that there are not pauses in this song, but that argument is wrong. Maybe it wouldn't fit in the dynamic of the chapter because it would be very difficult to capture the pauses to sample them. More mention should be made of the first Sunny Day Real Estate album.

Three. Matthew Sweet. The man made an art out of the false-ending. He deserved to be mentioned in a chapter dealing strongly with pauses and silence in rock songs. I'm not a huge fan, but he should be given a mention.

Hopefully this aside has convinced you to not read this book and allow me to enjoy it more than if you stole some of my pleasure.
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Comments (showing 1-50 of 107) (107 new)


message 1: by Jasmine (new)

Jasmine really? I always assumed she was pop crap....

I mean that in the least offensive way possible.


Greg I had similar assumptions.


karen remember my awesome powerpoint presentation?


Greg That is another exception to the awfulness of power point!!

If more power point presentations were about cute animals I'd probably revise my opinion on the medium.


message 5: by Sparrow (new) - added it

Sparrow I've chosen to hit the "like" button, despite you being totally wrong about powerpoint. I think the law should only be taught with crazy powerpoint pictures and graphics. I love powerpoint, and I'm not ashamed to say it.


Greg I haven't studied law, so I will concede that possibly power point is appropriate there. In library school though I'm standing firm on my no power point ruling.


message 7: by Sparrow (new) - added it

Sparrow A couple of weeks ago, our crazy professor for Administrative Law, who always does insane power points, had one where there was lightning and . . . wait for it . . . thunder sound effects! It was amazing. My friend almost fell out of her chair laughing. That would have to be cool in library school, too. I don't see how it could fail.

It occurs to me that maybe my standards are low.


Greg I never had anything like that. Usually it was just teachers showing a power point presentation and reading word for word what is on the screen. Animation was never included, never mind sound effects.


message 9: by Sparrow (new) - added it

Sparrow That is totally breaking the rules of power point. When it's done right, powerpoint is a lifesaver. I'm a pretty visual learner.


message 10: by Jasmine (new)

Jasmine I am against powerpoint because teachers tend to read directly off it, it makes them less useful.


message 11: by Greg (new) - rated it 5 stars

Greg I'm thinking maybe I'm wrong and I've been hating the game when I really should've been hating the playas.


message 12: by Sparrow (new) - added it

Sparrow Greg wrote: "I'm thinking maybe I'm wrong and I've been hating the game when I really should've been hating the playas."

WORD


message 13: by Greg (new) - rated it 5 stars

Greg Jasmine wrote: "I am against powerpoint because teachers tend to read directly off it, it makes them less useful."

Jasmine, I think they might be more power point advanced on the West Coast.


message 14: by Sparrow (new) - added it

Sparrow Greg wrote: "Jasmine, I think they might be more power point advanced on the West Coast."

we are visually stunning.


message 15: by Greg (new) - rated it 5 stars

Greg That could be the secret.


message 16: by Jasmine (new)

Jasmine yeah here there are two options.

1. the teacher puts only text on the powerpoint and then reads the text directly off it with his back to the class.

2. the teacher uses only images(diagrams, graphs, tables). none of which make any sense or appear to have any relevance to the task at hand.


message 17: by Jasmine (new)

Jasmine law school is also very different.


message 18: by Sparrow (new) - added it

Sparrow I've actually heard that the most effective use of powerpoint is when you only have pictures (with maybe a title, or brief sentence) to accompany a presentation. I appreciate some short sentences because sometimes I forget to listen to the prof, and it helps orient me.

Law school is very different. That is so true.


message 19: by Joel (new) - rated it 5 stars

Joel i think one of the biggest demerits against this one is the stupid name, which is totally thematically relevant but so dorky sounding out of context that my girlfriend doesn't want to read it even though i told her it was one of my favorite books of the year. goon squad. yeesh.

also the cover is a pretty color!


message 20: by Jasmine (new)

Jasmine I do have a really old professor who I don't think really gets powerpoint he just puts up a picture of the brain and talks for half an hour pointing at it periodically. like 4 slides a class. I like that.


message 21: by Jasmine (new)

Jasmine Joel wrote: "i think one of the biggest demerits against this one is the stupid name, which is totally thematically relevant but so dorky sounding out of context that my girlfriend doesn't want to read it even ..."
interesting. I like the title, I don't like the way the book looks.


message 22: by Sparrow (new) - added it

Sparrow Jasmine wrote: "I do have a really old professor who I don't think really gets powerpoint he just puts up a picture of the brain and talks for half an hour pointing at it periodically. like 4 slides a class. I lik..."

Yeah, that's what I'm talking about. Paradoxically, crazy old people may make the best powerpoints.


message 23: by Sparrow (new) - added it

Sparrow Although, I did make one about the Deepwater Horzon litigation, and it rocks. Not to toot my own horn, but really, the only thing it's missing is a soundtrack.


message 24: by Jasmine (new)

Jasmine people who are good with technology never use it in a way that is productive to anyone else.


message 25: by Sparrow (new) - added it

Sparrow Jasmine wrote: "people who are good with technology never use it in a way that is productive to anyone else."

amen

Jasmine wrote: "I like the title, I don't like the way the book looks."

I agree!


message 26: by Jessica (new) - added it

Jessica I would vote this review for your power point hatred alone...


message 27: by Natalie (new) - added it

Natalie Powerpoits aside, you alone made me want to read this book! Nuff said.


message 28: by Natalie (new) - added it

Natalie *powerpoints (sorry too many post university (powerpoint) whiskeys tonight.


Patrick Brown Good review. One of the issues I had with the PowerPoint chapter was the way almost all of the songs were from pre-1985 (as I remember it, I might be mistaken), even though the chapter takes place in the future. Also, my favorite pause in music, which somehow didn't make it into the chapter, is in Fugazi's "Waiting Room." Especially when seen live: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SGJFWi...


message 30: by [deleted user] (new)

Have you ever read Murke's Collected Silences?


message 31: by Esteban (new) - added it

Esteban del Mal I'm thinking the sound of the Sex Pistols imploding was in Lipstick Traces; but I'm sure you've read more punk stuff than me, so I'll keep my mouth shut.


message 32: by Jasmine (new)

Jasmine Elizabeth wrote: "Jasmine wrote: "people who are good with technology never use it in a way that is productive to anyone else."

Ahem. I am good with technology. I do not stand with my back to the room and read word..."


sorry. I believe you. I make good power point presentations too, but in my case it is specifically related to my hatred of powerpoint. So I don't use facts I use graphs and pictures and memorize the facts.


message 33: by [deleted user] (new)

Elizabeth wrote: "... the findings from the commission investigating the space shuttle crash that blamed power point, in part, for dumbing down critical safety and risk information. It can be dangerous in the wrong hands."

srsly?


message 34: by Jasmine (new)

Jasmine that diagram is why I hate powerpoint.


message 35: by Jimmy (new)

Jimmy I hate powerpoint as well. I read this article back in April, and was doubled over with laughter the entire time. It reads like an Onion article.

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/27/wor...

“Some problems in the world are not bullet-izable.”

Hehe.


message 36: by Jasmine (new)

Jasmine i have to say in all honesty. I hate those charts on power point or if someone else makes them, but I make them for myself all the time.


message 37: by Greg (new) - rated it 5 stars

Greg I can't believe I forgot Fugazi, excellent use of pauses and silence in some of their songs.

Esteban, I think you are correct. I had doubts where I read about the Sex Pistols, I was waffling between England's Dreaming and Lipstick Traces.


Books Ring Mah Bell [image error]


message 39: by Caris (new)

Caris I certainly agree on the pause business. The pause in "Bodies" is, I think, the most effectively used pause in punk. As much as I like "Please Play This Song on the Radio," it never would have occurred to me to consider it a best use of anything. Honestly, it's middle of the road NOFX at best. The problem, I think, is that while the Sex Pistols use was in earnest, NOFX was being satirical towards other punk bands. There was nothing bad ass about it. Fuck this and fuck that.


message 40: by Raymond (new)

Raymond Charles Stross has a similar opinion of Power Point in "The Jennifer Morgue."

"It's the tool of choice for pointy-headed idiots with expensive suits and skinny laptops who desperately want to look as if they're in command of the job, with all the facts at their fiddling fingertips, even if Rome is burning in the background."


message 41: by Greg (new) - rated it 5 stars

Greg Awesome! Thank you for breaking book news to me!


message 42: by Ian (last edited Apr 18, 2011 09:08PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ian Paganus Hi, Greg, I hope you don't mind if I tell you a story that is prompted by your review, but amazingly (for me) it might be about the same thing that Message 31 mentions.
I can't do this in PowerPoint, but if you would like to imagine me doing it in the precursor to PowerPoint (chalk and blackboard, i.e., "chalk and talk"), that's OK.
I studied German in the days immediately pre-punk (1970-1974) and had a great teacher.
One day, I asked him if he could tell us about the German sense of humour, because we were always hearing about how they didn't have one.
So he told us a story, which I thought was a joke.
It concerned a musician who loved silences.
Especially the silences between songs.
His special skill was to be able to tell from the silence after one song what song would follow it on the album.
That pregnant pause would hold all of the potential of the next song.
Then, hey presto, the second song would slide into the slipstream of the first.
But there was always just a hint of deja vu (or deja entendre?).
He could always hear the second song coming during the silence.
He found numerous examples of these pregnant silences, then one day he decided that he would record them all and line all of the silences up, one after the other, on the one recording, so that he could listen to each silence successively and work out what songs would follow them.
Obviously, what he had created was a tape full of silences.
But for him they were highly evocative silences.
For my German teacher, this tale explained the German sense of humour.
You can never forget a story like this and I often tell people about it, then your review came along.
Not only that, Message 31 actually points to the possible origin of this story.
I had thought it was a joke, but it might actually be a reference to a short story that I have twisted slightly over time.
Here endeth the lesson.
Slight pause.
Now, for some reason, here comes "Born to Run" by Bruce Springsteen.
It must follow a pregnant silence.


message 43: by Donna (new)

Donna If I 'like' the review at this point, will that ruin the enjoyment of the review for others? Oh well, I'm selfish.


message 44: by Lisa (new) - rated it 1 star

Lisa I think I'm probably going to hate Goon Squad but I lurve Ian for leading me here to this hilarious conversation.


message 45: by Ian (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ian Paganus Does anybody else automatically associate "Goon Squad" with Elvis Costello?
I put this on my to-read list the moment I heard the title, but I haven't seen any Elvis mentions in my limited reading of the reviews.
Does he get a mention?


message 46: by Velvetink (new) - added it

Velvetink Powerpoint = gag.


karen ooooooohhhh burrrrrn for greg stahl


message 48: by Greg (new) - rated it 5 stars

Greg I have a feeling that Janice is a big fan of boring people to tears with power-point presentations and possibly a teacher.


message 49: by Greg (new) - rated it 5 stars

Greg Trolling the internet attempting to shame people, how inappropriate. Grow up.


message 50: by Joel (new) - rated it 5 stars

Joel Greg wrote: "I have a feeling that Janice is a big fan of boring people to tears with power-point presentations and possibly a teacher."

no, she loves gymnastics.


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