Kemper's Reviews > A Visit from the Goon Squad

A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan
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Jan 08, 14

bookshelves: 2011, modern-lit, plain-old-fiction
Read in January, 2011

Reading this book is like going into the future and eavesdropping on a conversation between two old friends who haven’t seen each other in years:

“Remember Bennie Salazar?”

“Sure. He was that record producer who used to put the gold flakes in his coffee. Didn’t he used to be in a band?”

“Yeah, he was a wannabe punk rocker in the ‘80s. He was friends with Scotty back then.”

“Was Scotty normal then? Because I heard he’s completely shithouse-rat-crazy these days.”

“Oh, he’s totally insane. Hey, what was Bennie’s assistant’s name?”

“Sasha?”

“That’s it. Whatever happened to her?”

“I’m not sure. I heard she was a total kleptomaniac.”

“Really? I heard some wild stories about her running around Europe back in the day.”

“Someone told me that a friend of hers drowned and really messed her up.”

“Huh. It had to be something. Oh, did you know Bennie’s ex-wife used to work for that PR woman Dolly?”

“The one who is trying to resurrect her business by helping that dictator rehab his image?”

“That’s her. Like she’ll ever get steady work again after that disaster she put together.”

“Wasn’t it Bennie’s ex-wife’s brother who attacked that actress that’s been hanging around that dictator, too?”

“That’s right! Small freaking world.”


See what I mean? You don’t really know these people, but after a while, you get to know their stories and get a feeling for the connections between them. That’s what Jennifer Egan has done in this creative little novel. By telling a series of stories loosely based around Bennie and Sasha’s past, present and future, she builds a web of relationships that becomes large but always feels intimate.

One of her cuter tricks is an entire section told via a PowerPoint presentation written by a child in the future. It sounds like a gimmick that might be good for a few laughs, but Egan actually uses it to give us a pretty detailed portrait of the future family of one of the characters we’ve read about earlier in the book.

It’s a well-written and clever book, but the tone’s a bit sad and depressing because it deals a lot with the loss and regrets that all adults have over what gets left behind as you move through life. I might have liked it more if I hadn’t just read Super Sad True Love Story, which also dealt a lot with the down side of aging. The two books also share a similarity in depicting a future state where smart phones and constant communication have changed society. (This one is mostly set in the past and present with only a couple of sections in the futue.) So while I liked this, I got a bit of a been-there/done that flavor when reading it, and I think I hit depression overload somewhere in the middle of this.
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Comments (showing 1-18 of 18) (18 new)

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message 1: by Stephanie (new)

Stephanie Your next book pick better be something really funny.


message 2: by Dan (new) - added it

Dan Schwent You're not going to read Logan's Run next, are you?


Kemper Stephanie wrote: "Your next book pick better be something really funny."

Gritty crime novels cure everything...


Kemper Dan wrote: "You're not going to read Logan's Run next, are you?"

This is all my library's fault. I had these on hold for weeks, and then everything came in at the same time. Meanwhile, I'm birthday bumming, the Chiefs get their asses whupped in play-offs and a major snow storm hit town overnight and is still going on. I'm not sure how I got out of bed this morning...


message 5: by Dan (new) - added it

Dan Schwent Happy birthday! I hope you have enough beer and reading material to weather the snow storm.


message 6: by Kemper (last edited Jan 10, 2011 07:05AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Kemper Dan wrote: "Happy birthday! I hope you have enough beer and reading material to weather the snow storm."

Thanks. Unfortunately, my company has a policy that everyone should come in even when the roads are like skating rinks so I'll be at my desk instead of home drinking & reading.


message 7: by Nancy (new) - added it

Nancy Wow, another birthday! Too bad you have to work, but maybe you'll be lucky and the company will shut down early.


Kemper Nancy wrote: "Wow, another birthday! Too bad you have to work, but maybe you'll be lucky and the company will shut down early."

The birthday was over the weekend so just another day at the office. I highly doubt that they'll let us go. They'd rather see us dead in a ditch than unproductive....


message 9: by Nancy (last edited Jan 10, 2011 08:33AM) (new) - added it

Nancy How productive can people really be if they're worrying about making it home in one piece? I don't miss those days when I was considered "essential" and had to come in no matter what.

I loved the Logan's Run movie and TV series, but haven't read the book yet. Is it as good, Dan?


Kemper Nancy wrote: I loved the Logan's Run movie and TV series, but haven't read the book yet. Is it as good, Dan?

I read it a long time ago, too. I thought it was pretty good, but it was a lot different from the movie version.


message 11: by Dan (new) - added it

Dan Schwent Kemper wrote: "Nancy wrote: I loved the Logan's Run movie and TV series, but haven't read the book yet. Is it as good, Dan?

I read it a long time ago, too. I thought it was pretty good, but it was a lot diff..."


I've never read the book either. Didn't they only have to turn 25 in the book?


message 12: by Kemper (last edited Jan 10, 2011 08:57AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Kemper Dan wrote: "

I think so. Maybe even younger than that. Main thing I remember is that the book made a big deal about his gun. Logan had like 6 rounds when he was on the run and each one did something different. One was like a net and one fired a long needle. But he didn't take any extra ammunition so he could only fire each type once. It always bugged me he didn't take any more ammo.


message 13: by Rachel (new)

Rachel I basically loved your just because you refer to one of the main (main? main-ish)characters as "Bernie" instead of "Bennie." That kind of sums up how I feel about this book on a whole.


Kemper Rachel wrote: "I basically loved your just because you refer to one of the main (main? main-ish)characters as "Bernie" instead of "Bennie." That kind of sums up how I feel about this book on a whole."

Oh, hell. I wish I could claim that I did that on purpose but I just completely screwed it up. I guess I could fix it but it seems like more effort than it's worth....


Trysha Why did I read the book when you just perfectly summed it all up better than Egan wrote it. You did in 300 words what she couldn't in 340 pages. Bravo!


Kemper Trysha wrote: "Why did I read the book when you just perfectly summed it all up better than Egan wrote it. You did in 300 words what she couldn't in 340 pages. Bravo!"

Thanks!


message 17: by Ian (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ian Paganus Your dialogue totally nailed this book, Kemper. Brilliant.


message 18: by Susan (new)

Susan Kirschbaum Spot on! Egan based the entire novel on a gossip like base of, "Hey remember so and so?" Nostalgia wrapped into a neat little bon bon. As an author, she writes of regrets. And as an author, I write about lost youths before they've lost youth. I hope that Who Town casts more glimmer of hope than Goon Squad.


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