karen's Reviews > A Visit from the Goon Squad

A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan
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Jan 13, 11

bookshelves: favorites
Read from January 10 to 11, 2011

hell's bells. believe this hype.

this book is the saddest, truest, wisest book i have ever read in a single day. which is not to belittle it - my tear-assing through it is because i did not want to stop reading it and resented any interruption that tried to get in my way. i am someone who plans things. i have timetables in my head - i have to, in order to get everything done. nothing important, just "at 8:00 i will untangle my necklaces while i watch my netflix. at 10:00, i will fold my laundry and then pay bills, etc etc. this book ruined all of my good intentions. i read straight through one mental time-allotment after another, leaving dishes unwashed and e-mails unanswered. and i did not care one bit.

as i read, i kept thinking, "this is exactly right - this woman gets it, this is just what i was talking about the other day." because karen has been doing a little bit of dwelling lately, and this book really captured so many universals of youth, adulthood ...and the rest. she knows just how to twist the knife.

everyone has been praising this book since it came out, but all i knew going into it was that there was a powerpoint chapter and a dfw chapter (which i had already read, at greg's command, months ago). i didn't even know they were stories that combined to show facets of people's lives in different times and places and stages and manifestations. i didn't know who would attain closure and who would fade away, i just thought it was another book by the lady who wrote invisible circus.

i had read invisible circus years ago and had been unimpressed, and then i start hearing all this talk about look at me and how it is this incredible book, but i looked at the cover and i thought - "no, thank you".i am pretty sure i bought the keep, but it got sucked into one of the stacks here, never to resurface. but then this comes out and greg and tom fuller are praising it to the heavens, and then tom gives me his copy to have forever, so i pretty much have to read it. i do not disobey my work-dad.

and as always, father knows best...

i have never seen crash because "they" tell me it is retarded, but i did see 21 grams and babel and amores perros and 11:14 and all of those others - disjointed narratives where one thing affects another thing and it's all connected, man... (amores perros is the only one you need to see from the above list), but how often does it really work, and how often is it just flashy storytelling to compensate for lack of a true plot??

it's the same in the litworld. i thought michael cunningham's the hours did it really well, and this - well, this makes it work perfectly. because it is less about the impact an action has upon others than having the opportunity to understand a character's motivations from witnessing snapshot-chapters from different periods and the -oh god not again - it is like a sneeze - zeitgeist of the pop cultural (punk rock-ical) and historical climates of these poor broken characters.

but elizabeth - it is not a downer!! it is not one of my "downer books". it is more... gently nostalgic. and bewildered. definitely bewildered.

"she was thinking of the old days, as she and bennie now called them - not just pre-crandale but premarriage, preparenthood, pre-money, pre-hard drug renunciation, preresponsibility of any kind, when they were still kicking around the lower east side with bosco, going to bed after sunrise, turning up at strangers' apartments, having sex in quasi-public, engaging in daring acts that had more than once included (for her) shooting heroin, because none of it was serious. they were young and lucky and strong - what did they have to worry about?? if they didn't like the result, they could go back and start again."

i mean - gutpunch.this kind of blithe optimism is exactly what touched me when i was reading shiver shake . remember being indestructible?? i sure do.

this is also one of the few works where 9/11 is used tastefully and more or less subtly, and the absence of the buildings is worked very well into the pervasive loss that holds this book together.

the NYU chapter is greg's favorite, and it is both heartbreaking on its own and bittersweet for me because it could have very easily been me. i remember sunwarmed fire escapes between classes and bobst and for me it was mamoun's falafel, but regardless. it was both familiar and far away. i liked the naples chapter best, because for me it is storytelling 101 - a perfect story and the last line kills me because "muttered" is the best possible word there, and it complicates what could have been a very easy and pat ending.

jennifer egan i luvs you.
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Comments (showing 1-50 of 69) (69 new)


karen i am too stupid to understand this.


Greg What are you too stupid to understand?

I was going to say it makes me happy that your reading this, but now I'm worried about what you aren't getting.


karen hmmmm someone has deleted a comment, making me look like a fool.


Greg oh oh oh, this can be my embarrassing Karen story for my review!!!


karen yes! how humiliating!! how will i face my friends and family??


Bibliomantic Deleting comments, well, that's just unnecessary.


karen you made me look like a dummy, sir!!


Bibliomantic I couldn't possibly... you are, after all, the brains of this outfit.


karen oh, that's bad news for the outfit, then...


message 10: by Greg (new) - rated it 5 stars

Greg But yet you still won't give it the fifth star.


karen i am withholding.

i should, though. it was so good.
i don't know what i am saving my fifth stars for...


message 12: by Greg (new) - rated it 5 stars

Greg True the last chapter was a little weak, but the future is a little weak when it's all text-message speak. Give it the fifth star!!!


karen is tom fuller telling me to give it the fifth star??

also - ask me if i got my grades yet. wtf?


message 14: by Greg (new) - rated it 5 stars

Greg I guess you ddin't get your grades, but I'm going to go get the books, and you go find that fifth star.


karen oh, it was there all along! a january 12th miracle!


message 16: by Greg (new) - rated it 5 stars

Greg how did you do?


karen greg - no, i meant the star was there all along. the grades are still not up.

elizabeth - give it a chance!! it is better than steampunk zombies!


karen ooooh - icelander....


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

Joel agreed, it is totally not a downer.

this is a strong strong contender for my favorite book of last year. i keep trying to get my girlfriend to read it but she hates the title and the cover.

meanwhile i foolishly looked at several times and failed to buy a signed first edition for $20 (at the book table, karen!). silly.


karen ohh! missed opportunity! i was not going to buy this one until paperback, because i am trying to be good. but then tom just gave me his, so i could read with a clear conscience. i was also going to wait to buy the room, but then we had signed copies, so i had to.

yes, i know the library exists. i just like to own books.


message 21: by Joel (new) - rated it 5 stars

Joel yeah i didn't buy it because i wanted to wait for the paperback. partly because i don't really enjoy the cover anymore and i don't treasure hardcovers in general. but i just liked the book so much...


message 22: by Greg (new) - rated it 5 stars

Greg It is a miracle!

Elizabeth, you should read this book!


Joshua Nomen-Mutatio What do you mean by "a dfw chapter"?

The word "goon" now only makes me think of gang stuff. From work. One kid always yells about "goon town." Why would one proudly call themselves a goon? Because they're hopelessly stupid and horrible, that's why.

Fuck the world.


karen it is written in the spirit/style of dfw. and it is a pretty good likeness.

the goon bit is explained in the book, and makes perfect sense, but is a terrible title for uninitiated.


message 25: by Greg (new) - rated it 5 stars

Greg Terrible title, terrible cover, great book.


message 26: by Joel (new) - rated it 5 stars

Joel the paperback cover is marginally better but still kind of ugly. at least it makes an attempt to capture the book though. i'd really like to see the alternate hardcover designs they kicked around. i'm guessing whoever ultimately decided just really likes blue.


message 27: by [deleted user] (new)

This is going to be the next book I buy.


message 28: by Miriam (new)

Miriam The word "goon" now only makes me think of gang stuff. From work. One kid always yells about "goon town." Why would one proudly call themselves a goon? Because they're hopelessly stupid and horrible, that's why.

The word goon is indelibly linked in my mind to DWJ's Archer's Goon, a childhood favorite.


message 29: by Miriam (new)

Miriam I thought that was the Brute Squad?


message 30: by Miriam (new)

Miriam I haven't read the book since I was a kid, you're probably right.


message 31: by Joel (last edited Jan 13, 2011 10:28AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Joel a cursory search of the partial text in google books reveals 19 instances of the word brute and 0 instances of the word goon.


karen nerrrrrrrd!


message 33: by Joel (last edited Jan 13, 2011 10:48AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Joel only if correcting people on literary and film minutiae is nerdy.

hmmm. i guess it is.


message 34: by Miriam (new)

Miriam karen's just jealous. She wishes she were this nerdy.


karen Joel wrote: "only if correcting people on literary and film minutiae is nerdy.

hmmm. i guess it is."


and doing it with a computer - extra points!

(i am jealous)


message 36: by Joel (last edited Jan 13, 2011 11:40AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Joel it's a very quick read. a full quarter of it is a powerpoint chapter that takes 20 minutes.


karen yeah, i read it really quickly - zooooms

but read that hardy!!


message 38: by pearl (last edited Jan 14, 2011 05:53PM) (new) - added it

pearl I've been hardcore side-eyeing this book for a looong time but you've convinced me to read it. Really awesome review, Karen :)


karen oh, good!! thank you!!

see, world - don't let a crappy cover keep you from a great book!
i hope she wows you, too!


Cynthia Karen, I keep staring at this book cover. It reminds me somehow of the cover of one of my clarinet books from junior high. WHY does this look so familiar? Have you seen it somewhere before? This is really driving me nuts.


karen i wish i could help you... but it does look like one of those generic, benign music instructional books from the past, so maybe you are on the right track


Cynthia "Rocking Clarinet for Beginners?"


message 43: by Kate (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kate Damn, this one needs to come out in paperback ASAP because I need to read it!


karen i think you will really like it.
this is my prediction.


message 45: by Joel (new) - rated it 5 stars

Joel it's too good to wait for paperback! thats not until may!


message 46: by Joel (new) - rated it 5 stars

Joel it's too good to wait for paperback! thats not until may!


karen What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up
Like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore--
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over--
like a syrupy sweet?
Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.
Or does it explode?


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

Kate You'll be so proud of me. I finally bought this title I couldn't wait any longer! After I finish the book I'm currently reading this one is next in line.


karen hahaah yay! it is definitely worth buying now!


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

Joel did you see it won the pulitzer? you probably did.

i think goodreaders pushed it over the top!


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