Sarah's Reviews > A Visit from the Goon Squad

A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan
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's review
Apr 20, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: fiction_non_genre, music
Read from April 14 to 20, 2011

Partway through this book I decided it was written by a Tralmafadorian. How else to explain the strange structure that seems not to care whether the eighties follow the current decade follow the nineties follow the future, or the author's seeming insistence that we see someone in his middleage and his teen years at once? The narrative is out of time and out of joint, but Jennifer Egan manages to turn a non-linear bundle of interconnected vignettes into something that coheres by its own logic. It flits between characters and decades, spotlighting one person then letting her fade into the crowd, only to appear again in the background of someone else's spotlight later (or earlier). We know them in their youth, and in their faded youth, sometimes both at once. We are given past-present-future timelines for characters we never meet except in relation to others. We are thrown into the head of one person after another, and left to figure out the who and the when and they why as we go. The ties that bind them together become loose and then tighten and then loosen again. It isn't much of a spoiler to say that the goon in the title is time, and time visits everyone. And somehow, through this tangle of ages and years and people Egan manages to say some pretty profound things about time and loss and hope and disappointment and human connection. Pretty good for a Tramalfadorian.

Edited to add: The reason I gave it four stars instead of five is only that I wanted to read more about some of the characters who never came around again. I was astounded when I reached the end of the graphic chapter to realize there was only one more chapter left.
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Quotes Sarah Liked

Jennifer Egan
“The pause makes you think the song will end. And then the song isn't really over, so you're relieved. But then the song does actually end, because every song ends, obviously, and THAT. TIME. THE. END. IS. FOR. REAL.”
Jennifer Egan, A Visit from the Goon Squad

Reading Progress

07/21 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-4 of 4) (4 new)

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Cynthia Pulitzer winner!

Sarah Indeed. I'm enjoying it so far.

Sarah It has just occurred to me that the penultimate chapter, on great rock & roll pauses, is itself a rock & rollin' pause.

Sarah I didn't hate the last chapter, but I don't think I was as fully invested in it as the rest of the book. I can understand your reaction.

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