Matt's Reviews > A Visit from the Goon Squad

A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan
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's review
Jul 01, 11

Read in June, 2011

After reading this, I was surprised that it didn't get as much attention as Franzen's "Freedom," which came out at about the same time to much fanfare. (I mean, "Goon Squad" did win the Pulitzer and National Book Critic's Circle awards, which does count as "attention," but it definitely didn't have the buzz surrounding Franzen's latest.) While "Freedom" was compelling and impressive, it was also a bit forced and overwrought at times.

"Goon Squad" has the ambition of "Freedom," but it's more daring, and more rewarding too. With each new chapter, Egan introduces a new point-of-view, new characters, and a new mini drama -- somehow linked to previous and subsequent chapters, but often mysteriously so until a few pages in. Every time she starts a new chapter, Egan throws another ball into the air, until you wonder how she's going to keep them all up there. Will she create some ridiculous deux ex machina to tie every story together in the end? Is everyone going to end up in the same restaurant at the same time or something? Will they all end up on a plane together? Or will the ties that bind them be more tenuous, a kind of web woven by time (That goon!) that connects each of us to Kevin Bacon in 13 chapters?

This is well worth the read. It's never dull, and never gimmicky, despite devoting 70 pages to a chapter written as a Power Point presentation. When I first saw that I thought, great -- exactly the type of forced Postmodern tom-foolery that sacrifices sincerity for cleverness. But I have to admit, the Power Point chapter is perhaps the most sincere, most poignant chapter in this terrific novel.

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