Dhitri's Reviews > A Visit from the Goon Squad

A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan
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's review
Apr 19, 2011

it was amazing
bookshelves: kindle
Read from June 02 to 06, 2011

At first I was skeptical. Interlocking narratives? A plot that goes back and forth in time? An entire chapter that is made of a powerpoint presentation? I am not a big fan of experimental styles, so I steered clear of this book for a long time. Then it won the Pulitzer, and then I just HAD to risk it.

And it paid off. BIG TIME. This book is strange, unusual, but it was also brilliant and refreshing. Interlocking narratives have been done many times before, but Egan excelled where many failed. I should probably say she triumphed. The individual chapters, which are dramatically different to each other in terms of style, voice, feel, you name it, just fit effortlessly in the grander narrative framework. The pieces just fall into place, one by one, without you realizing it, you close the book and have a completed puzzle.

The story kicked off with Sasha, a former assistant to the great record producer Bennie Salazar, who struggles with her kleptomaniac impulses and, essentially, with her past and present. We follow her stealing a wallet on her date, only to return it, we also find her conversing with her therapist, entangling her personal issues, as the story unfolds. It may sound like too many information is squeezed into a first chapter, but instead of being force fed, we find ourselves served with all that, gourmet-style.

Then the story moved on to Bennie, but in a different time space. And as we go from chapter to chapter, we are introduced to many more characters, all in different time and space, too. Each character gives insight to the next, and the connection from one to another cannot have been more delicate, yet cannot be any clearer. Egan seamlessly switched from a third person's narrative to a first person's, even to a second person's and it all worked very well on their own and collectively. The slideshow chapter sealed Egan's ingenuity.

Music is an important theme in this book, yet time and the ardent cruelty of living in the "passing time" or being one whose "time has passed" seem to be the main theme here. It will take me hours and hours to contemplate all of the different sub themes carefully woven into the plot. I am also certain that I will re-read some of the passages, and look up the songs and artist that have been referenced. But one thing is clear and that is excellently expressed in this quote:

"Time is a goon, right? You gonna let that goon push you around?"
Scotty shook his head. 'The goon won.'

Brilliant, brilliant (I sound like a broken record now). I can't recommend it enough.

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Quotes Dhitri Liked

Jennifer Egan
“Like all failed experiments, that one taught me something I didn’t expect: one key ingredient of so-called experience is the delusional faith that it is unique and special, that those included in it are privileged and those excluded from it are missing out.”
Jennifer Egan, A Visit from the Goon Squad

Jennifer Egan
“If I had a view like this to look down on every day, I would have the energy and inspiration to conquer the world. The trouble is, when you most need such a view, no one gives it to you.”
Jennifer Egan, A Visit from the Goon Squad

Jennifer Egan
“We stand there, quiet. My questions all seem wrong: How did you get so old? Was it all at once, in a day, or did you peter out bit by bit? When did you stop having parties? Did everyone else get old too, or was it just you? Are other people still here, hiding in the palm trees or holding their breath underwater? When did you last swim your laps? Do your bones hurt? Did you know this was coming and hide that you knew, or did it ambush you from behind?”
Jennifer Egan, A Visit from the Goon Squad

Jennifer Egan
“I’m done. I’m old, I’m sad - that’s on a good day. I want out of this mess. But I don’t want to fade away, I want to flame away - I want my death to be an attraction, a spectacle, a mystery. A work of art.”
Jennifer Egan, A Visit from the Goon Squad

Jennifer Egan
“This is the music business. 'Five years is five hundred years' - your words.”
Jennifer Egan, A Visit from the Goon Squad

Jennifer Egan
“I felt no shame in these activities, because I understood what almost no one else seemed to grasp: that there was only an infinitesimal difference, a difference so small that it barely existed except as a figment of the human imagination, between working in a tall green glass building on Park Avenue and collecting litter in a park. In fact, there may have been no difference at all.”
Jennifer Egan, A Visit from the Goon Squad

Reading Progress

14.0% "He remembered his mentor, Lou Kline, telling him in the nineties that rock and roll had peaked at Monterey Pop... Bennie had looked into his idol's face and thought, You're finished. Nostalgie was the end - everyone knew that."
21.0% "I am the passenger/ And I ride and I ride/ I ride through the city's backside/ I see the stars come out of the sky -- Iggy Pop's The Passenger"
30.0% "...the experience of music pouring directly against her eardrums - hers alone - is a shock that makes her eyes well up; the privacy of it, the way it transforms her surroundings into golden montage, as if she were looking back... from some distant future."
40.0% "There's a fine line between thinking about somebody and thinking about not thinking about somebody, but I have the Patience and self-control to walk that line for hours--days, if I have to."
50.0% "This is reality, right? You don't look good anymore twenty years later, especially when you had half of your guts removed. Time's a goon, right? Isn't that the expression?"
84.0% "Susan turned to him suddenly and said "Let's make sure it's always like this.' And so entwined were their thoughts at that point that Ted kew exactly why she'd said it: not because they'd made love that morning or drunk a bottle Pouilly-Fuisse at lunch--because she felt the passage of time. And then, Ted felt it, too."

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

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message 1: by Joanne (new)

Joanne Terrific review Dhitri! I'll have to read it too. Thanks!

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