Steve Kettmann's Reviews > A Visit from the Goon Squad

A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan
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's review
May 08, 2011

it was amazing
Read from June 12 to 16, 2011

This was the first book of Jennifer Egan's I have read, but I will for sure go back and gobble up her earlier work now - and I will eagerly await her next book. I loved "A Visit From the Goon Squad," but did have some qualms, including the sense that the book was not so much an end point as a thrilling exploration in what fiction circa 2011 can be - and therefore that Egan has still better books ahead. To compare it to music, I had a feeling almost like watching some crazily talented and inspired guitarist race through a virtuoso performance that you love, you feel in your bones and in your heart, but at the same time you are so transfixed watching the frantic fretwork, marveling in it, that you cannot take a step back and let the song float free to exist on its own terms. What tips me over into wild applause is the sheer giddy abundance of thrilling writing, fresh and original, and the nailed-it ping of pitch-perfect emotional hues - and the progression from one to another. I have read few American writers who combine this emotional acuity with the wisdom of life knowledge and the joy of writing that dances to its own beat, ready - I am sure - to surprise even Egan herself at times with a dip this way or a swerve that way. I was reminded of the movie "Lola Rent" ("Run, Lola, Run" in English), by the German Tom Tykwer, that combines energy and technical brilliance with a disturbing feature: Throughout the movie, bleak futures are unfurled for peripheral characters, all in a cha-cha-cha succession of freeze frames, painful in their clarity. Egan pulls a similar trick, telescoping far into the future lives of individual characters in a way that exaggerates time's ravages. Yes, a visit from the goon squad awaits us all.
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Quotes Steve Liked

Jennifer Egan
“Yet each disappointment Ted felt in his wife, each incremental deflation, was accompanied by a seizure of guilt; many years ago, he had taken the passion he felt for Susan and folded it in half, so he no longer had a drowning, helpless feeling when he glimpsed her beside him in bed: her ropy arms and soft, generous ass. Then he’d folded it in half again, so when he felt desire for Susan, it no longer brought with it an edgy terror of never being satisfied. Then in half again, so that feeling desire entailed no immediate need to act. Then in half again, so he hardly felt it. His desire was so small in the end that Ted could slip it inside his desk or a pocket and forget about it, and this gave him a feeling of safety and accomplishment, of having dismantled a perilous apparatus that might have crushed them both. Susan was baffled at first, then distraught; she’d hit him twice across the face; she’d run from the house in a thunderstorm and slept at a motel; she’d wrestled Ted to the bedroom floor in a pair of black crotchless underpants. But eventually a sort of amnesia had overtaken Susan; her rebellion and hurt had melted away, deliquesced into a sweet, eternal sunniness that was terrible in the way that life would be terrible, Ted supposed, without death to give it gravitas and shape. He’d presumed at first that her relentless cheer was mocking, another phase in her rebellion, until it came to him that Susan had forgotten how things were between them before Ted began to fold up his desire; she’d forgotten and was happy — had never not been happy — and while all of this bolstered his awe at the gymnastic adaptability of the human mind, it also made him feel that his wife had been brainwashed. By him.”
Jennifer Egan, A Visit from the Goon Squad

Reading Progress

06/12/2011 page 35
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Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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message 1: by Tim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Tim Wendel Steve, I just picked this up, too. It was featured in the same NYTBR column (Paperback Row) as High Heat. Right now I'm knee-deep in Erik Larson's new one and then some more research for my next one. You'll probably finish well ahead of me so don't spoil the ending.

message 2: by Jim (new) - rated it 2 stars

Jim Morrissey I read this this past summer. Interested to see what you think.

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