A Visit from the Goon Squad A Visit from the Goon Squad discussion


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Chapter 6: "X's and O's"

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Patrick Brown Another strong chapter. If you start with the idea that the book is like an album, this is the last song on the first side of the record (For you kids out there, records were these big black discs you used to have to flip over half-way through). Do you think it's a strong ending? What do you think of Scotty bringing Bennie a fish? And does this chapter give you a new perspective on Bennie? On Sasha?


Courts & Castles Books Bennie didn't surprise me in this chapter as much as Scotty did. I thought that he was too weird- some of the characters in the book seem so extreme. I miss the Sasha from the first chapter, to be honest. She is playing such a minor role in this chapter that I want to see her thoughts, her personality again.


And the fish... Weird, just weird. My favorite part of the fish was when he pictured the suits having to deal with the fish after he left it behind. Other than that, it just seemed weird.


message 3: by Blair (last edited Jun 01, 2011 05:32AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Blair I couldn't decide whether I liked or hated Scotty in this chapter; his voice started off quite likeable, or so I thought, and became progressively more weird. Or maybe just sad and lonely. I found the way he tried to convince himself there was no difference between his life and anyone else's, trying to rationalise it in a scientific kind of way, quite heartbreaking. I was surprised he had ended up marrying Alice, after what we saw of the friends' interactions as teenagers; his apparent lack of interest in her, and how their lives diverged after their youth. I thought the fish was funny and sad - especially the fact that even after Scotty saw Bennie's reaction to it, he still thought Bennie might take it home for his family to eat.

I found the bit about the young junkie couple very interesting. Will they, or the fact that Scotty gave them Bennie's card, prove to have a later significance? It also seemed like the chapter didn't quite end properly, because Scotty was following the girl he saw running, but then she just disappeared. Who was she and what was the meaning of this, if there was one at all?

In terms of all the different thoughts I had about it, the different meanings that could be drawn out of parts of it, I think I found this chapter the most interesting so far. A lot of the details in this chapter feel to me like they might be important later on, but as I haven't read any further yet, I have no idea whether I'm right about that.


Patrick Brown Blair wrote: "A lot of the details in this chapter feel to me like they might be important later on, but as I haven't read any further yet, I have no idea whether I'm right about that."

Very interesting. I've never read a book that so trains you to read it. What I mean is that you start to get into the idea that people will be coming back, so then you start looking out for people who might recur (as you are here). Does anybody find that a little bit distracting? Or does it just add to the enjoyment?


Jane(Janelba) I'm finding it somewhat distracting and this was not my favourite chapter as there was too much weirdness for my liking.


Kristin So far, I've rooted for Rolph and the lioness. Now I've got a third character I care about. Scotty is fascinating and funny and can look beyond his own navel. His efforts of giving gifts to others is hopelessly flawed, but I love that he makes the effort.


Trysha What an awkward chapter. How many times have we run into that one person from our past that is still kinda stuck in that?

I missed Sasha. She's my favorite.


Wendy It's interesting to see which minor characters from one chapter will be a major character in another. Scotty was a little to weird for me. Did he really think Bennie was just going to strike up that old friendship again? I'm not clear on what he thought he was going to accomplish with the visit or why he thought giving a fish was a good idea. I think he's living in an alternate universe if he sees no difference in picking up litter and working on Park Avenue and that he can enjoy "life experiences" sitting on his couch.


Dhitri I saw the fish as a peace offering. To me it seemed like Scotty felt guilty for disappearing, missing out on Bennie's life, supposedly his best mate. Or maybe he felt guilty about Alice. Other than that I did think Scotty might have a screw loose. He seemed borderline delusional and possibly bipolar; his voice disintegrated slightly towards the end of the chapter, as things got weirder. Didn't quite get the ending of the chapter even though it kicked off real strong. What is up with the jacket anyway? Why was he so fussy about getting it cleaned?

And yeah, I missed Sasha, too.


Kristin I love that we have been trained to see who might come out in the next chapter. I am just waiting to see how she brings it all together into a cohesive whole, if she does. The form of this book is so interesting, she really is stretching herself to look at using a variety of different techniques that may exemplify the characters who are in charge of that chapter.

Scotty is so complex -- he is sad in his forced justifications of the X's and O's and trying to convince himself he has what everyone else has, he is compassionate when he tries to give his one chance to the junkies, he is lost - as he has been throughout the other chapters trying to deal with his life. I'm worried about Scotty and what is coming next for him, but I have hope, that is how I left this chapter.

On to the next....


message 11: by [deleted user] (new)

Absolutely loathed this guy. I didn't at the beginning -- I was getting sort of a Good Will Hunting vibe, for some reason, like look how happy I am as a janitor, la la la -- and then I realized he was a bitter jerkoff who walks around and (poorly) justifies it by saying some of the most ridiculous stuff in the book.

I got a vibe like he thought Bennie was some snobby, self-righteous jerk, but Scotty was the one, through the whole chapter, who was acting like he was better than everybody else.


Diane S ☔ I liked this chapter and I liked Scotty and his introspection and insecurities. I think by the time he left Bennies office he had made peace with himself and he was not jaded, could still see beauty where others did not ie. the fish and hope where other only saw junkies.


Wendy I have mixed feelings about the chapter. I didn't like Scotty, basically because I'm sure he's borderline crazy--the jacket, the ruined teeth, and sincerely hoping that Bennie might take the fish home and eat it--so I felt sorry for him. I felt like we were looking in on a man who will be homeless and unintelligible in five years, maybe less.

However, I loved this quote, when he was looking out of Bennie's office window:
"If I had a view like this to look down on every day, I would have the energy and insiration to conquer the world. The trouble is, when you most need such a view, no one gives it to you."
I felt like he recognized his own potential for genius as a musician, but he had fallen so far he couldn't reach it anymore. He wasn't completely hopeless, not just yet, if someone would give him a break.


message 14: by Mimi (last edited Jun 13, 2011 07:32PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Mimi I actually liked Scotty and I'm not totally sure why. Perhaps it is because he is borderline crazy...and he really doesn't care what anyone else thinks. He is not ashamed of who he is. For instance, after he mentions that he is a janitor and he cleans the East River coastline, he stresses how he feels no shame in these activities because he "understands what almost no one else seems 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."

As far as the fish, I thought that was kind of funny. Here Scotty is, dropping in on his old friend Bennie in his posh Park Avenue office, and bringing him a stinky fish from a polluted river. It's almost as if Scotty is bring a piece of raw reality into Bennie's false world.

I also like the way that Scotty gave the dude in the park Bennie's card and felt bad that he could never do that for someone again. He's one of the few characters that I've seen here that seems to gain satisfaction in helping a stranger.

After reading this chapter, I'm thinking that Scotty & Sasha are my two favorite characters so far...


RedSycamore Wow, I'm really surprised at the negative reactions to Scotty - especially the idea that he's self-righteous or somehow thinks he's better than other people. He's the only character in the entire novel so far aside from Rolph who's even remotely empathetic. Maybe hearing the details of his break up with Alice would temper that impression, but I'd still like to know what happened between them (even at the risk of finding out that there are absolutely no likable people in this novel at all).

I'll take his weirdness and rambling, addled introversion to the rampant egotism and woe-is-me-me-me self-centeredness of the majority of the other characters any day.


Andre Love the fish. It serves as a great representation of the awkwardness between old friends. Much like re-uniting with old friends, its a gift in some ways and a pain in others. Its kind of the elephant in the room between them. Here is this thing that has been given to Bennie that, that with a bit of work could be delicious meal, or a disgusting polluted smelly carcass. Bennie didn't ask for it, and is inclined to pretend like it doesn't even exist. He insists that Scotty keep it, but makes no move towards it. To Scotty, the fish is a bit of a test but he knows the answer to it. Just like he know that they'll never be friends again.

I'm sure all readers try to put themselves in Bennie's shoes when the fish came up. I have to confess that I'd take it and probably throw it away. Or stick it in my freezer for months and then toss it. What would you do? Send it away, throw it away after he leaves? Cook it and invite him over for dinner?


Sam Still Reading This wasn't my favourite chapter. I don't understand about the jacket and dry cleaning either. To be honest, I don't think Bennie would have made much of the fish - it's someone else's job to get rid of it (proof of how high he's risen) but it shows how highly Scotty still thinks of Bennie - it was such a prized fish from the river.


jaxnsmom I don't want to spend my time wondering if and when a character is going to show up again. I want to "be in the moment" and enjoy the part I'm reading.
Scotty has changed so much since being in the band. Where did all that emotion go? I'd almost think he was overmedicated except for his bizarre behaviors. I don't get the dry-cleaning (ocd?) or the idea that he thinks the fish is a good idea. Although I have to agree it is funny to think of the suits dealing with it, and it should be getting pretty smelly :)


Shaun " If you start with the idea that the book is like an album, this is the last song on the first side of the record (For you kids out there, records were these big black discs you used to have to flip over half-way through)"

I never thought about that, but you're right (I forgot about Vinyl, I guess -- I've never owned a vinyl record).

I suppose it really is like an album (or one of the old concept albums that they don't make anymore). Thirteen individual tracks that can stand alone but work best as a whole.


message 20: by Bitteronion (new)

Bitteronion Bennie -- is a white guy - lol - then so gay


Christie I think Scotty's story is a sad one. He got the girl, had the talent and is now eating his catch from the East River. He then goes to see Bennie who in his eyes has everything.

I feel that he brought Bennie the fish to show him how lucky Bennie is. ow just by talking to him Bennie's luck rubbed off on Scotty. Leaving the fish felt like a kind of symbolic way of leaving the luck, or Scotty's past behind.


message 22: by Bitteronion (new)

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message 23: by Bitteronion (new)

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message 24: by Bitteronion (new)

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message 25: by Bitteronion (new)

Bitteronion if u thought my life for bennie - i have nothing to say


Katie I went back and forth but ended up thinking Scotty is a very interesting character. The author throws in all these weird quirks, like the obsessively dry-cleaned jacket, and some of his thoughts seem way out of left field, but then ultimately I feel like Scotty is one of the more real or down-to-earth characters. He's very in touch with recognizing pretension and phoniness. He may be kind of a weirdo, but he calls Bennie out on his fakeness (pointing out how everyone must want something from him, from the way he first reacted to seeing Scotty, for example).

I also loved the part about how his janitor job and Bennie's job are not all that different in the grand scheme of things... our lives are just a infinitesimal speck in the scope of the vast universe, after all. Nothing really matters!


Samantha Jones It's a tough chapter to get through with Scotty's sporadic paths of thinking, but it does give us another snapshot of Bennie and Sasha before the first side of the album concludes.

I laughed with Scotty when I realized he left the fish for the other snooty record executives to find in Bennie's office. I would love for Bennie to have taken it home to tell his family, but in reality, I would have just thrown it away, too. I wonder if in the meeting, the people finding the fish could be another "shame memory" for Bennie.

This chapter gave me a colder and lifeless perception of Bennie. Same goes for Sasha. They're just people acting out the roles you expect them to, when we've learned much more in other chapters. Which is maybe the way it should be, or at least that's how Scotty would have perceived them.

& I do enjoy wondering what characters will become more prominent later in the book. I'd love to see the junkie couple become rock stars or the light brown-haired jogger turn out to be someone integral, when here they are just fleeting glimpses.


Paige I did not like Bernie from the get go and like him less and less- In other chapter Scotty was just a kid with bad eyes- so I enjoyed "getting to know " him in this chapter. I feel a bit sorry for him- find him a sad- and yet well meaning person. I am not sure why he went to see Bernie though. I did not like the Sasha we met in this chapter. I want back the Sasha from the first chapter


Maggie I think that Scotty knew full well the kind of reception he would get from Bennie. In his heart he does want a card from Bennie. But when he gets it he knows it is only a gesture, and that Bennie does not really want him to call.

Scotty knows that he is in a different world. He can't change that fact but he is totally and painfully aware of it. The visit to Bennie may have been a doomed fantasy that it could be different.


Scotties gift of the fish was hostile and yet a gift of himself, in a way. It was a trophy to him, but obviously to Bennie it was just a big wet smelly fish. He knew that the fish would be off putting (to say the least), but it was like Scottie was saying "Here I am, your talented old buddy, hopeless, strange and disgusting. What are you going to do about me?" But he knows that Bennie is going to do nothing--Bennie is going to do nothing about him.


Megan Are other people looking at the paths and connections between the characters more than the actual characters themselves? People mentioned earlier that the book was training us to see glimpses of characters and to wait/hope for their return in later chapters. Yet not everyone seems to appreciate this aspect of the book. What do you think? I too would like to see the junkie muscians appear again after Scotty gave his one kind deed to them.


message 31: by Jamie (new) - rated it 1 star

Jamie Patrick wrote: "Another strong chapter. If you start with the idea that the book is like an album, this is the last song on the first side of the record (For you kids out there, records were these big black discs ..."

If I were to view this as the last song on one side of a record, I do not think its a strong ending. I wanted more concrete answers about the characters, and all the author did was introduce us to the whereabouts of a new character that was briefly mentioned in an earlier chapter.

I didn't mind Scotty's character, although I do think he is a bit delusional. It's sad more than anything. He realizes Bennie made something of his life and he is divorced and working as a janitor. Still, the reader knows that Bennie later gets divorced and becomes just as unhappy in his world as Scotty could be in his. I appreciate the idea that the readers are privy to glimpses of the characters feelings, yet the other characters are unaware of those same feelings.


Rachel Bednarski For me, the jacket, and Scotty's incessant cleaning of it, is representative of Scotty's (subconscious) awareness that actually, his life hasn't amounted to much. He can tell himself that everything is just Xs and Os and that his role on earth means the same as Bennie's as much as he likes but at the end of the day his life doesn't stand for a great deal. He likes to get his jacket dry cleaned as it gives the impression that he has had a purpose to wear it, even though he often hasn't and takes it back unworn and still in its dry cleaning bag. That's why at the chapters end he declares that he'd be proud to take in the crumpled and worn jacket that he wore to see Bennie and give the junkies the card, because for one day at least his life has been different and even possibly had meaning.


message 33: by Ivy (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ivy Reisner The fish is interesting. It carries a few meanings.

It's a Christ icon. It is supposed to be the bond that joins them, but it fails.

It is food, clearly, but again, food is supposed to be a bond of friendship. We "break bread" as a sign of friendship.

In an artificial world, it is something real. It's pulled from the water, the bounty of the natural world taken in an ancient way, and brought to a world in the sky with synthetic shirts and laminated tables. In a real world, Scotty seeks something artificial, a fake sense of being "someone".

Overall, this book is making me just a tad seasick.


Sheri Ivy wrote: "The fish is interesting. It carries a few meanings.

It's a Christ icon. It is supposed to be the bond that joins them, but it fails.

It is food, clearly, but again, food is supposed to be a bo..."

wow totally missed this insight. thanks for being so perceptive, Ivy:)


Megan Sheri wrote: "Ivy wrote: "The fish is interesting. It carries a few meanings.

It's a Christ icon. It is supposed to be the bond that joins them, but it fails.

It is food, clearly, but again, food is suppose..."


I like this idea. But to take it a step further forward - if it is food and a symbol of the bond of friendship then at the same time it is also tainted. It was pulled from polluted water that most would not eat from and although it looks magnificent there is a good chance that it has toxins and poisons hidden inside.

Therefore although it appears to be something real in an artificial world - it is not really real as it is not what it seems.

To stretch a little further, perhaps too far, this can then cast aspersions on the nature of Scotty and Bennie's realtionship. But then Scotty always knew that. He offered a poisoned fish as an symbol of friendship all the time knowing that it would never be accepted, though kind of daring himself that it just might (at the end when he imagines that Bennie might after all take it home).


Tpal007 Perhaps Scotty brought the fish to serve as a Red Herring: a distraction from their past and his present slot in life, and a chance to "win"/regain what was once lost. And yet, if you look deeper, past the general appearance of the fish, reality does not escape the reader: historical poison courses through their veins.


message 37: by Heather (new) - added it

Heather Odenweller Diane wrote: "I liked this chapter and I liked Scotty and his introspection and insecurities. I think by the time he left Bennies office he had made peace with himself and he was not jaded, could still see beaut..."

I agree with Diane's comments. Scotty seems to be the most zen character by far with his understanding of life as an illusion. Seeing past the surface of reality to know that there really is no difference between the characters, only circumstances and the illusion of money keep them separated, even from themselves. Scotty, like many of the other characters, has flaws and regrets, but he is willing to come to a place of resolve(ie. Benny). Sometimes you have to go back to move forward.


message 38: by Megan (last edited Jul 07, 2011 06:22PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Megan Heather wrote: "Diane wrote: "I liked this chapter and I liked Scotty and his introspection and insecurities. I think by the time he left Bennies office he had made peace with himself and he was not jaded, could s..."

I don't think Scotty is willing to come to a place of resolve - His actions may say that on the surface but really he was doing no more than taking a poke at an old sore.

Like Tpal007 says - maybe the fish was the red herring but underneath it tells a completely different story.


Katie Patrick wrote: "Blair wrote: "A lot of the details in this chapter feel to me like they might be important later on, but as I haven't read any further yet, I have no idea whether I'm right about that."

Very inter..."


The thing that's a little distracting about it for me is just that there are SO many characters! I kind of like it because it's true to life...over the years there are SO many people you meet and all of them have some kind of influence on the person you become, but it is hard for me to follow at times! I definitely had to make a character map laying out who everyone is, a few important points to help me remember them and who is linked to whom. I think this is a book you have to read quickly, because if you pick it up and put it down it's hard to remember who's who and what's what!


Katie Maggie wrote: "I think that Scotty knew full well the kind of reception he would get from Bennie. In his heart he does want a card from Bennie. But when he gets it he knows it is only a gesture, and that Bennie..."

This totally happens all the time in the real world! Especially as we get older...have you ever run into a friend say, from high school, years down the road? Someone that used to be attached to your hip, and now it seems as though you have nothing in common anymore. Life takes you down different roads and although you would give anything to be able to just go back to that moment in time and have everything be just as it was, as much as you can try to recreate moments, the truth is, they will never be the same. I could relate to the exchange between Bennie and Scotty VERY much!


Katie I don't think Scotty is willing to come to a place of resolve - His actions may say that on the surface but really he was doing no more than taking a poke at an old sore."

I agree. I don't think Scotty will come to a place of resolve either. Oftentimes, when we have such high expectations for ourselves and our lives take twists and turns and things happen that are both within and outside of our control, anything even a notch below those expectations can really taint your vision of yourself. I was the straight A, involved in everything student my entire life. I knew from the time I was 7 years old I would one day be on television doing the news. Everything happened in succession for me for that to be the case, and I always knew I would be successful if I just worked harder. Then, the economic recession hit and I was laid off from my job at a television station (though I was not on air). After that, I struggled for 3 years to find ANY WORK (as I know many others have as well). I know I will probably never accomplish my goal because the jobs just aren't there in news. So I have created new goals, but I don't think there will ever be a time when I am a) not worried about losing my job, no matter how secure it may seem and b) satisfied with myself and the "success" I have achieved. I can completely relate with Scotty's character in terms of his disillusionment with the world and the path his life has led him down.


message 42: by Heather (new) - added it

Heather Odenweller Katie wrote: "I don't think Scotty is willing to come to a place of resolve - His actions may say that on the surface but really he was doing no more than taking a poke at an old sore."

I agree. I don't think S..."


read on ladies...you will see what i am talking about! Try not to underestimate the power of the human condition to overcome material obstacles. Scotty knows he is in a position of more power than Benny because he does not 'hide' behind a big desk in a tall high-rise to know the worth of happiness. Scotty is content picking up trash under a bridge and catching fish for his dinner (picture primitive man before the industrial age or tv network news)...that is power of the human condition to survive at a basic level without worrying about someone or thing taking it away.


Megan Heather wrote: "Katie wrote: "I don't think Scotty is willing to come to a place of resolve - His actions may say that on the surface but really he was doing no more than taking a poke at an old sore."

I agree. I..."


I still don't agree - there is nothing in the book to suggest that Scotty is ever actually happy. In this chapter he is only trying to convince himself that he is happy - and it is this action that shows us he is not.


message 44: by Emma (new) - rated it 5 stars

Emma Blair wrote: "Very interesting. I've never read a book that so trains you to read it."

Totally! That's part of what I like about it. She's creating her own rules and teaching them to you. That's what originality is. Another poster mentioned that the book is like tracks on a record - of course! Makes perfect sense.

The whole thing *should* be gimmicky but she's such a great writer that you just wanna roll with it.


Rachel I'm not sure Bennie surprised me. Is Scotty crazy? He seemed like it. Or maybe just weird. Or maybe just one of those people who is so alone they get kind of weird... So how was Bennie supposed to react to his old friend showing up at his work and bringing him a fish? I don't feel like I learned that much more about either Bennie or Sasha.

But I did like the end of the chapter. Scotty seemed to be liberated, more free. I wonder if the young coulple is going to end up further along in the book... maybe he because a big star!

And to Patrick's point about the book "training" you to read it - way cool! I feel like I'm watching a mystery - I'm keeping my brain open to everything and paying alot more attention to little details. Very fun :)


message 46: by Lisa (last edited Jul 17, 2011 01:17PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lisa At first I thought Scotty had gone nutso and maybe in a way he has but I love how he looks at things. He cracked me up with his string bean and Jagermeister diet, how he went on and on about the effects or possible effects. His X's and O's theory - he seems like a very Zen type individual. My heart went out to him, missing teeth and all :)

He had a lot of great thoughts, one of my faves is: "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".

Another one that made me LOL: "The couch had put me to sleep - this chair was making me levitate".

Why Scotty went to visit Bennie was to ask him the question: "I want to know what happened between A and B". He explained that A was when they were in the band chasing Alice (or rather Bennie was chasing Alice and she was chasing Scotty). B is now. And that's what I want to know about all the characters!! Future chapters will most likely tell us. They HAVE to! heh

The fish? Scotty believed his luck may have changed with catching that fish and had to do with Bennie somehow, if I remember right. Would giving the fish to Bennie be completing a circle of some sort? Good karma? Heck, I don't know but I loved the thought of that fish stinking up Bennie's office :D Scotty was pretty proud of that fish and hoped that Bennie would at least look at it and admire it.

The ending seemed strong to me and I really liked it. Have a feeling that we'll be seeing those 2 musicians or the one later.


Stephanie this story just made me depressed. with every detail i thought of scotty as being more pathetic than before. in some weird way he reminds me of a hemingway hero and is reminicent of the old man in the old man and the sea...just keeps doing what he knows he should be doing, the one great fish, the failure, but the ultimate triumph...although he has nothing to show for it, but the carcass of his crumpled, used jacket.


message 48: by Kate (new)

Kate Hello! I'm writing my thesis on this chapter. Native speakers, could you, please, help me with the definition of a phrase "I've busted my balls", which Bennie said, when they talked about Alice. What did he mean by saying that? (page 115, Anchor Books edition)
thanks a lot!


Ulysses1972 busted my balls means worked hard


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