A Visit From the Goon Squad

A Visit From the Goon Squad

Book - 2010
Average Rating:
47
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Bennie Salazar, an aging former punk rocker and record executive, and Sasha, the passionate, troubled young woman he employs confront their pasts in this powerful story about how rebellion ages, influence corrupts, habits turn to addictions, lifelong friendships fluctuate and turn, and how art and music have the power to redeem.
Publisher: New York : Alfred A. Knopf, 2010
Edition: 1st ed
ISBN: 9780307592835
0307592839
9780307477477
Characteristics: 273 p. : ill. ; 25 cm

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SCL_Justin Jul 28, 2017

My friend who teaches grade 12 English recommended I read Jennifer Egan’s A Visit From the Goon Squad. It’s a novel centred around music, but centred is a bad word. It’s much more scattered than that, bouncing itself about in time telling stories of people tangentially connected to each other.

Each of the sections could stand alone as a short story (and I gather that at least some of them were published that way) and that’s part of why my friend is teaching it. He could give each person in class responsibility for becoming an expert in one chunk and then Voltron everything together with presentations in class.

Most of what I liked about the book was the shifting form of it. A different friend of mine has no patience for this kind of thing. She just wants a story that keeps her interested and makes her feel something. This book doesn’t do that per se. But there’s a chapter that’s done as a slideshow, which is the kind of trick I really enjoy, even if it is a little gimmicky.

FindingJane May 01, 2017

The goon squad of the title is time itself. Time is unkind to human beings, causing them to lose their bloom, beauty, freshness, vivacity, slimness and hair. But it can provide certain benefits too, calming sullenness or causing us to cast off unproductive or embarrassing behavior (and hairstyles).

The various characters in this novel interact in surprising and unknown ways as the narrative loops backwards and forwards in time. Rebellious teenagers gallivant through the world in ways that make other people envious. A record producer has high times—until his clients dwindle away. A woman on top of the social world throws a lavish party that goes spectacularly awry and she sees this as the sharp demarcation between her glory years and her current failed life.

It’s a phantasmagorical whirl of lives coming together and drifting apart as eras fade and new generations are born. Even as people turn to each other in a shared instance of bliss, demanding that they remain this way always, you know that the intensity of the moment will fade like an old photograph.

The novel’s poignancy lies in the recognition that people will make futile efforts to imprison the fleeting moments, even as time shoves them forward with hard shoves between the shoulderblades. It’s a book of contrasts, squalor and splendor, fame and notoriety, joy and anger. People wallow, flounder, try and fail, each in their own individual methods and this novel manages to keep the reader absolutely riveted every step of the way.

athompson10 Feb 15, 2017

A series of vignettes from people whose lives intersect over the years, and somehow it all hangs together as a narrative about music, adulthood and the choices we make. There's an overall sadness and melancholy to the book, although some of the characters' stories are funny and some quite dark and bleak.

s
spiderfelt_0
Jan 29, 2017

The loosely connected stories left me unsatisfied and wondering why they ended where they did. I agree with the reviewed who suggested Egan wrote this book to impress. It seemed like a vast experiment without any real justification for the jumps.

AustinPL_Virtual Sep 14, 2016

When I finish a book, I rarely flip right to the beginning for a re-read no matter how much I love it. A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan is a notable exception. It’s a collection of stories with overlapping characters and timelines that fit together intricately. You’ll get a few chapters in before realizing, “Oh! Here’s the person who…” Thus, the need to flip to the beginning or elsewhere, to find that thread in another character’s story.

With its jigsaw structure and dark tone, Goon Squad is a poignant pleasure. The characters search for meaning or maturity or love, and you feel a twinge of guilt and sadness when their efforts fall short. The episodic chapters engender a variety of settings, including punk San Francisco, a posh New York suburb and an African safari. It’s a wild and disconcerting ride, but it’s definitely worth taking.

r
robboss
May 30, 2016

I liked this book a lot. It's a virtual textbook of storytelling techniques--even graphs--that I learned in college. She hits them all. A good one for aspiring writers, or just someone who likes rock and roll stories.

h
HollyDavis022
Mar 11, 2016

Unexpected story line. Loved it

c
clarmer
Jan 31, 2016

Definitely deserving of the Pulitzer Prize (2011). Several stories/character studies tenuously connected are woven together imaginatively, non-linearly, to create an overarching tone, impression, snapshot of a recent (and future) era in American culture. I really enjoyed the excellent writing!

q
quinn020
Dec 06, 2015

Started out with a bang and was all downhill from about halfway through. Totally lost interest as the focus of the plot blurred. Could not finish the book.

GSPLjodie Oct 06, 2015

I really liked this book. Egan was able to keep the same crew of characters, but changed the narrator and timeline with each chapter. Sometimes this can be a bit challenging, but if you like books with multiple narrators and shifting timelines, this book is for you.

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