Jennifer Egan's several novels and collections of short stories have always been well received, and this book will be no exception. It is a novel, but each chapter holds it own. Like a devious love child of Colum McCann and Bret Easton Ellis, the whole fabric of these characters' lives slides together piece by ugly piece. Egan is a little less heart-wrenching than McCann and a little more moralistic than Ellis, but the total package here is one that will delight many kinds of readers.
The strange treat in this postmodern ensemble is newcomer narrator Roxana Ortega. A veteran of the soap opera scene, occasional improv comic, and supporting actress in films like Miss Congeniality 2, Ortega brings a surprisingly bold and wonderfully solid set of voices to Egan's cast of haunted characters. She begins all breathy and languid with Sasha, the eternally distant and bored kleptomaniac, but then draws listeners closer and closer, starting with the forlorn but gruff Bennie, once a handsome punk rocker and now an aging exec trying to stay on top of the scene. The most delightful segment is Ortega's deftly poetic rendering of little Alison's diary, which in the novel appears as a PowerPoint presentation.
Here's the thing about punk rock: there is always some kind of adventure around the next corner, until one day you wake up old, cold, and sold. This novel contains a lion trying to rip someone's face off, an autistic boy who collects songs that have moments of silence in them, a genocidal dictator taking photos with a burnt-out actress, a bag full of East River fish juice, a couple of wicked awesome lap steel and slide guitar solos, and a truckload of smartphone devices. As time marches forward, backward, and sideways in Egan's portrait of a once-cool music empire now dwarfed by modern technology and fading fast, Ortega gracefully jumps from generation to generation, wondering what went wrong for these people and try to help them get it back. Megan Volpert
Pulitzer Prize, Fiction, 2011
National Book Critics Circle Award, Fiction, 2011
Winner of the Pulitzer Prize for fiction!
Jennifer Egan brings her unique gifts as a novelist and short story writer to a compulsively listenable narrative that centers on Bennie Salazar, an aging punk rocker and record executive, and the beautiful Sasha, the passionate, troubled young woman he employs.
Bennie and Sasha never discover each other's pasts, but the listener does, in intimate detail, along with the secret lives of a host of other people whose paths intersect with theirs in the course of nearly 50 years, in settings as various as the San Francisco 1970s music scene; the demimonde of Naples; New York at many points, from the pre-internet 90s to a postwar future; and a catastrophic safari in the heart of Africa.
A Visit from the Goon Squad is a book about time, about survival, about our private terrors and how we overcome them or don't, and what happens when we fail to rebound. Brilliant, sly, suspenseful, and always surprising - one of our boldest authors at the height of her powers.
©2010 Jennifer Egan. All rights reserved. (P)2010 BBC Audiobooks America
"Readers will be pleased to discover that the star-crossed marriage of lucid prose and expertly deployed postmodern switcheroos that helped shoot Egan to the top of the genre-bending new school is alive in well in this graceful yet wild novel." (Publishers Weekly)
“Pitch perfect. . . . Darkly, rippingly funny. . . . Egan possesses a satirist’s eye and a romance novelist’s heart.” (The New York Times Book Review)
“A new classic of American fiction.” (Time)
Apparently, the committee who selects the Pulitzer Prize for fiction is easily impressed with narrative tricks. The story moves forward and backward in time and switches voices and characters repeatedly. That's all good and well, but it leaves the reader wanting something. The story seems to revolve around two central characters whose stories are told not just through their perspectives, but the perspectives of those that surround them as well. Often, these connections gets stretched too thin: character development remains somewhat superficial. It comes off more as a collection of short stories than a novel.
The narrator for this title spoke a little too slowly for my taste. I had to stop listening after an hour or so because I was driving and thought I was going to nod off. I don't think her voice is the right pitch for me. I think she did a good job of differentiating voices, but that still seemed somewhat generic to me.
Depends on whether the friend would be interested in its particular subject matter
the narrator's voice probably ruined this book for me. It was monotone and it was hard to tell when different characters were speaking
wonder about the pulitzer requisites
I think the writing is exceptional, and I think the narration on this audiobook did detract from its story. Overall though I am not sure why the book was so praised, it offered a dance of tangled characters whose connection wasn't always clear till too late in the particular story. Suspense was done well throughout.
I read the print version in addition to listening to the audio book. I liked reading the book much better than listening to it. I think the narration was really good, but the story does not translate that well to the audio in my opinion. If I had to do it over, I would not have chosen the audio version to listen to. This book is not really a traditional narrative at all. The style is not so plot-centric. Some of the chapters were really very good to listen to, while others were difficult because of stylistic choices, such as a chapter with many footnotes and a chapter written entirely in Power Point. If I had not read the book previously, I am sure these would have been confusing. Further, there are a lot of characters that fade in and out, and I think they were far easier to keep straight in print. I loved this book. It definitely deserved all of the accolades it won. I would just recommend it in print, as opposed to the audio version.
I try not to read too much about the books that I purchase because I enjoy learning about them as I go... So when The Good Squad ended up being a collection of short stories, I was pleasantly surprised!
I usually like to actually read short stories instead of listen to them - so had I known the book was short stories - I normally wouldn't have purchased it to listen. But I'm really glad I didn't know and that I did get a chance to listen to this interesting group of characters.
The book was a lot of fun to listen to and Jennifer Egan finds a way to connect all of the characters involved - so you get to see them in different chapters and at different time periods of their lives and interacting with the other characters - which was very interesting!
I purchased this book because it won the Pulitzer and now it's being turned into a TV show on HBO, which I think will be very cool! I had just gotten finished listening to Freedom by Franzen and I wanted something different and stumbled onto this...
I enjoyed Ortega's reading and take on the characters... the story moved quickly and it was neat to see how all of the characters intersected at different points. I think I would have liked to actually see and read the power point chapter... but Ortega did a good job of narrating something written entirely in power point.
I would definitely recommend this selection for anyone who likes really well-written short stories and likes narratives that shift in time.
living in los angeles I drive a lot, so audio books save me from a lot of frustration!
This is an incredibly ambitious book spanning over 4 decades, different writing styles (power point, gossip column graph), numerous characters (Record producer, dictator, Hollywood starlet) locations (Africa, Naples, New York) yet it all comes together in the end. Instead of withholding information to keep readers in suspense, Jennifer Egan gives it away sometimes with blinding speed. Just as I fell in love with one of her characters she condensed the rest of his life into one paragraph and he was already dead.
I tried hard to get past the poor diction, knowing that pronouncing -ing as -een is a pet peeve of mine, but when glutinous is marred as gluttonous, I was done with the audio. It seems there is no review process in these Audible recordings. Something I also find odd is that these are coming from some pre-publication manuscript; funny little changes that turn up in the final cut.
Weird. This lack of oversight will likely drive me away.
I usually stay away from reviewing narrators since that seems to be so much about personal taste. But this performance is really brilliant. I enjoyed the story also, which is a series of vignettes told from different characters perspectives at different points in their lives.
This is a good book, it's just that the reader is terrible. I wonder if it's a computer reading this book? What a waste of a credit.
The book itself deserves 5 stars along with the Pulitzer Prize that it won. I picked up a copy of the book and will be experiencing it again. The tangentially connected storylines set up themes that reverberate as the narrative unfolds. The different perspectives on the passage of time...the "goon" of the title...really live up to the Proust epigraph that begins the book. The vision of the near-future is particularly plausible and hilarious at the same time. The performance, though, was a little too deadpan for my tastes; there is so much droll and delicious writing that a more accomplished actor could have had a lot of fun with it, along with the listener. Hence, my one-star deduction for the audiobook experience.
From the first sentence I was hooked. The seemingly tangential connections from one chapter to the next held because each character not only was fully realized, but knowing them gave you insight to the previous character. Egan has described her writing as a kind of time travel, and she achieved this through the non-linear plot. As I listened I felt that she had captured that fragmentary, sideways-connected way we remember. Brilliant. One of the few audio books that I want to go back to and re-listen.
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