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)
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.
This is really a unique book. Each chapter has a completely different style. And even has completely different subject matter! The characters weave in and out of each others stories... This is somewhat hard to listen to on audiobook because I found myself wanting to flip back to other chapters and re-check out the names to see how everyone was connected. So I think I missed some things but I still got it. I also really liked all the music references sprinkled throughout.
Good book, I'll probably read it again, but next time on the page. There are so many characters it's really hard to follow sometimes. Perhaps Audible could attach a photo with it that has a list of the characters? Don't know if it would give too much away, but I think it would really help.
So, unless you are in for a mental exercise, I'd say get this one in paper rather than audio.
Really cannot even comment on the storyline because the performance/ narration was so bad that I couldn't get past the first chapter. I hate these breathy, baby-voiced narrators.
I would characterize it as a 3D read. Disjointed, dark and depressing. Could not get far enough for a take away if there was one.
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