Pulitzer Prize, Fiction, 2011
National Book Critics Circle Award, Fiction, 2011
Jennifer Egan brings her unique gifts as a novelist and short story writer to a compulsively readable narrative that centers on Bennie Salazar, an aging punk rocker and record executive, and the beautiful Sasha, the pasionate, troubled young woman he employs. Bennie and Sasha never discover each other's pasts, but the reader 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 varied as the San Francisco music scene of the 1970s; 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.
©2010 Jennifer Egan. (P)2012 AudioGO Ltd
By day I write non-fiction as a journo. By night I listen to sci-fi fantasy, teen fiction & anything by Neil Gaiman. The weirder the better.
Right from its stealing start, A Visit from the Goon Squad grabbed me by the ears and dragged me in. And I was stuck, like a fly in a web, which is an accurate analogy because Jennifer Egan has woven an intricately intertwined tale of vivid characters with weird traits. It can take time to work out how the people are connected, a bit like doing a family tree. But there is always some link, at times tentative, to an early Californian punk band and its groupies. This novel is peopled with believable characters living through great and terrible times and Egan's writing is wow-inspiring brilliant. Fortunately, narrator Roxana Ortega brings all the people to life with a fine performance, allowing Egan's words to slam dance and pogo along the way. Now all my friends are being urged to welcome A Visit from the Goon Squad.
Yes, I do recommend this novel to everyone. As many critics have noted, Ms. Egan employs a host of dazzling literary techniques in 'A Visit from the Goon Squad'. She writes in third person in some chapters, first person in others and even second person (!) in one chapter. She also seems to adopt a different style and tone in each chapter. In the chapter about a failed art history professor searching for his runaway niece in Italy, Ms. Egan writes in the style of an ambitious art critic. In the chapter about a journalist's disasterous interview of a young actress, Ms. Egan parodies David Foster Wallace's writing style, but it also seemed to me that she was hinting at the tragic future for both her character and for Mr. Wallace. In the penultimate chapter, she has a twelve-year old girl write a PowerPoint Slide presentation. But as is always the case with Ms. Egan's bravura literary techniques, they serve the narrative. The most affecting aspect of that chapter (the girl's PowerPoint presentation) is the fact she 'got' her autistic older brother in a way that their father didn't.
There are similarities to both Don Delillo's great novel, 'Underworld' and to some of Thomas Pynchon's novels. Both 'Underworld' and 'A Visit from the Goon Squad' interweave the stories of many different characters non-chronologically over the course of decades. Of course, many writers do this, but I don't think that very many of them do it nearly as well as Don Delillo or Jennifer Egan.In terms of technique, Ms. Egan reminds me of Pynchon and other postmodern writers. That being said, no matter how experimental her techniques may seem at first, they are not in the least off-putting. Everyone can appreciate this novel.
As far as I know, this is the first novel read by Roxanna Ortega. Some ot the reviewers of the other Audible version of this novel have quibbled with Ms. Ortega's reading. I do not agree. Her voice is very easy to listen to and I like the fact that she gave each character his or her own voice.
There are many moving moments in this novel. The entire chapter 'Out of Body', written in the second person was very powerful. A college student who attempted suicide returns to college. Both he and his friends have trouble dealing with the fact that he tried to kill himself and it becomes obvious that he is not completely 'better'.
This is a novel about the unexpected trajectories of the lives of people. An autistic boy in the novel spends most of his time looking for the short 1 or 2 second pauses in popular songs. I am assuming that this is Ms. Egan's metaphor for the seeming 'pauses' in real life.
"All American Novel"
Yes and No. It really would depend on how much they liked American Culture, as everything about this book is American. It did win the Pulitzer which is why I got it but I didn't totally engage. I like the conceit of linking all the stories together, not that this is original, but it is well done. Will need to listen to it again to make up mind completely.
Something by Michael Chabon perhaps...
Slow burn - slightly irritating at first but after a while her inflections so fitted the narrative and the American voice of the characters.
Nope, most certainly not, though each chapter is a short story in itself, so a chapter at a time is a good fix.
This is a snapshot of late 20th century American pop culture, complete with music, drugs, sex, divorce and the complexities of friendship from late teens onwards. I think it's a marmite book.
"A Visit from the Goon Squad"
A surprisingly interesting book which kept my interest. It is a collection of short stories which link to the key characters so each can be read independently of the other. The last chapter was a little fast so I listened to it again. All in all, I would listen to this again although not a desert island choice.
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