Title: A Visit from the Goon Squad
Author: Jennifer Egan
Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf
Genre: Contemporary Fiction, Interconnected Short Stories
First Publication: 2010(
Major Characters: Bennie Salazar, Lou Kline, Scotty Hausmann, Bill Duff, Jules Jones, Dolly Peale, Kitty Jackson, Ted Hollander, Sasha Blake, Andy Grady, Mark Avery, Rachel Costanza, Beth Grady, Alison Blake
Setting Place: Most of the stories take place in and around New York City, some stories are set in California, Italy, and Kenya
Theme: Identity, Authenticity, and Meaning; Connection, Disconnection, and Technology; Ruin and Redemption
Narration: A blend of first, second, third, and other non-traditional points of view
Book Summary: A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan
Jennifer Egan’s spellbinding interlocking narratives circle the lives of Bennie Salazar, an aging former punk rocker and record executive, and Sasha, the passionate, troubled young woman he employs. Although Bennie and Sasha never discover each other’s pasts, the reader does, in intimate detail, along with the secret lives of a host of other characters whose paths intersect with theirs, over many years, in locales as varied as New York, San Francisco, Naples, and Africa.
A Visit from the Goon Squad is a book about the interplay of time and music, about survival, about the stirrings and transformations set inexorably in motion by even the most passing conjunction of our fates. In a breathtaking array of styles and tones ranging from tragedy to satire to PowerPoint, Egan captures the undertow of self-destruction that we all must either master or succumb to; the basic human hunger for redemption; and the universal tendency to reach for both—and escape the merciless progress of time—in the transporting realms of art and music. Sly, startling, exhilarating work from one of our boldest writers.
Book Review: A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan
A Visit from the Goon Squad is a 2011 Pulitzer Prize-winning work of fiction by American author Jennifer Egan. Interestingly, I tried to read it a year ago and hated it, hardly got through any of it! More proof for me that I’m better off not forcing myself to read something I’m not enjoying: there are too many other books to read and I may, as I did this time, come back to it later and discover that the time is now right for me to appreciate and enjoy the same work that I hated before!
Bennie is an aging former punk rocker and record executive. Sasha is the passionate, troubled young woman he employs. Here Jennifer Egan brilliantly reveals their pasts, along with the inner lives of a host of other characters whose paths intersect with theirs. With music pulsing on every page, A Visit from the Goon Squad is a startling, exhilarating novel of self-destruction and redemption.
“I don’t want to fade away, I want to flame away – I want my death to be an attraction, a spectacle, a mystery. A work of art.”
Egan switches points of view frequently but I had little difficulty following the changes in perspective. I enjoyed seeing how characters that were minor ones in one section became the focus in another. I also loved the end section with its totally different format and different view of a major character.
A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan follows the lives of Sasha and Bennie (whose assistant she is). While reading the events of their lives, we enter into the lives of many other characters whose lives they touched, sometimes tangentially. I really enjoyed seeing a minor character suddenly become the star of another chapter-it seemed to me to be like life, where we are all the stars of our own lives, supporting players in the lives of those we are close to, and walk-ons in the lives of those whose lives we touch briefly or lightly. The shifting perspective made the texture of the book rich and more interesting than if the spotlight had remained solely on the two major characters.
“Like all failed experiments, that one taught me something I didn’t expect: 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.”
Egan also wrote Look at Me which focused on a supermodel whose identity is completely changed. In this reading, A Visit from the Goon Squad more than lived up to all its hype (maybe because I had not enjoyed my previous attempt, my expectations were lower).
I found A Visit from the Goon Squad satisfying on many levels. It resonated on many levels. However, I think I mostly enjoyed this book because it was interesting in its approach to the characters and so well written. The characters were vivid and it was easy for me to recognize them, despite the many shifts of focus.
I strongly advise everyone who loves fiction to try this book: if you don’t like it at first reading, maybe (like me) you’ll discover its treasures later on!