Book Thoughts: A Visit From the Goon Squad

 

A visit from the

“Time’s a goon, right? You gonna let that goon push you around?” Scotty shook his head. “The goon won.”

A Visit from the Goon Squad is not your standard novel. It doesn’t have a main character, no linear plot, has alternative narratives, a freaking powerpoint as a chapter, and no concrete setting or time period. Don’t let this be a turn off, however. It’s a fantastic read. You’ll appreciate it if you’re a nostalgic person which I am, or if you just want to read a new way of telling the oldest story known to us.
We ‘re born. We live. We get old. We Die.

A Visit from the Goon Squad reads more like a short story collection. It begins with Sasha a kleptomaniac living in New York City working in the music industry for Bennie. Then chapters shift to tell someone else’s story and so forth and so forth. The difference between A Visit from the Goon Squad and a short story collection, is that that these characters do reappear, but it’s likely that the next time we see them they’ll either be younger or older, and they will be in a different place then when we last saw them.

“I’m always happy,” Sasha said. “Sometimes I just forget.”

If there had to be main characters I would say it was between Bennie and Sasha. They are the characters that we see the most, and the inadvertent link between everyone. We meet Sasha when she’s in her twenties, and we also get to see her as a troubled teen, and eventually as an adult. Much of the same is true for Bennie.

“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.”

Honestly it’s a very basic story. It simply follows people whose lives are either extremely chaotic, mellow, and everything in between . I guess that’s what I liked about it. It features various lives in various stages. It reminds us that what we think matters at X age won’t matter when we’re Y age which is one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned the older I get. I know for a fact I don’t care about the same stuff I did in high school.

Surprisingly it also has some Sci-Fi elements going on here. The novel concludes in futuristic New York where new and interesting technology is being used for communication. If you think cell phones are bad, wait to read about T messages.

Finally, Jennifer Egan writing is very simple not overly lyrical or poetic, but she does a great job of letting you know exactly what’s happening. She includes first persons, second person, and third person narrative. As well as a complete chapter in a powerpoint. The second person narrative was particularly interesting since it’s one I’ve hardly ever read a book in. She does follow a pattern I’m detecting in literary fiction of not using quotation marks which can confuse a bit. There is a bit of humor and satire in it which prevent the book from being too dark.

“Das mine”! Protested Ava. Bennie’s daughter, affirming Alex’s recent theory that language acquisition involved a phrase of speaking German.

If you’ve ever been around tiny children you start realizing the truth in this.

Overall, a unique read not for plot, but for style. Highly recommend it if you want to read something contemporary that isn’t pretentious.

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