A VISIT FROM THE GOON SQUAD by Jennifer Egan

Book Quote:

“I want interviews, features, you name it,” Bosco went on. “Fill up my life with that shit. Let’s document every fucking humiliation. That is reality, right? You don’t look good anymore twenty years later, especially when you’ve had half your guts removed. Time’s a goon, right? Isn’t that the expression?”

Book Review:

Review by Jill I. Shtulman  (NOV 03, 2010)

In Jennifer’s Egan’s lively and inventive novel – A Visit From The Goon Squad – each of its characters feels his or her mortality. Each is a in a tenuous danse-a-deux with “the goon.”

Every chapter is told from a different character’s point of view and it is no accident that the novel starts with Sasha – the assistant of music producer Bennie Salazar, one of the key focal points. Sasha has sticky fingers and is constantly pirating away meaningless objects to compose “the warped core of her life.” These objects serve as talismans, placing her at arm’s length from the love she wants.

And Bennie? A one-time band member and arrogant indie genius, he is now one step removed from the action, adding flakes of gold to his coffee to enhance his libido and bemoaning the state of digital technology. Like Sasha, he’s at arm’s length from a direct connection with love and life in general.

Bennie and Sasha will never know much about each other – even though they’ve worked together for decades – but the reader comes to know them through various stories. We get to know Lou, Bennie’s charismatic, misbehaving, skirt-chasing mentor during a harrowing African safari; Dolly, the PR mogul who places her own daughter in harm’s way; Jules, the ex-con journalist whose lunch with a Hollywood grade B actress goes terribly wrong; Ted Hollander, Sasha’s art-loving uncle, who travels to Naples to find her. Each will add a little something to the puzzle.

Yet none of their stories is told in chronological order, or even through flashbacks. Rather, time is revealed like the grooves of a record album, jumping from track to track in what appears to be no particular order. As each character takes his or her own moment in the spotlight, he or she is desperate for a second chance and to hold off the approaching goon. At one point, Dolly reflects, “Her deeper error had preceded all that: she’s overlooked a seismic shift…Now and then (she) finds herself wondering what sort of event or convergence would define the new world in which she found herself, as Capote’s party had, or Woodstock, or Malcolm Forbes’s seventieth birthday, or the party for Talk Magazine. She had no idea.”

The rich, lush, adventurous life that these characters once lived is being replaced by PowerPoints (one young character reveals her story through a 40-page PowerPoint presentation), paid “parrots” who create social media buzz, truncated emails, and digital technology. As Egan’s characters “strut and fret” their last hours on the broader stage, the world of technology is making them increasingly irrelevant. When Alex – Sasha’s would be beau whom we meet in the first chapter – tells Bennie, “I don’t know what happened to me,” Bennie’s answer is, “You grew up, Alex…just like the rest of us.”

AMAZON READER RATING: stars-3-5from 257 readers
PUBLISHER: Knopf (June 8, 2010)
REVIEWER: Jill I. Shtulman
AVAILABLE AS A KINDLE BOOK? YES! Start Reading Now!
AUTHOR WEBSITE: Jennifer Egan
EXTRAS: Reading Guide and Excerpt
MORE ON MOSTLYFICTION: Another genre bending new school novel:

Super Sad True Love Story by Gary Shteyngart

Bibliography:

Movies from Books:

  • The Invisible Circle (2001)

November 3, 2010 · Judi Clark · One Comment
Tags: , ,  · Posted in: 2011 Favorites, Contemporary, Humorous, National Book Critic Circle (NBCC), Pulitzer Prize, Reading Guide, Satire, y Award Winning Author

One Response

  1. poornima - January 4, 2011

    I just finished this novel and it’s fantastic! Especially fitting to read it at the beginning of a new year :)

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