A Visit From the Goon Squad

A Visit From the Goon Squad

Book - 2010/06/15
Average Rating:
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Random House, Inc.
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.

We first meet Sasha in her mid-thirties, on her therapist’s couch in New York City, confronting her long-standing compulsion to steal. Later, we learn the genesis of her turmoil when we see her as the child of a violent marriage, then as a runaway living in Naples, then as a college student trying to avert the suicidal impulses of her best friend. We plunge into the hidden yearnings and disappointments of her uncle, an art historian stuck in a dead marriage, who travels to Naples to extract Sasha from the city’s demimonde and experiences an epiphany of his own while staring at a sculpture of Orpheus and Eurydice in the Museo Nazionale. We meet Bennie Salazar at the melancholy nadir of his adult life—divorced, struggling to connect with his nine-year-old son, listening to a washed-up band in the basement of a suburban house—and then revisit him in 1979, at the height of his youth, shy and tender, reveling in San Francisco’s punk scene as he discovers his ardor for rock and roll and his gift for spotting talent. We learn what became of his high school gang—who thrived and who faltered—and we encounter Lou Kline, Bennie’s catastrophically careless mentor, along with the lovers and children left behind in the wake of Lou’s far-flung sexual conquests and meteoric rise and fall.

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.

Baker & Taylor
Working side-by-side for a record label, former punk rocker Bennie Salazar and the passionate Sasha hide illicit secrets from one another while interacting with a motley assortment of equally troubled people from 1970s San Francisco to the post-war future.

Baker
& Taylor

Working side-by-side for a record label, former punk rocker Bennie Salazar and the passionate Sasha hide illicit secrets from one another while interacting with a motley assortment of equally troubled people from 1970s San Francisco to the post-war future. By the National Book Award-nominated author of Look at Me.

Publisher: New York : Alfred A. Knopf, 2010/06/15
Edition: 1st ed
ISBN: 9780307592835
0307592839
Branch Call Number: FICTION EGAN
Characteristics: 288 p.

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SCL_Justin Jul 28, 2017

My friend who teaches grade 12 English recommended I read Jennifer Egan’s A Visit From the Goon Squad. It’s a novel centred around music, but centred is a bad word. It’s much more scattered than that, bouncing itself about in time telling stories of people tangentially connected to each other.

Each of the sections could stand alone as a short story (and I gather that at least some of them were published that way) and that’s part of why my friend is teaching it. He could give each person in class responsibility for becoming an expert in one chunk and then Voltron everything together with presentations in class.

Most of what I liked about the book was the shifting form of it. A different friend of mine has no patience for this kind of thing. She just wants a story that keeps her interested and makes her feel something. This book doesn’t do that per se. But there’s a chapter that’s done as a slideshow, which is the kind of trick I really enjoy, even if it is a little gimmicky.

FindingJane May 01, 2017

The goon squad of the title is time itself. Time is unkind to human beings, causing them to lose their bloom, beauty, freshness, vivacity, slimness and hair. But it can provide certain benefits too, calming sullenness or causing us to cast off unproductive or embarrassing behavior (and hairstyles).

The various characters in this novel interact in surprising and unknown ways as the narrative loops backwards and forwards in time. Rebellious teenagers gallivant through the world in ways that make other people envious. A record producer has high times—until his clients dwindle away. A woman on top of the social world throws a lavish party that goes spectacularly awry and she sees this as the sharp demarcation between her glory years and her current failed life.

It’s a phantasmagorical whirl of lives coming together and drifting apart as eras fade and new generations are born. Even as people turn to each other in a shared instance of bliss, demanding that they remain this way always, you know that the intensity of the moment will fade like an old photograph.

The novel’s poignancy lies in the recognition that people will make futile efforts to imprison the fleeting moments, even as time shoves them forward with hard shoves between the shoulderblades. It’s a book of contrasts, squalor and splendor, fame and notoriety, joy and anger. People wallow, flounder, try and fail, each in their own individual methods and this novel manages to keep the reader absolutely riveted every step of the way.

athompson10 Feb 15, 2017

A series of vignettes from people whose lives intersect over the years, and somehow it all hangs together as a narrative about music, adulthood and the choices we make. There's an overall sadness and melancholy to the book, although some of the characters' stories are funny and some quite dark and bleak.

s
spiderfelt_0
Jan 29, 2017

The loosely connected stories left me unsatisfied and wondering why they ended where they did. I agree with the reviewed who suggested Egan wrote this book to impress. It seemed like a vast experiment without any real justification for the jumps.

AustinPL_Virtual Sep 14, 2016

When I finish a book, I rarely flip right to the beginning for a re-read no matter how much I love it. A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan is a notable exception. It’s a collection of stories with overlapping characters and timelines that fit together intricately. You’ll get a few chapters in before realizing, “Oh! Here’s the person who…” Thus, the need to flip to the beginning or elsewhere, to find that thread in another character’s story.

With its jigsaw structure and dark tone, Goon Squad is a poignant pleasure. The characters search for meaning or maturity or love, and you feel a twinge of guilt and sadness when their efforts fall short. The episodic chapters engender a variety of settings, including punk San Francisco, a posh New York suburb and an African safari. It’s a wild and disconcerting ride, but it’s definitely worth taking.

r
robboss
May 30, 2016

I liked this book a lot. It's a virtual textbook of storytelling techniques--even graphs--that I learned in college. She hits them all. A good one for aspiring writers, or just someone who likes rock and roll stories.

h
HollyDavis022
Mar 11, 2016

Unexpected story line. Loved it

c
clarmer
Jan 31, 2016

Definitely deserving of the Pulitzer Prize (2011). Several stories/character studies tenuously connected are woven together imaginatively, non-linearly, to create an overarching tone, impression, snapshot of a recent (and future) era in American culture. I really enjoyed the excellent writing!

q
quinn020
Dec 06, 2015

Started out with a bang and was all downhill from about halfway through. Totally lost interest as the focus of the plot blurred. Could not finish the book.

GSPLjodie Oct 06, 2015

I really liked this book. Egan was able to keep the same crew of characters, but changed the narrator and timeline with each chapter. Sometimes this can be a bit challenging, but if you like books with multiple narrators and shifting timelines, this book is for you.

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