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review 2020-02-07 15:27
A Visit From The Goon Squad
A Visit from the Goon Squad - Jennifer Egan

We were doing Secret Santa last month and I wanted to get something else for a change, so I asked the giver's favorite book, which landed me with A Visit From The Goon Squad. Not something I'd actively seek out or had come across before, but all the better for broadening my view. Definitely a successful experiment and something I will use for further Secret Santas.

Every chapter tells a part of the story from a different POV, and while all characters are somehow connected to either music producer Bennie or his kleptomaniac assistant Sasha the extent to how much they are connected is very different from chapter to chapter. I for one was looking forward at the beginning of each chapter to find out this connection. The changing of characters, time, place and narrative voice between each chapter did make it harder to get into the story, but I think I enjoyed it more than it bothered me.

One chapter is presented in the form of a Powerpoint presentation and this chapter resonated with me most, because I spend my fair share of time preparing Powerpoints myself. I also thought it was refreshing, even if the schemes and wordart were overused on the slides, and it didn't feel like it was made by a 12yo.

When reading I had a very strong feeling this was one of those books for the awards, and seeing it won the 2011 Pulitzer. It also reminded me of Cloud Atlas and If on a Winter's Night a Traveler.

Intriguing read.

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url 2017-06-01 20:52
Slate: Dark Futures
The Road - Cormac McCarthy
Station Eleven - Emily St. John Mandel
Infinite Jest - David Foster Wallace
A Visit from the Goon Squad - Jennifer Egan
The Book of Joan: A Novel - Lidia Yuknavitch
American War - Omar El Akkad

Slate asks, "What happens when literary novelists experiment with science fiction."


I answer, "Lots of wonderful things."

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review 2016-10-31 20:31
A Visit from the Goon Squad - Jennifer Egan

At first, I was into it. 

The characters were interesting, had cool jobs and slick lives, but were relatably and sympathetically troubled. Then each chapter brought a new character, and it was a little hard to keep track of at first but I got the hang of it and still wanted to keep going. I appreciated the glimpses into a scene I am too young to remember, the sense of urgency and glamour, the speculation of how a more reckless age affected characters years later.


But honestly, the last chapter ruined it all for me. From a vivid, not overly romanticized reflection on the wages of time and memory, the narrative suddenly veers into a heartless indictment of present-day music, marketing, and communication. Heartless because I think the author thinks that pop culture in the present day has no heart, that it's all text message abbreviations and viral marketing schemes, and her imagined future is just the logical extension of all that. But I do not think that's true or fair to the passion and hard work and enthusiasms of the world I know. So I lost quite a bit of faith that this book's representations of the past were true or fair, either.

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review 2016-07-20 00:00
A Visit from the Goon Squad
A Visit from the Goon Squad - Jennifer Egan A witty, nostalgic, bittersweet collection of stories that isn't afraid to play around with timelines and styles of narration. Despite the rapid changes between chapters and the large cast of characters, this book is quirky enough to keep you hooked.

"A Visit from the Goon Squad" follows a large ensemble of characters who are all linked in some way or another. Teenage punk rockers, record executives, kleptomaniacs, movie stars, dictators - you wouldn't think these stories would mesh together well, but they do. As each chapter goes by, Egan reveals a little more about our central characters, Bennie and Sasha, and the people in their lives. Our cast is both funny and tragic, both hopeful and depressing, and entertainingly self-destructive.

Depending on the reviewer, this book will either be criticized or praised for its style of writing, which changes with each chapter. First, second, and third person points of view are all present, as well as a chapter told entirely through power-point slides. It's a refreshing change of pace that allows Egan to expand on characterization in ways that best fit the character. Truthfully, the book could be picked apart and rearranged in any way, its stories read independently, and still make sense. It may seem plotless and trivial, but every story shares an overarching theme that connects it to the rest.

With so many leaps backward and forward in time, "A Visit from the Goon Squad" focuses heavily on nostalgia and a yearning for the past. Often, a character's offhanded comment about the 'good old days' will be the main focus of a later chapter. Younger readers who can't identify with the book's theme of inevitable aging will still be able to enjoy and appreciate it, and to older audiences, it will serve as a bittersweet reminder.
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review 2015-01-15 00:00
A Visit from the Goon Squad
A Visit from the Goon Squad - Jennifer Egan This collection of linked short stories centers on Benny, a record executive, and his assistant, Sasha.

The writing is poetic, and it’s worth reading just for that, but the stories themselves are . . . "meh." They all melted together in my mind because they felt very repetitive: music, drug use, sex, un-relatable characters, repeat for 300 pages. I think I would have liked this book a lot more if it had been shorter.

My favorite story is the one that’s told in PowerPoint slides. It’s creative, and it works well. I also think the author did a nice job of finding unique ways to link the stories together. I enjoyed discovering the connections between them.

I guess I’m baffled about why this won a Pulitzer. Maybe I missed something. It’s definitely not the worst short story collection I’ve ever read, but I got a little bored with it.
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