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A Visit from the Goon Squad

A Visit from the Goon Squad

Book rating: 03 Paperback

By (author) Jennifer Egan

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  • Publisher: Corsair
  • Format: Paperback | 368 pages
  • Dimensions: 130mm x 198mm x 22mm | 281g
  • Publication date: 9 June 2011
  • Publication City/Country: London
  • ISBN 10: 1780330960
  • ISBN 13: 9781780330969
  • Sales rank: 6,643

Product description

Jennifer Egan's spellbinding novel circles the lives of Bennie Salazar, an ageing 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 a runaway living in Naples, then as a college student trying to avert the suicidal impulses of her best friend. 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, revelling in San Francisco's punk scene as he discovers his ardour 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.

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Author information

Jennifer Egan is the author of The Keep, Look at Me, The Invisible Circus, and the story collection Emerald City. Her stories have been published in The New Yorker, Harper's Magazine, GQ, Zoetrope, All-Story, and Ploughshares, and her nonfiction appears frequently in The New York Times Magazine. She lives with her husband and sons in Brooklyn.

Customer reviews

By Stephen Donaghy 23 Apr 2012 3

Started off really enjoying it but in the end felt a bit disappointed. Like most modern novels if just does not end satisfyingly. Also, like David Mitchell's Cloud Atlas, I kept on expecting the diverse parts to cohere but they did not. In the end I wonder - as I do about the film Pulp Fiction - what is gained by distorting the narrative flow. In many ways it's a collection of interlinked short stories rather than a novel. I understand there's an app where the chapters can be shuffled or put into a chronological order: I can't help feeling that if the chapters can be rearranged arbitrarily then there is something missing from the novel as a coherent work of art. It did begin terrifically and kept me turning the pages but the only positive from the chapter written in the style of a celebrity interview was to remind me not to read badly written celebrity interviews. I also found the chapter written in the style of a powerpoint presentation irritating, at least initially, though in that case found that there was some reward for perseverance.

By Nicole Wright 10 Sep 2011 3

This book was recommended to me as a funny original novel. I found that the characters were well defined but I really didn't find it a humour novel. I liked the way the threads of human relationships were woven together in unexpected ways and that all the characters were imperfect (as we all are in real life). Overall I would class this as poignant rather than laugh out loud funny!

Review quote

A must read. Irresistible. Fiction of the highest quality. Sunday Times. It may be the smartest book you can get your hands on this summer. Los Angeles Times Exhilirating...arresting...brilliant. Turn up the music...and curl up with The Goon Squad. Washington Post A great work of fiction, a profound and glorious exploration of the fullness and complexity of the human condition... An extraordinary new work of fiction. The New York Press Egan's precise, calm underwater prose is a persistent pleasure. Daily Telegraph. A delight. The Observer. A Visit from the Goon Squad [is] an exhilarating, big-hearted, three-headed beast of a story... [A] genius as a writer... We see ourselves in all of Egan's characters because their stories of heartbreak and redemption seem so real they could be our own, regardless of the soundtrack. Such is the stuff great novels are made of. Marie-Claire Clever. Edgy. Groundbreaking... It features characters about whom you come to care deeply as you watch them doing things they shouldn't, acting gloriously, infuriatingly human. The Chicago Tribune A rich and rewarding novel. Philadelphia Inquierer "[Egan is] a boldly intellectual writer who is not afraid to apply her equally powerful intuitive skills to her ambitious projects... While it's a time-trekking, tech-freakin' doozie, the characters' lives and fates claim the story first and foremost, and we are pulled right in... Brilliantly structured, with storylike chapters." Elle Jennifer Egan is a rare bird: an experimental writer with a deep commitment to character, whose fiction is at once intellectually stimulating and moving... It's a tricky book, but in the best way. When I got to the end, I wanted to start from the top again immediately, both to revisit the characters and to understand better how the pieces fit together. Like a masterful album, this one demands a replay. The San Francisco Chronicle The star-crossed marriage of lucid prose and expertly deployed postmodern switcheroos that helped shoot Egan to the top of the genre bending new school is alive and well in this graceful yet wild novel ... powerful. Publishers Weekly (starred review) Sparkling. The Guardian Egan is a writer of cunning subtlety, embedding within the risky endeavors of seductively complicated characters a curious bending of time ... a hilarious melancholy, enrapturing, unnerving, and piercingly beautiful mosaic of a novel. -- Donna Seaman Booklist (starred review) Poetry and pathos ... Egan conveys personality so swiftly and with such empathy... Yet she is not a conventional dystopian novelist; distinctions between the virtual and the real may be breaking down in this world, but her characters have recognizable emotions and convictions, which is why their compromises and uncertainties continue to move us... Another ambitious change of pace from talented and visionary Egan, who reinvents the novel for the 21st century while affirming its historic values. Kirkus Review (starred review) For all its postmodern flourishes, Goon Squad is as traditional as a Dickens novel... Her aim is not so much to explode traditional storytelling as to explore how it responds to the pressures and opportunities of the digital age. Egan herself does not appear to be on Facebook, but A Visit From the Goon Squad will likely make her many new friends. Newsweek A stunningly resourceful writer Guardian Egan's a daunting stylist, and she's in blistering form for these interlocking narratives about the milieu surrounding an aging and waning music producer. Essentially, it's a story about getting mugged by the passage of time, and along the way she interrogates how rebellion ages, influence corrupts, habits turn to addictions, and lifelong friendships fluctuate. You also might know this as the novel that has a chapter written in PowerPoint. Egan: unpredictable and, here, brilliant. Publisher's Weekly Books of the Year. Thriftily evokes many disparate American lives in less than 300 pages, vividly showing how the virtues of the realist tradition - historical depth and strong point of view - can be combined with a modernist aesthetic of fragmentation and dissolution. -- Pankaj Mishra Guardian An overlooked masterpiece. thisislondon.com If you're going to read one new novel this summer, it should be this. Evening Standard Warm, witty and wise. Sunday Express Wickedly funny. Harper's Bazaar Stunningly good. Evening Standard Stories that defy narrative conventions. Financial Times Dazzling. Irish Times Fiction of the highest quality. The Sunday Times The coolest of summer's must-reads. The Lady The most exciting novel I've read this year. Olivia Laing, Observer You won't have read anything quite like it before. Grazia