Saturday, September 1, 2012

A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan

A Visit from the Goon SquadA Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A Visit from the Goon Squad breaks the old rules then makes up its own. Considering the novel is about people involved with the punk rock movement this make sense, even if it is a bit disconcerting at times.

The elements that seemed confusing to me include such things as:
1. A section written in first person where I didn't know who the narrator was for a good length of time.
2. Plot elements that were built up then dropped, such as the section set on an African safari when Rolph (Bennie Salazar's son) comes back to find his sister, Charlie, crying. There have been hints of something going on between Charlie and one of the African warrior guides. So is this crying from something sexual that's occurred? We're not sure because we've been told regarding the warrior - “But he's sung for enough American tourists to recognize that in her world, Charlie is a child.” Perhaps Charlie is disappointed that nothing happened? Or she might just be upset that her father went for a walk with Rolph and didn't invite her. The point is - we never know.
3. Characters are introduced early in the book, then brought back much later. I read a Kindle version which helped a great deal. When I couldn't remember the person I was reading about I could search the book to find the places where I'd first read about him or her.

The elements that were new and in many ways amazing include such things as:
1. Egan's writing style seemed to reflect the mind sets of the characters I was reading about. During the time when all the characters appeared to be functioning while drugged, the writing jumped about in an intense manner that reflected the way these people were. For example: this is a section right after Sasha has stolen a woman's wallet, just for the thrill of stealing.

She sat down and cocked her head at Alex. She smiled her yes/no smile. “Hello,” she said.
The yes/no smile was amazingly effective.
“You're happy,” Alex said.

2. There's also a section late in the book that's written entirely in Powerpoint presentation. At first it seemed like a gimmick, but it reflects a filtered view of life that is important for the reader to understand.

There were also traditional aspects to this book that I liked. The subject matter was interesting. I grew up in the sixties, so aging rockers isn't something new to me. But it was different to see it from the punk perspective. I wouldn't recommend this novel to someone who wants to get lost in a book, but for someone looking for a unique read it's great.

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