A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan

A Visit from the Goon Squad

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 intersec...

Title:A Visit from the Goon Squad
Author:
Rating:
Edition Language:English

A Visit from the Goon Squad Reviews

  • Patrick Brown

    Spoiler alert: You will get old. You will die. Things will never be like they are right now. And yet, how things are right now will determine how they are in the future. This is so.

    The "goon" in the title of this book is time. It opens with a quote from Proust, the poet laureate of memory, about how we cannot recapture the people we were in past the places where we were those people, but rather that those people exist within us, always. And that, it seems to me, is more or less the book, in a nu

    Spoiler alert: You will get old. You will die. Things will never be like they are right now. And yet, how things are right now will determine how they are in the future. This is so.

    The "goon" in the title of this book is time. It opens with a quote from Proust, the poet laureate of memory, about how we cannot recapture the people we were in past the places where we were those people, but rather that those people exist within us, always. And that, it seems to me, is more or less the book, in a nutshell. But, oh, how it gets there. How the story unfolds -- stories, really -- is breathtaking. This the best book I've read this year.

    A collection of narratives -- they aren't really stories -- centered around various record industry denizens -- an aging producer, his assistant, her college best friend, the producer's mentor, his wife's brother, a publicist, etc. -- Goon Squad is a novel about lives. It opens with Sasha, the beautiful, troubled assistant to record producer Bennie Salazar -- and continues on through a host of characters who knew them. And knew is the word here, for the lesson of the book seems to be that we are not the same people we were before. Those people are dead, and yet the people we all became -- the sagging, sad, tired, knowing people we are now -- those people are inextricably tied to the people we were. We are simultaneously incapable of recovering what was lost and yet bound to know what it is that we're missing.

    Does this sound like the book is horribly, horribly sad? It isn't. It's beautiful and clever and very smart, and, okay, a little bit heartbreaking. One of my favorite aspects of the book is how it deals with technology. Facebook, in the novel, is a kind of memory, excavating lost lives from the ether, reconnecting people with the people they were before...or at least the people they knew before. And in the end, it's a burst of horrible, relentless technology that seems to save the music business. And one of the most powerful chapters of the book is told in powerpoint (To wrench soul from the teeth of a Microsoft product is truly a feat unto itself). In fact, this book may be one of the most subtly speculative works of fiction I've read. It presents a future near enough to include all of us, close enough to be recognizable, and still strangely different from where we are today.

    I realize this review dances around the book. It tells you what the book is about without really telling much of what the story is. And that's because the story of the book wouldn't sound like much on its own: Some people grow up. They work in the music business. Their friends die, and then so does their business. But those people keep going. They have lives and love affairs and children. They make new friends and rediscover people they assumed were dead. Their lives cross with one another in myriad ways. And then they cross again. I keep returning, again and again to the section on Jocelyn, a girl who ran away from home to be with a record producer, a man who spit her out almost before he was done chewing her up. The passage is on page 65, and it's one of several haunting paragraphs in Jocelyn's section:

    "We stand there, quiet. My questions all seem wrong: How did you get so old? Was it all at once, in a day, or did you peter out bit by bit? When did you stop having parties? Did everyone else get old too, or was it just you? Are other people still here, hiding in the palm trees or holding their breath underwater? When did you last swim your laps? Do your bones hurt? Did you know this was coming and hide that you knew, or did it ambush you from behind?"

    This book, it ambushed me.

  • j

    I was going to post a really cool review of this, post-dated from the year 202X, but I couldn't get Goodreads to display my PowerPoint presentation correctly*.

    I loved this book, which is funny because it's basically short stories, and I usually don't have the patience for short stories. But these did me the favor of interlocking nicely in a way

    I was going to post a really cool review of this, post-dated from the year 202X, but I couldn't get Goodreads to display my PowerPoint presentation correctly*.

    I loved this book, which is funny because it's basically short stories, and I usually don't have the patience for short stories. But these did me the favor of interlocking nicely in a way that made me feel like I was reading a novel, and also of being published with a very pretty cover with foil stamping, printed on that textured, slightly rough paper that assures you that you are reading a classy, classy book that will probably be nominated for something.

    "Time is a goon," we're told, and the older I get (and I'm not even old), the more I realize that this is really true, as years fly faster and faster and things that once sounded like a long way off are suddenly in the rear view mirror (like: it is 2010; in one year, 9/11 will have been 10 years ago). I used to think 70 seemed old. With my parents newly retired and pushing the seven-decade mark, though, anyone who dies before 80 seems like they died young. I take heart in the fact that, barring a car crash, cancer, or freak tripping-over-the-cat-related catastrophe, I'm still less than halfway done with my brief time on this planet. Is this morbid? Are you supposed to start pondering your mortality a year from 30, or is this some kind of commentary on The Times in Which We Live? Or am I just shifting my fears that I won't end up doing any of the neat things I want to do into the future, the fear that time is only going to keep getting faster, and pretty soon we'll be talking about where we were on that day

    years ago when Everything Changed, or seemed like it would.

    This isn't really about the book, but it is. Egan follows a bunch of characters who work in the music industry, ping-ponging from life to life, from the present, to the past, to the future. It makes total sense: time's a goon; it will creep up on you as quickly as turning a page. Nostalgia is a trap too: I don't miss the good old days for what they were, but for what lay ahead of me, the time I've already spent in-between

    and

    . This book encompasses all of that, allowing us to see it all: the way past regrets and mistakes shape our future choices, the way our lives will unfold and blossom or wither in ways we can't possibly expect, or maybe can exactly predict.

    Oh, and it's also fabulously written in about a dozen different styles, from first- to second- to third-person and in newspaper articles and even in, yes, PowerPoint graphics. And it's about the music industry which is very cool but also big business and that's an interesting dichotomy, how do you commercialize and corporatize the spirit of punk rock, the primal scream of youth looking around and seeing nothing but waste, looking forward and seeing nothing but uncertainty?

  • Greg

    This is the best book

    that has a whole chapter done in power point.

    I hate power point. I think it was invented by the devil and given to humanity to make us even dumber than we are now. I think teachers who use power point should be hog-tied by their intestines and then sodomized by Mary Lou Retton (and probably people in the corporate world too, but I don't know about that first hand, but I'm sure they deserve even worse). I hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate power poi

    This is the best book

    that has a whole chapter done in power point.

    I hate power point. I think it was invented by the devil and given to humanity to make us even dumber than we are now. I think teachers who use power point should be hog-tied by their intestines and then sodomized by Mary Lou Retton (and probably people in the corporate world too, but I don't know about that first hand, but I'm sure they deserve even worse). I hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate power point, but Jennifer Egan can do a whole book in power point and I'd it would probably be more effective than most normal novelists are with whole pages filled with words at their disposal.

    Back in November 2009 I proclaimed the ARC of Jonathan Dee's

    the best novel of 2010. There are a few books that have come out that I haven't read yet, but which

    be better (

    is one that I think might) but I now know that this book

    just as good, if not better, than Dee's.

    This book has a) a lame cover, b) a lame jacket description, c) a chapter kind of poking fun (jesting?) at DFW's writing style, and d) a chapter written in power point; but still with all of these apparent negatives the book is awesome.

    I'm not going to try to sell you on the book. Coming from a punk background I know that too many people liking something inherently diminishes the enjoyment one can get out of something. Since Jennifer Egan is already a fairly popular author, and me already being late to the game with liking her (for years I thought she was Janet Fitch, I knew they were different people, but I thought they were synonymous with each other) I can't risk you or anyone else that hasn't already read her finding out how great she is and stealing some of my precious enjoyment from me (for example it's a scientific fact that people who listened to Green Day when they were on Lookout! in 1993 enjoyed 97% more than they enjoyed them 12 months later in 1994 when everyone liked them. The enjoyment ratio flew way down and the music essentially didn't change. There is only so much enjoyment in the world to split up, fortunately there is an infinite amount of pain and sorrow so we can all partake in that).

    Anyway, now that I've gotten that pesky talking about the book out of the way. Let us turn to one of the points in the power point chapter. For those of you who haven't read the book, and will not read the book and steal my enjoyment from me; the chapter deals with a family. The daughter of the family is the narrator, or constructor of a power-point journal. Her younger brother is semi-autistic. He has a thing for silence in music. Pauses. He makes loops of the different silences, he graphs them for duration and effect. And there is a fairly interesting description of different pauses in the history of rock music, but with two of my favorite examples left out, and with one artist who made too much use of them, but who used them effectively also left out.

    One. The best use of the pause in music (well in punk music) is in the Sex Pistols song "Bodies". That NOFX is mentioned in the chapter and "Bodies" isn't, is well a travesty. While it's not as surprising a false-ending as "Please Play This Song on the Radio" or as quirky / funny / jokey, it is more effective for punk pathos. I read once in a book (I think it was

    ) that the sound of the Sex Pistol's imploding was captured at the end of "Belsen was a Gas" during their last show (in my reality they never re-formed, so we are talking 1978 here), when there was just silence for a second. That silence was preceded by the one in "Bodies" though where all of the fury was released in a string of almost nonsensical uses of the word fuck.

    Two. Sunny Day Real Estate, "Seven". Here the use of short almost micro pauses and one slightly longer pause work to create a expectation, excitement and anxiety. One could argue that there are not pauses in this song, but that argument is wrong. Maybe it wouldn't fit in the dynamic of the chapter because it would be very difficult to capture the pauses to sample them. More mention should be made of the first Sunny Day Real Estate album.

    Three. Matthew Sweet. The man made an art out of the false-ending. He deserved to be mentioned in a chapter dealing strongly with pauses and silence in rock songs. I'm not a huge fan, but he should be given a mention.

    Hopefully this aside has convinced you to not read this book and allow me to enjoy it more than if you stole some of my pleasure.

  • Lee

    A must-read for "creative writing" types interested in POV/style variation. Otherwise, for the second consecutive year, the Pulitzer committee awards nearly empty formalism (see

    ). Both "Tinkers" and this one are formally "unconventional" and concerned with time, yet otherwise seem to have very little to say, as they used to say.

    I liked the PR/General chapter. I liked a description of old tattoos on saggy flesh. I liked the big fish caught in the East River. I really liked the sudden ju

    A must-read for "creative writing" types interested in POV/style variation. Otherwise, for the second consecutive year, the Pulitzer committee awards nearly empty formalism (see

    ). Both "Tinkers" and this one are formally "unconventional" and concerned with time, yet otherwise seem to have very little to say, as they used to say.

    I liked the PR/General chapter. I liked a description of old tattoos on saggy flesh. I liked the big fish caught in the East River. I really liked the sudden jumps 35 years into the future! Otherwise, not my bag, ultimately.

    (despite cover etc) and when it does involve music it's from a troubled bidness or hackneyed adolescent "punk rock" perspective (overriding question: when does a fake mohawk become a real mohawk?!). Imagine buying a book touted as being about unicorns, with a lovely unicorn on the cover and reviews re: unicorn content, but then when you shell out $$$ and read it its unicornishness is like no more than 10%. (Speaking of which, it would be helpful if books with > 10% teenage girl content came with a label like a parental advisory sticker so pretentious early-middle-age dudes like myself would know to duck/cover.)

    The mock-DFW footnote-heavy journalism section irritated me (maybe also because I read it on the 2nd anniversary of DFW's death).

    The power point slide pages were formally clever but that's about it (also: it's Foxy not Foxey Lady -- intentional typo?).

    Unappealing characters (erection-laden men, many of them violent) who didn't deepen into 3D humanity for me. Not much (skim or even soy) milk o' human kindness, generally.

    Language-y exactness consistently triggered distraction and zone outs in this reader (eg, a cascade of long hair described "like a shattered window" -- oh wait! Might the "shattered" bit relate to the structure? Or, um, who cares? Does it matter in the slightest?).

    Speaking of structure, it didn't do it for me and didn't really seem particularly original.

    Few, if any, stretches of insightful essayistic exposition and extended description, Chronos got mauled by a lionness (?!) but beyond that I detected few suggestions of subtextual stuff, maybe because my imaginative/generous reader sensors mostly switched off after the first 50 or so pages?

    (Have people really compared Egan to DeLillo?! The eyes of nearly every sentence in DeLillo's best stuff always seem focused on subtextual prizes.)

    It's a well-loved, omni-awarded book -- and even called "pitch perfect" in the NYT book review -- but I guess my ear's attuned to the music of other spheres. So be it if I'm outta fashion. As Mr. Bowie says re: the goon squad, beep beep!

    UPDATE TWO MONTHS LATER: My mama -- a really serious reader (40+ books/year) -- tried and failed to read this. Just wasn't buying it.

    UPDATE IN APRIL 2011: Review updated post-Pulitzer win.

    UPDATE IN OCTOBER 2011: When you google "

    " you get an ad that says "David Foster Wallace fan? We think you'll love A Visit from the Goon Squad-2011 Pulitzer winner." The link leads to the official page for the book, a sort of blog with excerpts etc. Note: I'm not sure that David Foster Wallace's energetic, explicitly intelligent writing has much in common with Egan's in this book. Interesting: they haven't bought an ad on searches for Murakami, Kafka, or DeLillo, but they HAVE for "Jonathan Franzen."

    For more re: raging concerns with calling this a "rock 'n' roll novel," see here:

  • Aldrin

    There are two paragraphs in

    ’s new book,

    , that heavily hint on its fundamental theme but were not at all written by the author. One is the book’s epigraph, taken from Marcel Proust’s

    : “Poets claim that we recapture for a moment the self that we were long ago when we enter some house or garden in which we used to live in our youth. But these are most hazardous pilgrimages, which end as often in disappointment as in success. It is i

    There are two paragraphs in

    ’s new book,

    , that heavily hint on its fundamental theme but were not at all written by the author. One is the book’s epigraph, taken from Marcel Proust’s

    : “Poets claim that we recapture for a moment the self that we were long ago when we enter some house or garden in which we used to live in our youth. But these are most hazardous pilgrimages, which end as often in disappointment as in success. It is in ourselves that we should rather seek to find those fixed places, contemporaneous with different years.” The other is a note at the back of the book regarding the typeface used, supposedly written by the book’s typesetter: “The text of this book was set in Electra, [a face that] cannot be classified as either modern or old style. It is not based on any historical model, nor does it echo any particular period or style. It [...] attempts to give a feeling of fluidity and power.” These two extraneous blocks of words could not be more apt in drawing attention to the single intrinsic element of the novel contained between them that, already, unrelentingly makes its authority over the characters known to the reader page after mesmerizing page. That element is none other than time, the cruel visitor of the title as referred to in an aphorism half remembered (or perhaps wholly invented) by a character in the twilight of his life and career. “Time’s a goon, right? Isn’t that the expression?” he asks. “I’ve never heard that,” another troubled character answers. “Would you disagree?” “No.” 

    In

    , time is also a prankster complicit in an elaborate trick masterminded by the book’s author herself, who goes as far as naming one of her characters after the personification of time in Greek mythology, Chronos. Egan's novel is certainly not of the time travel science fiction sort, but its clever use of a nonlinear timeline of all-too-real events is evocative of one that is. Kurt Vonnegut's

    quickly comes to mind. Like poor Billy Pilgrim in Vonnegut's novel, the characters in

    are also, in a manner of speaking, “unstuck in time.” However, given that

    is decidedly non-science-fictional, they are not by nature predisposed to travel through time and randomly jump from one event in their lives to another as Billy Pilgrim insists he is. It’s Egan who does the unsticking. Although her abrupt transitions to different events, one of which happens in 1973 while another takes place in the 2020s, occasionally generate obvious and disruptive seams in the narrative, she still effectively and eloquently tells her characters’ mostly tragic stories out of sequence and convention and generously gives paragraph-long glimpses of their past and future selves. 

    The novel swoops back and forth through time as it focuses on certain events in the lives of a bevy of major and minor characters created by Egan. But lest a potential reader be turned off by this unconventional chronology which some may interpret as nothing more than another unessential postmodern gimmick that requires more effort than usual, it should be noted that Egan is both considerate and smart enough to drop one or two temporal clues within each chapter of her novel, so that when, say, the central character of one chapter is said to lie about her age in her online profiles, one learns almost instantly that that chapter is set around the time of Facebook and so-called social media, i.e., the present. Most of these clues are easy enough to decipher in a jiffy, while others are less straightforward, requiring a bit of mental arithmetic and recognition of allusions to characters and occurrences in earlier and even later chapters/years. 

    Among the story’s long dramatis personae, a few characters stand out and appear in two or more chapters although each is made the focus of only one. There’s Sasha, introduced in the very first chapter as nothing short of a mess: in a session with her therapist in New York City, she relates how she, while on a casual date, succumbed to another episode of kleptomania and stole a wallet in a restaurant bathroom. There’s Sasha’s boss, Bennie Salazar, divorced and all but estranged from his son, impotent and inclined to look at her assistant’s breast as some sort of a barometer for his erectile dysfunction. There’s Bennie’s brother-in-law, Jules Jones, a struggling writer imprisoned for attempting to rape a Hollywood starlet. They are but three of the twenty- or thirty-odd interconnected characters that inhabit the novel, which for all one knows is actually a short story collection that happens to employ a number of recurring characters. 

    But to dismiss

    as merely a squad of short stories is to strip it of its underlying theme of redemption and reconnection. True, many of the chapters here would be right at home in the pages of

    and other high-end literary publications. Also, one is free to read the stories in no particular order, similar to putting a digital album or playlist on shuffle, perhaps cracking the book open in the middle and proceeding to read another story a couple of chapters away from the previous one, thus compounding the obliqueness of the novel’s storyline. But so long as the book is completely traversed, its grip should be easily felt and its message appreciated.

    It’s no wonder then that the book’s format resembles that of a record album. Its chapters are divided into parts A and B, clearly inspired by the A and B sides of vinyl records and audio cassettes, the analog music storage media of yore. Indeed, music, like time, plays a major role in

    . Here it serves as a sort of sanctuary to the characters. Often, it affords them, beyond the desultory trips down memory lane, a strong sense of being. Sasha writes on her list of realistic goals, “Find a band to manage” and “Practice the harp,” sandwiching “Understand the news” and “Study Japanese.” Bennie, who is in fact a record producer, is transported back to when he and his high school friends were carefree sixteen-year-olds after listening to a couple of his old favorite bands in his car. Jules gets a new lease in life and gets to cover a musician’s last tour.

    Whereas time is a goon, here (and presumably elsewhere) music is an ally, even as the latter is nothing if not for the former. Don’t records, cassettes, and CDs normally play clockwise as though to indicate the passage of time? Doesn’t the timestamp on a digital music player continue to increment even when there’s a considerably long pause in the currently playing track? And when one is made to think of a certain period, isn’t the kind of music that thrived during that period among the first things that come to one’s mind? Conversely, when one listens to an old favorite song, doesn’t one immediately think of the important events in one’s life that occurred around the time that song was released? 

    doesn’t necessarily pose these seemingly trifling questions. Rather, what it does, after telling the stories of Sasha, Bennie, Jules, and the other musically inclined characters through a polyphonic pastiche of styles that include first-person narration, journalistic reportage, and most notably PowerPoint (yes, PowerPoint), is to make one ask oneself an important question so that one may be encouraged to take stock of one's life so far and maintain or regain one’s purchase on it. This question echoes a line from a famous Radiohead song: "What the hell am I doing here?"

  • karen

    hell's bells. believe this hype.

    this book is the saddest, truest, wisest book i have ever read in a single day. which is not to belittle it - my tear-assing through it is because i did not want to stop reading it and resented any interruption that tried to get in my way. i am someone who plans things. i have timetables in my head - i have to, in order to get everything done. nothing important, just "at 8:00 i will untangle my necklaces while i watch my netflix. at 10:00, i will fold my laundry a

    hell's bells. believe this hype.

    this book is the saddest, truest, wisest book i have ever read in a single day. which is not to belittle it - my tear-assing through it is because i did not want to stop reading it and resented any interruption that tried to get in my way. i am someone who plans things. i have timetables in my head - i have to, in order to get everything done. nothing important, just "at 8:00 i will untangle my necklaces while i watch my netflix. at 10:00, i will fold my laundry and then pay bills, etc etc. this book ruined all of my good intentions. i read straight through one mental time-allotment after another, leaving dishes unwashed and e-mails unanswered. and i did not care one bit.

    as i read, i kept thinking, "this is exactly right - this woman

    it, this is just what i was talking about the other day." because karen has been doing a little bit of dwelling lately, and this book really captured so many universals of youth, adulthood ...and the rest. she knows just how to twist the knife.

    everyone has been praising this book since it came out, but all i knew going into it was that there was a powerpoint chapter and a dfw chapter (which i had already read, at greg's command, months ago). i didn't even know they were stories that combined to show facets of people's lives in different times and places and stages and manifestations. i didn't know who would attain closure and who would fade away, i just thought it was another book by the lady who wrote

    .

    i had read

    years ago and had been unimpressed, and then i start hearing all this talk about

    and how it is this incredible book, but i looked at the cover and i thought - "no, thank you".i am pretty sure i bought

    , but it got sucked into one of the stacks here, never to resurface. but then this comes out and greg and tom fuller are praising it to the heavens, and then tom

    me his copy to have forever, so i pretty much have to read it. i do not disobey my work-dad.

    and as always, father knows best...

    i have never seen

    because "they" tell me it is retarded, but i did see

    and

    and

    and

    and all of those others - disjointed narratives where one thing affects another thing and it's all

    , man... (

    is the only one you need to see from the above list), but how often does it really work, and how often is it just flashy storytelling to compensate for lack of a true plot??

    it's the same in the litworld. i thought michael cunningham's

    did it really well, and this - well, this makes it work perfectly. because it is less about the impact an action has upon others than having the opportunity to understand a character's motivations from witnessing snapshot-chapters from different periods and the -oh god not again - it is like a sneeze - zeitgeist of the pop cultural (punk rock-ical) and historical climates of these poor broken characters.

    but elizabeth - it is not a downer!! it is not one of my "downer books". it is more... gently nostalgic. and bewildered. definitely bewildered.

    "she was thinking of the old days, as she and bennie now called them - not just pre-crandale but premarriage, preparenthood, pre-money, pre-hard drug renunciation, preresponsibility of any kind, when they were still kicking around the lower east side with bosco, going to bed after sunrise, turning up at strangers' apartments, having sex in quasi-public, engaging in daring acts that had more than once included (for her) shooting heroin, because none of it was serious. they were young and lucky and strong - what did they have to worry about?? if they didn't like the result, they could go back and start again."

    i mean - gutpunch.this kind of blithe optimism is exactly what touched me when i was reading

    . remember being indestructible?? i sure do.

    this is also one of the few works where 9/11 is used tastefully and more or less subtly, and the absence of the buildings is worked very well into the pervasive loss that holds this book together.

    the NYU chapter is greg's favorite, and it is both heartbreaking on its own and bittersweet for me because it could have very easily been me. i remember sunwarmed fire escapes between classes and bobst and for me it was mamoun's falafel, but regardless. it was both familiar and far away. i liked the naples chapter best, because for me it is storytelling 101 - a perfect story and the last line kills me because "muttered" is the best possible word there, and it complicates what could have been a very easy and pat ending.

    jennifer egan i luvs you.

  • Sarah

    The National Book Critics Circle Award. A Penn/Faulkner Award Finalist. The freaking Pulitzer. It has to be good, right? I thought so, to the point that it was the only book that i brought with me on the plane this weekend, but I was really disappointed.

    This book, a collection of quasi-connected short stories, covers a span of time between the 1970s and 2020s and follows a variety of people, most notably a former punk rocker turned music executive and a young troubled kleptomaniac turned an adu

    The National Book Critics Circle Award. A Penn/Faulkner Award Finalist. The freaking Pulitzer. It has to be good, right? I thought so, to the point that it was the only book that i brought with me on the plane this weekend, but I was really disappointed.

    This book, a collection of quasi-connected short stories, covers a span of time between the 1970s and 2020s and follows a variety of people, most notably a former punk rocker turned music executive and a young troubled kleptomaniac turned an adult troubled kleptomaniac. The titular "goon squad" equals "passing time" and the major theme of the book seems to be, "Hey, things change over time."

    The first thing I noticed about the book is that I had already read several of the "chapters" in short story compilations and magazines over the past five or six years. The second thing I noticed was that I didn't enjoy any of them. I couldn't shake the feeling that Egan was distracting me from tired story lines and baffling, semi-heartless characters with a slew of gimmicks. For example: This story is written in second person! Please don't pay attention to the fact that it is merely one of a billion stories you have read in writing workshops about a love triangle between high, sad college students in New York City!

    The lack-of-heart and not-my-style writing style did not blend well with the characters or stories, which seemed like a very over-used collection of people and places:

    - A unhappy rich person who is not sure what to do with his life in New York City.

    - People unsure of what to do with their lives collected in a loft somewhere in New York City.

    - Some people on drugs and not sure how they got there, at the intersection of two streets in New York City.

    Not that I don't think that you can write a successful, soul-having book about unsure people in New York City. I just didn't find this one touching or innovative or well written (although I admit, the best story in the book is the often-mentioned Power Point story). I simply couldn't get over the fact that Egan seemed to have trouble having her characters really feel. Often, she fell back on 1) mentioning 9-11 in a vague way or 2) mentioning that the character in question had tried to slit their wrists several times in the past or 3) having a dog bark in the distance. Seriously. A dog barks in the distance

    of the novel (I hope that does not count a spoiler). Oh, and I forgot to mention the worst thing! Egan should have won an award for Worst Last Lines of Stories. Again, these last lines seemed to be attempts at meaningfulness that really fell flat for me as a reader.

    And while I've read some reviews that call the work satire, and Egan a humorist, I often found the work silly and meaningless instead of funny and insightful. I also kept getting the feeling that parts of the book was cobbled together - that Egan was "forcing" some of her shorter works into the novel-ish thing she was working on (example: the story about the general).

    One of the other issues is that I can just think of so many better books in the last two years or so that were not recognized with such consistent praise - like Maile Meloy's

    . It has fewer bells and whistles, but it has a boatload of well-written stories and heartfelt characters. Seriously, go read that book instead.

    In the last story in the book, a huge crowd gathers for a concert - not because they like the music, but because they have heard through social media that it is going to be a really great show. This is exactly how I felt about the book itself - I read some great reviews, I saw some friends mention it online, and i bought it without inquiring further. The one difference, I guess, is that the concert in the book ends up being good.

    I think part of the problem is that I went in with very high expectations. But another part of the problem was that I wasn't made to care about any of the characters or their actions and that I found the "innovative" tools used to tell many the stories to be largely distracting and gimmicky. There used to be two buildings in that empty space of sky. A dog barked in the distance.

  • Jeanette

    Um, this is just BAAAAAAD. Bold-face, capital-letters

    . Absolutely awful!

    What.....were.....they.....thinking????? Oh, I forgot, they weren't!

    When did the Pulitzer become the Puke-litzer? I'll never again trust that prize designation except with books from a long time ago.

    Don't be fooled by the first chapter, which is not too bad. Sort of an interesting start, about a kleptomaniac aging punk rock chick. After that, FORGET IT! Dumpster filler.

    A lot of people make a big mention of the PowerPo

    Um, this is just BAAAAAAD. Bold-face, capital-letters

    . Absolutely awful!

    What.....were.....they.....thinking????? Oh, I forgot, they weren't!

    When did the Pulitzer become the Puke-litzer? I'll never again trust that prize designation except with books from a long time ago.

    Don't be fooled by the first chapter, which is not too bad. Sort of an interesting start, about a kleptomaniac aging punk rock chick. After that, FORGET IT! Dumpster filler.

    A lot of people make a big mention of the PowerPoint section of the book. Cool gimmick, right? But as far as I'm concerned, there's too much emphasis in the book on (cough cough) power "points" in general, if ya know what I mean. Left a bad taste in my mouth, and in the mouths of some of the characters, no doubt.

    So aside from the gamahuche and other potency obsessions, there's a lot of cocaine and 'ludes and really bad punk rock song lyrics. Oh, and a lot of really annoying, unlikeable characters who seem to substitute therapy for actually getting on with their lives.

    I wouldn't have been so hard on this book had it not been given such a prestigious award. I never would have even tried to read it if not for the Pulitzer. Since when did gimmicky books with no substance merit consideration for literary awards? Was this really the best they had to choose from? I doubt it. I'm now fully convinced that the Pulitzer Prize has become a purely political handout dropped into some lucky writer's trick-or-treat bag.

  • K.D. Absolutely

    I attended a novel-writing workshop last week and one of the things that I took home with me was:

    I have a feeling, and I could be wrong on this since I am just a paying reader, that Jennifer Egan wrote this novel

    mainly to impress. Well, it won the nod of the Pulitzer jurors so the trick worked!

    Each of the 13 chapters is told in different points of view mostly by people who the two main protagonists,

    the gold-eating reco

    I attended a novel-writing workshop last week and one of the things that I took home with me was:

    I have a feeling, and I could be wrong on this since I am just a paying reader, that Jennifer Egan wrote this novel

    mainly to impress. Well, it won the nod of the Pulitzer jurors so the trick worked!

    Each of the 13 chapters is told in different points of view mostly by people who the two main protagonists,

    the gold-eating record producer and his kleptomaniac assistant

    interact with in the different parts of their lives and in the different locales: San Francisco, New York, Africa, Italy, etc. The narration is not chronological; it jumps from one time frame to another and it made my reading quite a struggle. It talks about punk and rock music and bands that I have not heard of maybe because I am not an American and not really into those music genres.

    The most-talked about Powerpoint presentation seemed to be a refreshing way to tell a story and it provided a break or a pause, that seems to me as the main message of that chapter, from the usual plain narrative. My only comment is that the slides look precise in delivering the messages that they want to impart when in fact, they should have been done by the 12-y/o

    the daughter of the middle-age Sasha. They would have been more interesting and "realistic" if there are illustrations or hand drawings done by a 12-y/o rather than Venn Diagrams, Fishbone Analysis, Cause-Effect, Bubble Charts, etc. Though the slides look neat, they felt contrived if not overdone.

    The main theme of

    is subtly imparted and is the one of the strong points of this book. Also, the frequent incorporation of strong brother-sister relationships rather than the usual child-parent, husband-wife, friends, etc. is also noteworthy. Egan is very good at delivering her message via her characters. She does not state the obvious but she lets her readers figure out the lessons by themselves through the events and how her characters react to those and how they interact with each other.

    Having said that, the story itself could have gotten at least 4 stars from me. However, Egan made the reading of this novel difficult with the multiple points of view and time frame. I have no problem with her different locales and narrative styles.

    This is

    a criticism but just a matter of personal preference. Maybe this is the reason why I like Biographies and Memoirs. I normally prefer stories that are focused on a single character from page 1 to the last page as it is like getting to know somebody from head to toe. I hate shifting narratives about several characters especially if done abruptly and too frequently. Reading all the 13 chapters of this book is like reading 13 short stories and while reading you have to figure out how one or two of the characters relate to the previous. Not only you have to spot them but also think of their age relative to the previous chapter. Then you have to go back and search what happened to that character in the last chapter where he/she appeared. A book this thick normally takes me only 2-4 days to finish but this one took me full (drop all the other currently-reading books) 7 days! When I read I normally become attach to my characters and it is just painful if in every 10 or so pages there are new ones that you have to meet and read about and if the character that you met and liked in the previous chapter reappears, you have to figure out what is his/her age and who are those people around him/her.

    ***SPOILER ALERT***

    The last chapter brings back the character of

    Sasha's boyfriend, who only appeared in the very first chapter. This style reminded me of the circular narrative flow of

    , David Mitchell's masterpiece, that is one of the most unforgettable reads that I so far had this year (4 stars). Mitchell also used those styles (multiple POVs, shifting narrative, different (in fact, outrageously different) time frames and different set of characters. I even read some of the chapters with a huge Lexicon dictionary by my side, something that I normally hate - my learn-a-word-a-day-stage is now so yesteryears - but it was worth the trouble in the case of

    ***SPOILER ENDS***

    I just did not feel the same way with

    Part of the problem, I think, is that there is no character here that is likeable nor a character I can empathize with. It could be a cultural thing, e.g., eating gold flakes, klepto, fish as a gift, etc. though. But I just felt that all of the characters seem to be too distant and this book, overall, just alienated me.

    I am not rating this with 1-star though. I still liked the novel's universal message and the use of the Powerpoint. Two saving graces of this novel, in my opinion.

  • Nataliya

    Time is a strange old fella, isn't it? It creeps up on you and changes you bit by bit until you the new you and the old you are barely more than strangers to one another.

    You can see time as a continuum, a line stretching from the past into the future, a long straight road to travel along with occasional proverbial

    splitting off to the side - where barely perceptible changes accumulate one by one.

    Or else you can look at it as a series of snapshots, a deck of cards randomly and c

    Time is a strange old fella, isn't it? It creeps up on you and changes you bit by bit until you the new you and the old you are barely more than strangers to one another.

    You can see time as a continuum, a line stretching from the past into the future, a long straight road to travel along with occasional proverbial

    splitting off to the side - where barely perceptible changes accumulate one by one.

    Or else you can look at it as a series of snapshots, a deck of cards randomly and carelessly shuffled, each one showing a face different from the rest -

    .

    And these snapshots are so different from one another, separated by the years of smart choices and poor choices, pain and happiness, gains and losses, laughter and tears, having formed an invisible network of scars that forever preclude us from following that once-long-ago good-natured yet impossible advice of

    I still can easily remember being sixteen, not knowing anything besides the blissful strong-willed ignorance of youth, where everything was just beginning, everything was still about to start, nothing was decided yet, and the world was one giant untapped possibility with no way of telling where time will eventually take you.

    But time goes on, and now I can almost see thirty from this point in life and occasional gray hairs are creeping onto my temples

    , and there's not that much connecting me to that girl in the Land of Ago

    .

    And then maybe we learn to appreciate the pauses in songs, like a young autistic kid the glimpses of whom we see through a powerpoint presentation made in the future by a 12-year-old girl

    - because they make us think the song is over, and then it restarts and we get a temporary reprieve from the end, the real end,

    This is a book about losses and regrets as people change with time - as well as glimpses of personal redemption, especially in the threads of the story connected to Sasha

    . It's a book full of little often unseen connections between the characters who have touched each other's lives in the ways they may never understand.

    The road from A to B - be it in time or on two sides of a musical record - is not always in a straight line; it curves around, zigzags madly, loops back, runs into life itself - and is a path connecting the kaleidoscope snapshots of our beings that somehow will eventually fall into the beautiful but ever-changing patterns, which before you know it will fall apart into another snapshot, something different and unrecognizable - because time is a goon, after all.

    And in the meantime, while the unrelentless goon is mercilessly dragging us along, we can look around at the fragile beauty of life around and try to remember the world for what it is now - because it will never be the same again. Because time is a goon. But for now, it's not yet over.


Books Finder is in no way intended to support illegal activity. We uses Search API to find the overview of books over the internet, but we don't host any files. All document files are the property of their respective owners, please respect the publisher and the author for their copyrighted creations. If you find documents that should not be here please report them. Read our DMCA Policies and Disclaimer for more details.