A visit from the goon squad, Jennifer Egan book review

Hey guys! Haven’t updated by blog recently because of an excessive amount of Coursework, but I’m back with a great book.

I read this novel for my module, ‘Contemporary Literature and Culture’, and within the first few pages you immediately gather a sense of the post-modern, and the ‘contemporary’ aspect the lecturers will focus on.

The novel begins with a kleptomaniac on a blind date. Already, the focus on millennia’s and our problems have come to light. Egan portrays multiple narratives that twist, avoid and intertwine with one another: a complex web of connections wherein a small detail from the first chapter could be the main event later on. As readers we drop in at critical moments of people’s lives, and exit, often unwillingly, with the same ease. Egan’s focus on the music scene, filled with misfits and dropouts, is a milieu which embodies the devouring passage of time and change. Amazingly, it remains funny!

“Time’s a goon right? You gonna let that goon push you around?”

Not only does Egan shift effectively through time, by using past, present and future narratives, but the characters time-travel through their youth, their middle-ages, and their old age; often without a chronological order. Goon Squad is a novel about lives. Their voices become muddled in a cacophonous array of nostalgia, regret, hope and sadness.

This is why ‘A Visit From the Goon Squad’ is so fantastic. The journeys that the characters have, from punk rock in San Fran in the 1970s to washed up Suburban parents, suicide, drugs, love and guilt, feel at once synonymous with one another and disparate. All chapters have distinguishing styles and moods due to Egan’s ability to shift the use of person, switching between first and third, with Egan even using a second person narrative for a depressed boy, Alex.

The novel, in its focus of millennial culture, has consistent commentary on technology and the effect this has on our lives. In its most radical formal feature a powerpoint slide is given by Alison, Sasha’s daughter, and documented as such in the book. Within she explains pauses in music through her brother, a surprisingly moving and authentic chapter. In the almost dystopian near future music is released for toddlers, also known as ‘pointers’ due to their unparalleled understanding of technology. Time’s change!

Such a great novel (/collection of stories, although for me it felt much more coherent than that) and something I would definitely recommend! Do let me know what you think, if you’ve read it before.


4 / 5

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