A Visit from the Goon Squad

I don’t care to speculate on whether this book deserves its Pulitzer or not because I’m far too out of the loop on adult literary fiction right now. What I’ll say is that it has the goods and I’ve enjoyed it more than any book I’ve read in a while.*

Some reasons I like this book:

  1. I’m a music geek, and this book has plenty to offer there. ¬†From the imagining of the nascent late-70s Bay Area punk scene to one character’s catalog of the 12 best Rock & Roll Pauses, there’s a lot of fictional music goodness.
  2. I love how each chapter can stand on its own as a short story (many of them were first published in magazines as short stories) but read together they gain so much resonance and context. Each one left me wanting more. There were tantalizing glimpses and hints of other stories that we didn’t get, and that sense of all these people’s lives progressing and weaving in and out of each others’ lives provided a great richness and realness to the whole fictional world.
  3. For me it was fun to put the pieces together from the different stories, and to occasionally have to flip back to another spot in the book to double check a name or detail to figure out the connection. It was just the right amount of pleasant confusion for me. I would love to go back and read it again to find more nuances and connections. I guess I’m a literature geek too; after studying things like Joyce’s Ulysses, reading a book like this feels like an easy, playful romp of a read.
  4. There was a rich and diverse array highly fallible but interesting characters, with whom in many cases I identified. The way they all reacted to the passing of time/aging/unforseen changes was fascinating to observe, and I think that this exploration of the various ways that people deal with life change is one of the more powerful themes of the book.
  5. Yes there is a lot of talking about/mentioning of sex, which isn’t really what I look for out of a book, but on the other hand there was hardly anything in the way of sex “scenes,” which I actually found refreshing. It seems like many writers, (perhaps in some cases at the behest of editors?) feel they have to provide lurid or lasciviously detailed descriptions of sexual acts, and not just in adult but young adult fiction as well now. This book avoids that. The one actual sex scene that I remember from the book was definitely not pornographic in this sense, in that it did not seem alluring or lascivious in any way, it more served to show the selfishness and other follies of the characters, the pettiness and grotesqueness of the situation.
  6. The ending is very hopeful, but not all of my questions get answered. Kind of just like real life.
  7. The covers of both the hardcover and paperback editions look really good with my site’s style theme.

I could come up with more reasons I like it. It wouldn’t be hard. But I’ll stop my list here so we can get on with our lives.

[Note: this was written as a response to an acquaintance/co-worker’s comment on Goodreads asking why I had given 4 stars to this “horrid” book, to which she only gave 1 star.]

*I think I got burned out on reading a few months ago because I spent too much time reading “serious” middle-grade books that I wasn’t always that interested in, in an attempt to predict the Newbery winner. I forgot to read things just because I want to read them. This is the first book in a long time I had no other motive to read than that I simply wanted to read it.

A Visit from the Goon Squad
Written by Jennifer Egan
Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Released June 8, 2010