A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan, Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group 2011, 341 pages
Winner of MANY Awards including the Pulitzer.
My thoughts: I first gave this three stars but must again proclaim the fickleness of time and place and situation and mood when one brings stars (or slices of pie) to evaluate and weight the worth of a novel. Three stars – I liked it! Four stars – I liked it a bit more! A bit more than WHAT exactly? than the latest book I gave 3 stars to?
But that last book I gave 3 stars to was Bad Girls Don’t Die and that was a totally different kind of book intended for a different audience. So, if the audience happens to be ME, then, yes, Goon Squad must get more pie.
It’s creative, it’s clever, it’s smart. It entertains, it keeps you on your toes. It bounces around in time and through various decades, decades (well, not ALL decades yet) of which I have lived so thus relatable. It evokes mood and tone of dread and then lightness and suggests the questions of WHAT-IS-GOING-ON-HERE-EXACTLY? (Wait, who is this? oh! Bennie was in the last chapter. Oops. Oh yea.)
I got lost more than I care to admit. A reader can’t sleep through this one and hope to keep the pace and attention. I liked it more and more as it went on but was worried at first that I didn’t know enough of the music references to ‘get it’. I brought much more expectations of being blown away to this than I should have. I wasn’t blown away but I keep thinking about it.
I would even say this is a short story collection on par with Olive Kitteridge (another Pulitzer Winner; I gave 5 stars) and The Imperfectionists (I recommend this highly but? I assigned 4 stars, hmmm. I think I liked it better than Goon). THAT was a surprise; that it was much more a short story collection than a ‘story’. I don’t think I saw this mentioned in any reviews.
The last chapter/story was futuristic which was a pleasant surprise but I didn’t like the characters (sigh). I would even say I liked the Slide Show section the best.
And, I do believe it is a book that continues to build esteem as time clicks away. It has staying power. But it suffered (while I was reading) from my knowing it won so many prizes so it HAD to great. If I had stumbled upon this book blind — I LOVE the title! — I would have liked it very much.
I won’t try to convince you to read this one – I am supposing that you have made that decision already. And if your decision is “YES- I want to read this”, you will likely find much to be impressed with. If you have already decided “Nope – not for me”, then you are not a fan of creative clever smart contemporary fiction and that’s OK. If you are on the fence, then change it to a YES. Put it on the tbr and see what happens when you finally get to it. I suspect you won’t be disappointed. I honestly figure that most of you reading THIS post have already read Goon! yes? Well, my aim really isn’t to convince anyone of anything – just to record my own thoughts and have something to post. I seem to be on a Pulitzer kick all of a sudden… I’ll end with a photo from Brattleboro VT which is where I spent last weekend having a lovely time celebrating 23 whacky years with the Big D. ♥
23 thoughts on “A Visit from the Goon Squad”
Okay, I love this review. Every review I’ve read of this book talks about its cleverness. Clever books are okay but they’re just that: clever. I want something mind-blowing. I want more. 😉
Oh, bet let’s not assume clever and too-clever are the same thing?!?!
I plan to read it, someday.
It’s weird because her other book, The Keep is a totally different kind of book, yet I liked that one quite a bit. I wonder what that means.
I wonder what that means, too. Tell ya what – I’ll find The Keep and read it! I do think Egan is a very good writer.
It sounds like I should wait until I have some time to devote to this book before I read it. Thanks for your review.
OR? Just write down the names of the characters as they show up because you will encounter them and later not realize that you’ve already been introduced to them or wonder if you missed somebody. or maybe that was just me.
I liked A Visit from the Goon Squad. I was a teenager in the 80’s, so I could relate to much of it, both musically and otherwise. The Powerpoint chapter worked for me as well. It reminded me of The Imperfectionists too, since it is less a novel and more a bunch of connected short stories. If I had to choose, I think I would choose The Imperfectionists over A Visit form the Goon Squad, however. Interesting in a way, since both books also have in common a sort of lament for soon to be obsolete media forms.
Yep, I think I liked The Impressionists a bit more, too. Great observation about the obsolete media forms!
I know this one is pretty popular but I have had no desire to read it. Who knows, maybe I’ll change my mind at some point.
Maybe! If it falls into your lap at just the right time, you’ll read it. 😛
Your comments on ratings had me giggling. I’ve been toying with getting rid of ratings altogether; I keep going back and forth on their usefulness and truthfulness as far as the test of time goes.
Ratings are fine for me as a guide AND to help me on my year end reviews. It’s at that time that I always seem to have a bell curve so I assume they are just fine. Not that I have ever been a fan of bell curves…
I gave up on this book a while back, because I think the timing was bad. Haven’t felt up to reading it since, but I think I will check it again. Hate to feel that I’m missing out on a fabulous book!
Athira, I could expect that you would like this one. 🙂
I have tried to read this book a couple times and just not managed to get into the story. I really must try again…
Yea? Well, maybe it is NOT for you then?
You are a bad influence on my fence sitting.
This book had me so darn confused and for that reason alone I didn’t like it very much. A book shouldn’t make me feel so dumb!
I could admit I was confused at times. And then I would wonder what happened to somebody and they were never heard from again.
Really, I don’t think you have to write down the names and try so hard to enjoy this one–it’s like music; it can wash over you and you absorb what you can, enjoy the good parts, and let the rest drain away. I found its cleverness enjoyable and not at all show-offy because it came to a point.
Why has this been marketed as a novel, though? I think you’re right–it’s much more like Olive Kitteridge. It’s linked short stories.
Jeanne, I agree that it was not ‘too’ clever or showy; perhaps creative is a better word since the term clever can bring baggage sometimes.