BKMT READING GUIDES
A Visit from the Goon Squad
by Jennifer Egan
Audio CD : 1 pages
15 clubs reading this now
14 members have read this book
Jennifer Egan pens a compulsively readable narrative centering on Bennie Salazar, an aging punk rocker and record executive, and Sasha, the passionate young woman he employs. Bennie and Sasha never discover each other's pasts, but the reader does, along with the secret lives of a host of others they encounter in the course of nearly fifty years, in settings as varied as the San Francisco 1970s music scene, the demimonde of Naples, a postwar future New York, and a catastrophic African safari. Sly, suspenseful, and always surprising, this is one of our boldest authors at the height of her powers.
“It may be the smartest book you can get your hands on this summer.” —Carolyn Kellogg, The Los Angeles Times
“Jennifer Egan is a rare bird: an experimental writer with a deep commitment to character, whose fiction is at once intellectually stimulating and moving. . . . It’s a tricky book, but in the best way. When I got to the end, I wanted to start from the top again immediately, both to revisit the characters and to understand better how the pieces fit together. Like a masterful album, this one demands a replay.” —Malena Watrous, The San Francisco Chronicle
“For all its postmodern flourishes, Goon Squad is as traditional as a Dickens novel. . . . Her aim is not so much to explode traditional storytelling as to explore how it responds to the pressures and opportunities of the digital age. Egan herself does not appear to be on Facebook, but A Visit From the Goon Squad will likely make her many new friends.” —Jennie Yabroff, Newsweek
“Clever. Edgy. Groundbreaking. . . . For all of its cool, languid, arched-eyebrow sophistication—that’s the part that will make you think ‘Didion’—and for all of the glitteringly gorgeous sentences that flit through its pages like exotic fish—that’s the DeLillo part—the novel is actually a sturdy, robust, old-fashioned affair. It features characters about whom you come to care deeply as you watch them doing things they shouldn't, acting gloriously, infuriatingly human.” —Julia Keller, The Chicago Tribune
“Expect to inhale Jennifer Egan’s A Visit From the Goon Squad. Then expect it to lodge in your cranium and your breastbone a good long while. I expect this brilliant, inventive novel to become enshrined. Such rash speculation is foolish, I know—we live amid a plague of bloated praise. But A Visit From the Goon Squad is emboldening. It cracks the world open afresh . . . Would that Marcel Proust could receive A Visit From the Goon Squad. It would blow his considerable mind.” —Karen R. Long, Cleveland Plain Dealer
“In her audacious, extraordinary fourth novel, A Visit from the Goon Squad, Jennifer Egan uses the pop-music business as a prism to examine the heedless pace of modern life, generational impasses, and the awful gravity of age and entropy. . . . A Visit from the Goon Squad is fascinating for its daring scope and fractured narrative, but along the way, Egan crafts some brilliant scenes. . . . A rich and rewarding novel.” —David Hiltbrand, Philadelphia Inquierer
“Wildly ambitious. . . . A tour de force. . . . Music is both subject and metaphor as Egan explores the mutability of time, destiny, and individual accountability post-technology.” —Liza Nelson, O, The Oprah Magazine
“A Visit from the Goon Squad [is] an exhilarating, big-hearted, three-headed beast of a story. . . . [A] genius as a writer. . . . We see ourselves in all of Egan’s characters because their stories of heartbreak and redemption seem so real they could be our own, regardless of the soundtrack. Such is the stuff great novels are made of.” —Kimberly Cutter, Marie-Claire
“[Egan is] a boldly intellectual writer who is not afraid to apply her equally powerful intuitive skills to her ambitious projects. . . . While it’s a time-trekking, tech-freakin’ doozie, the characters’ lives and fates claim the story first and foremost, and we are pulled right in. . . . Brilliantly structured, with storylike chapters.” —Lisa Shea, Elle
“Remarkable . . . A finely braided meditation on time, memory, pop culture, and the perils of growing up in America.” —Paul Vidich, Narrative Magazine
“Poignant. . . . A nice reminder that even in the age of Kindles and Facebook, ambitious fiction is still one of the best tools available to help us understand the rapidly changing world. . . . Her startling, apocalyptic take on the near future is all the more chilling for its utter plausibility, and brings the realization that Egan was up to much more here than just trying to reinvent the novel's format. You’ll want to recommend it to all your Facebook friends.” —Patrick Condon, Associated Press
“Forget what literati the world over say about the demise of the “big” novel, the kind that patiently threads its way through the tangled knot of humankind’s shared urges, fears, frailties and joys. A Visit from the Goon Squad admittedly cannot be described either as a novel or a collection of short stories, but it is a great work of fiction, a profound and glorious exploration of the fullness and complexity of the human condition. . . . An extraordinary new work of fiction.” —Rayyan Al-Shawaf, The New York Press
“Poetry and pathos . . . Egan conveys personality so swiftly and with such empathy. . . . Yet she is not a conventional dystopian novelist; distinctions between the virtual and the real may be breaking down in this world, but her characters have recognizable emotions and convictions, which is why their compromises and uncertainties continue to move us. . . . Another ambitious change of pace from talented and visionary Egan, who reinvents the novel for the 21st century while affirming its historic values.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“Egan is a writer of cunning subtlety, embedding within the risky endeavors of seductively complicated characters a curious bending of time . . . a hilarious melancholy, enrapturing, unnerving, and piercingly beautiful mosaic of a novel.” —Donna Seaman, Booklist (starred review)
“The star-crossed marriage of lucid prose and expertly deployed postmodern switcheroos that helped shoot Egan to the top of the genre bending new school is alive and well in this graceful yet wild novel . . . powerful.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“Well-defined characters and an engaging narrative. . . . Readers will enjoy seeing the disparate elements of this novel come full circle.” —Gwen Vredevoogd, Library Journal
Editorial ReviewNo editorial review at this time.
Discussion QuestionsFrom the author:
1. What is the “Goon Squad” in A VISIT FROM THE GOON SQUAD? Is there more than one answer to the question? How well does the title capture the spirit of the book?
2. In many ways, this book is the story of what happens to people when they grow up. Were you surprised by the outcomes of people's lives? Does the author seem to suggest a reason that some people thrive and others falter?
3. Talk about the role of technology in the book, both in terms of subject matter and technique (after all, one chapter is written in PowerPoint).
Book Club Recommendations
Recommended to book clubs by 4 of 14 members.
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