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A Visit from the Goon Squad
by Jennifer Egan

Published: 2010-06-08
Audio CD : 1 pages
26 members reading this now
15 clubs reading this now
14 members have read this book
Recommended to book clubs by 4 of 14 members
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 ...
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Introduction

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.

Reviews:

“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 Review

No editorial review at this time.

Discussion Questions

From 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).

Notes From the Author to the Bookclub

A Note to Readers from Jennifer:

A VISIT FROM THE GOON SQUAD is an exploration of time, change, and the way both forces work upon people's lives. I had two very different inspirations: Marcel Proust, whose IN SEARCH OF LOST TIME caught me in its web around the time I turned forty; and THE SOPRANOS, a TV show I adored for its charismatic hero/villain-of course-but even more for its many peripheral characters, who move in and out of focus over time. I wanted to write a book in which everyone is both peripheral and central-a book that would capture the chaotic, random entanglement of many lives over many years. I also wanted to write a book that would encompass a huge range of moods and tones and styles, ranging from tragedy to humor to outright farce. Each chapter is written from a different point of view, and takes place at a different time. My hope is that the reader will emerge with a sense of having fallen in and out of touch with a bunch of people and cared deeply about all of them at one point-enough to be surprised by the successes of some and the failure of others. As in life.

Book Club Recommendations

Member Reviews

Overall rating:
 
 
by chris.reynolds@gmail.com (see profile) 12/18/15

I loved it

 
  "A Visit from the Goon Squad"by Zjman (see profile) 12/27/12

Wonderfully thought provoking, intertwining story lines! I thoroughly enjoyed following the characters through the many facets of their lives. A great read!

 
  "Disconnected"by clstarr (see profile) 10/29/12

Disconnected. ,reviews on book over exaggerated.

 
  "Our club loved this Pulitzer prize winner!"by lkbwin (see profile) 10/23/12

This was one of our book club's highest rated books; everyone enjoyed it. I loved the intertwining of characters and themes that wasn't necessarily revealed to the reader until the end. The format was... (read more)

 
  "A Unanimous Thumbs Down"by rkarpinecz (see profile) 07/13/12

Our reading group has 10 members ranging from mid 30s to early 60s. Most of us did not finish reading it. None of us could understand why it attracted all the awards and accolades that it did. For us,... (read more)

 
  "Still Thinking About It"by CathyM (see profile) 01/10/12

"Goon Squad" does feel like a collection of short stories, but it was fascinating to piece the various characters together. The themes of time, technology, connections, and loss will mean different things... (read more)

 
  "Waste of Time!"by speidelkelly (see profile) 10/19/11

This was the choice of the month for our book club and not one person was able to finish this book! The story was so confusing, none of us could keep the characters straight or even understand why they... (read more)

 
  "Goon"by stell4r (see profile) 09/03/11

 
  "A Visit From the Goon Squad"by aschiminger (see profile) 09/02/11

Maybe we were just the wrong demographic for this book, but 7 out of 9 members attending the meeting either didn't like it or hated it. Reasons ranged from disinterest in the subject matter; the confusing,... (read more)

 
  "A Visit From the Goon Squad"by sharoncray (see profile) 09/02/11

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