Have you seen this book around? I feel like every time I go into a book store it’s there, prominentantly displayed with its “Winner of the Pulitzer Prize” badge gleaming, challenging me to read it if I consider myself serious about reading anything other than chick lit. I avoided picking it up for months, and really the reasons were pretty superficial: the title contains the word “goon,” the cover artwork is weird, and most of all it’s based on the music industry. If there’s one thing I’m not interested in, it’s reading about hipsters complaining about how hard it is to produce their “art.”
Then I started reading that the author, Jennifer Egan, kind of dissed Jennifer Weiner and is a little embarrassed at her own success. Interest piqued. I finally picked up the book a couple of weeks ago, and it was fantastic. Really, one of the best books I’ve read in I-can’t-remember-how-long. Better than all of the books I so ringingly endorsed here.
And, to top it all off, I had one of the most amazing moments for a book nerd while reading it. I had actually read an excerpt of the book in The Best American Short Stories 2010 anthology, and loved it. I remember nearing the end of the story in the anthology and being sad. I really wished the story were an entire book. Cue to 8 months later, reading this book: my dream had come true! Sidenote: if I had not been judging A Visit From the Goon Squad by its cover (literally) for so long, I would have found out it actually was an entire book much sooner.
One of the coolest thing about A Visit From the Goon Squad (and really the reason why it could be excerpted in a book of short stories) is the narrative style. Each chapter focuses on the experiences of a particular character during a particular period of time. Then, the next chapter kind of starts anew, picking up the narrative from a different character’s – whom you’ve already met in the story, in most cases in a minor role – vantage point, which in some cases is years before and in others is years later. What results is a story that’s not so much about the music industry or goons (not even sure where the title came from) as much as it is about the experience of moving through life. It’s basically like meeting someone and wondering what her deal is – wondering why she is who she is, what she’ll go on to do – and then getting the chance to actually find out, over and over again.
Bottom line: it won the Pulitzer Prize for a reason and you should read it and I suggest doing so ASAP!
Ps – there is one chapter that’s written in Powerpoint (it’s not as weird as it sounds), so it might be difficult to read on a Kindle. I read the paperback.