Pick of the week - A visit from the Goon Squad

Rosemary Sorensen | Bendigo Weekly | 20-Jan-2012

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Jennifer Egan

A Visit from the Goon Squad

Constable and Robinson, $19.99

THE way writers such as Jennifer Egan go about their novels may just be a reason that the paper book will not be entirely replaced by the ebook.
While you can whip through Egan’s fast, funny, bold A Visit from the Goon Squad on a reading device, this the kind of story that you might find running away from you if you don’t keep up. The good thing about real pages is they stay there with you, always visible, so if you need to check back a page or chapter or to the beginning, there is no drama. Yes, you can search for a word in an ebook, but that takes you away from the current page, and off into cyberspace again.
Whichever way you read this one, however, be prepared to be entertained in the fast lane.
Egan lives in Brooklyn and writes for the New York Times. She has written five books of fiction (the first a collection of short stories). This one, which is a disconcerting mix of short story and novel, won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction, and is now, gradually, becoming an international best-seller.
It’s about a group of people, loosely linked across a couple of generations, who are faced with the way the “goon squad” – the passing of time – catches up with them at different points of their lives. Some don’t survive. Others survive despite their best efforts to make a mess of things. Others merely muddle along, almost adjacent to the main action, but feeling on their faces the blast of wind and sometimes fire from other events.
We start with Sasha, who has a compulsion to nick things. How she got to that point, and what happens is one part of a jigsaw puzzle, which put together will show us a funny, but tough, picture of contemporary life.
It’s sort of about the music world, the era of punk and its aftermath, when music promoters realised how to create and profit from the next big thing.
It’s also about power, both sexual and financial, and how an irresponsible adult can damage so many young lives.
There are secrets that only come out many years, and chapters, later, but each section can also stand alone as an incident and story.
This is very modern storytelling, for and of the times. There is a kindness in the writing that prevents it from becoming too slick and depressing, even when people behave very badly, and tragedy happens.
Very entertaining, A Visit from the Goon Squad may not be a classic, but it’s a deserving best-seller.
             –Rosemary Sorensen


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Anonymous commented on 20-Jan-2012 02:29 PM5 out of 5 stars
her earlier book THE KEEP is less assured and definitely less enjoyable, but the 'kindness' and wit in the voice are still discernible.

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