Friday, July 8, 2011

Don't Avoid The Goon Squad

A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan is unusual.  It is a fun, timely, quick read, that is also an award winner.  AVFTGS won both the National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction in 2010, and the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2011.  With credentials like that, one would expect an amazing, but maybe a difficult book.  Instead, AVFTGS is a page turner and a perfect summer novel.  In short, it is everything that it's cracked up to be.

AVFTGS is the first book that has made me wish for a Kindle.  Each chapter is a part of a complete story, including some, but not all of the characters in the book, from a random time.  The story flashes back and forth, without obvious clues such as dates indicating where we are in time or in narrative.  Each chapter contains subtle and obvious hints as to what will happen in later chapters. One of the characters introduced in the first chapter, for instance, doesn't become important to the story again until the last chapter.  A Kindle would come in handy here, because I spent a ton of time flipping back when a new character was introduced to see if that character had been mentioned before.  As I understand Kindle, no flipping would be necessary, and I would just be able to search for "Lizzie" or "Noreen" to see if they had been mentioned earlier and I missed them. 

Most simply, AVFTGS is the story of an aging producer, his protege, his girlfriend, and a groupie/klepto turned producer's assistant turned mom.  Other story lines involve a failed publicist, a failed writer, a failed actress, a failed dictator, a failed rock star (or two?), a failed presidential hopeful, and the children of all involved.  Some of the failures find success, and some of the successful fall to invisibility.

This is a great book.  I am adding it to my favorites list, and buying it for my daughter to put away until she is old enough to read it.  One short chapter details a groupie/girlfriend's regrets in a way that is poignant and memorable.  Another great chapter is written entirely in powerpoint style slides from the point of view of a teenager trying to understand her parents.  I might let my daughter read that chapter now.  The final chapter predicts the near future in which rock stars cater to babies, known as "pointers" for their ability to point to interesting things on an ipad-like touch screen, with the parents following the children's choices.  Somehow, this doesn't seem too unlikely.

I've said it before, and I hope to say it lots more:  Go. Get. It. And. Read.

Interested in rock and roll stories?  I've read more biographies in this area than fiction, although this seems like a topic ripe for fiction.  A really good biography that you may have missed is Everything I'm Cracked Up to Be by Jennifer Trynin.  Unlike other rock and roll biographies, this is the story of an "almost was" instead of a "has been", and is really interesting in that regard.

By the way, today it's been a year since I started blogging regularly.  What got me started was being really upset with one of my kids' teachers, and wanting to send a vicious email to him that I knew I would regret.  Instead, I broadcasted my rant onto the world wide web, and no one was harmed in the production of this blog.

Next Up:  Stories I Only Tell My Friends by Rob Lowe.  My husband just finished reading this one, and he was pestering me to read it before he even got to the end.  I have a hunch that the characters in this book will be easier to keep track of, because I know them all from People Magazine.

Still Listening to:  A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens.  Talk about a great book with characters who are mentioned and then show up in more important roles later . . .apparently this style has been around for a while!

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...