Wednesday, June 29, 2011

A Visit from the Goon Squad

I just finished A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan. The novel, which might more aptly be described as collection of short stories, won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and the National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction.
In many ways, it reminds me of The Imperfectionists: It follows a short story structure featuring interrelated characters; it highlights characters working within a single industry (newspapers and rock music, respectively); and, like The Imperfectionists, it came to my notice due to its high critical acclaim. Alas, like The Imperfectionists, I did not find myself just loving AVFTGS.
I wanted to! It’s very well written. The writer had some interesting ­­­insights into aging and relationships, and I found her projection of technology intriguing and not at all unlikely. There were even several characters I really enjoyed. But my overarching problem with the book (and what got me down about it) was the general tone of relentless and grinding erosion. As Egan says in this The Daily Beast article:
“And then I found myself writing ‘Time is a goon,’ and realized that of course that’s true—time is the stealth goon, the one you ignore because you are so busy worrying about the goons right in front of you.”
In the book, each character is dealing as best they can with the problems at hand, when all the while they are growing older, and before they know it, they are faced with a different array of problems: aging in a youth-based industry and culture, realizing the dreams they had are unfulfilled and are likely to stay that way, watching their values change until the person they were wouldn’t recognize the person they’ve become. *SIGH*
It’s a neat book, but not one I look forward to rereading any time soon.
Two days after her Pulitzer win, it was announced Egan had closed a deal with HBO to adapt the book into a television series. And I can see that. I deal with soul-crushing drama much better in weekly installments at 9 p.m. on Sunday nights.

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