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A Visit From the Goon Squad [Paperback]

Jennifer Egan
3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (157 customer reviews)
RRP: £7.99
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Book Description

9 Jun 2011
Jennifer Egan’s spellbinding novel circles the lives of Bennie Salazar, an aging former punk rocker and record executive, and Sasha, the passionate, troubled young woman he employs. Although Bennie and Sasha never discover each other’s pasts, the reader does, in intimate detail, along with the secret lives of a host of other characters whose paths intersect with theirs, over many years, in locales as varied as New York, San Francisco, Naples, and Africa. We first meet Sasha in her mid-thirties, on her therapist’s couch in New York City, confronting her longstanding compulsion to steal. Later, we learn the genesis of her turmoil when we see her as the child of a violent marriage, then a runaway living in Naples, then as a college student trying to avert the suicidal impulses of her best friend. We meet Bennie Salazar at the melancholy nadir of his adult life—divorced, struggling to connect with his nine-year-old son, listening to a washed up band in the basement of a suburban house—and then revisit him in 1979, at the height of his youth, shy and tender, reveling in San Francisco’s punk scene as he discovers his ardor for rock and roll and his gift for spotting talent. We learn what became of his high school gang—who thrived and who faltered—and we encounter Lou Kline, Bennie’s catastrophically careless mentor, along with the lovers and children left behind in the wake of Lou’s far flung sexual conquests and meteoric rise and fall. A Visit from the Goon Squad is a book about the interplay of time and music, about survival, about the stirrings and transformations set inexorably in motion by even the most passing conjunction of our fates. In a breathtaking array of styles and tones ranging from tragedy to satire to Powerpoint, Egan captures the undertow of self-destruction that we all must either master or succumb to; the basic human hunger for redemption; and the universal tendency to reach for both—and escape the merciless progress of time—in the transporting realms of art and music. Sly, startling, exhilarating work from one of our boldest writers.

Frequently Bought Together

A Visit From the Goon Squad + The Red Badge of Courage & Other Stories (Wordsworth Classics) + Moll Flanders (Wordsworth Classics)
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Product details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Corsair; First Edition edition (9 Jun 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1780330960
  • ISBN-13: 978-1780330969
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 2.2 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (157 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 3,642 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Review

A must read. Irresistible. Fiction of the highest quality. (Sunday Times.)

It may be the smartest book you can get your hands on this summer. (Los Angeles Times)

Exhilirating...arresting...brilliant. Turn up the music...and curl up with The Goon Squad. (Washington Post)

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.

(The New York Press)

Egan's precise, calm underwater prose is a persistent pleasure. (Daily Telegraph.)

A delight. (The Observer.)

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. (Marie-Claire)

Clever. Edgy. Groundbreaking. . . . It features characters about whom you come to care deeply as you watch them doing things they shouldn't, acting gloriously, infuriatingly human. (The Chicago Tribune)

A rich and rewarding novel. (Philadelphia Inquierer)

"[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." (Elle)

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. (The San Francisco Chronicle)

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))

Sparkling. (The Guardian)

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))

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 Review (starred review))

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. (Newsweek)

A stunningly resourceful writer (Guardian)

Egan's a daunting stylist, and she's in blistering form for these interlocking narratives about the milieu surrounding an aging and waning music producer. Essentially, it's a story about getting mugged by the passage of time, and along the way she interrogates how rebellion ages, influence corrupts, habits turn to addictions, and lifelong friendships fluctuate. You also might know this as the novel that has a chapter written in PowerPoint. Egan: unpredictable and, here, brilliant. (Publisher's Weekly Books of the Year.)

Thriftily evokes many disparate American lives in less than 300 pages, vividly showing how the virtues of the realist tradition - historical depth and strong point of view - can be combined with a modernist aesthetic of fragmentation and dissolution. (Pankaj Mishra Guardian)

An overlooked masterpiece. (thisislondon.com)

If you're going to read one new novel this summer, it should be this. (Evening Standard)

Warm, witty and wise. (Sunday Express)

Wickedly funny. (Harper's Bazaar)

Stunningly good. (Evening Standard)

Stories that defy narrative conventions. (Financial Times)

Dazzling. (Irish Times)

Fiction of the highest quality. (The Sunday Times)

The coolest of summer's must-reads. (The Lady)

The most exciting novel I've read this year. (Olivia Laing, Observer)

You won't have read anything quite like it before. (Grazia)

Book Description

Winner of the Pultizer Prize. A brilliantly entertaining novel about memory, time, art and how humans connect at every level.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
123 of 132 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Original and creative but not for me 24 July 2011
By Helen S VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback
I'm not sure how to begin describing Jennifer Egan's A Visit from the Goon Squad to you, but I'll do my best! I'll start by saying that it's an original and imaginative novel which revolves around a large number of different characters, most of whom are involved in the music industry in some way (be it as musicians, producers, record label owners, publicists, or music lovers). The main theme of the book is time and Egan uses her characters to explore what happens to us as we age and how life doesn't always turn out the way we hoped it would.

I don't know exactly how many characters there were in this book, but it felt like hundreds! Two of the most important are Bennie Salazar, a record executive, and his assistant, Sasha. Most of the other characters are somehow connected to either Sasha or Bennie, whether directly or indirectly. We meet new people in almost every chapter and I found I needed to pay attention to every new name as even someone who seemed completely insignificant could reappear later in the book.

Each chapter is written in a distinct style and has its own unique feel. One chapter takes the form of a celebrity interview; another is presented as a PowerPoint slideshow. Some chapters have a first person narrator; others are told in the second or third person; we move from past tense to present tense, from one country to another and backwards and forwards in time. I don't think I've ever seen an author incorporate so many different styles and ideas into one novel - which could be either a good thing or a bad thing depending on your personal preferences. If you like books that are adventurous, innovative and different, then you're probably going to love A Visit from the Goon Squad.
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25 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of my top ten reads of 2011 29 Dec 2011
By Mrs. K. A. Wheatley TOP 500 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback
I've just finished this book and I'm so glad I squeaked it into the last week of 2011 as it has definitely made my top ten books of the year. It is a wonderful book which kind of journeys through the world of post 9/11 America through the lives, loves, memories, failures and achievements of a bunch of characters whose lives cross and recross from chapter to chapter. It is not always clear as you are reading, which character relates to which character and you never know if they will pop up in someone else's story later on. I loved the thrill of recognition coming across someone you have already read about but finding out about their past or their future, and piecing together all the disparate lives. It is dark and sometimes funny, often sad and wistful and always totally engaging. I absolutely loved it.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
By R. A. Davison TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Recently published in paperback in June, A Visit From The Goon Squad begged the question of me 'When is a novel, not a novel?" because it is a novel, and it isn't. It reminded me of a game of tag, or a relay race. The novel opens with a chapter focusing on Sasha, jumps from Sasha to her boss Bennie, then from Bennie to Rhea, who knew Lou through Jocelyn, then to Lou's children and then to Jocelyn and then from Jocelyn to Scotty, who also knows Bennie, to Bennie's wife Stephanie, and so on and so forth. Each character only gets a single chapter but through their connection to each other act like pieces in a jigsaw to build up a portrait of music producer Bennie and his assistant Sasha, to whom every character is somehow linked, if not to each other.

It is very well done, and I liked it. Not only does it jump from character to character, Egan treats time in a non-linear way, so, often, when it leaps to the next character, it also leaps in time, and is a bit like a bouncing ball. Rhea's chapter for example covers the time period when she and Bennie were teenagers, her best friend Jocelyn is sleeping with a man named Lou. Then we go on safari with Lou and his children, Jocelyn is in the past and he has a new girlfriend. Then we bounce again and Rhea and Jocelyn are visiting Lou on his deathbed before throwing the ball on to the next person.

Though it is set against the backdrop of the music industry and to a degree media and showbusiness, that wasn't really what interested me, it is, essentially 13 interconnected short stories, I enjoyed the way in which it became character rather than story led. Some stories are better than others, I liked Dolly's and Stephanie's section Rhea's Sasha's and Ted's.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
By Antenna TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
This is likely to divide opinion sharply since it rejects the convention of a clear plot, and flits back and forth in time with a variety of viewpoints and sheer number of characters which may prove confusing.

It is a series of short stories rather than a novel, focusing in turn on different members of an amorphous group who have in common only some kind of link to the music industry - they know, or know someone who knows, either Bennie the driven music manager, or Sasha, his light-fingered assistant whose kleptomania may have some deeper emotional cause.

I enjoyed the quirky incidents and offbeat humour of the first seven chapters, and the game of anticipating which character mentioned in passing would turn up as a key player in the next episode. I liked the way the author always managed to overcome my irritation at being dragged away from one group of characters, by skilfully hooking me in to the next one, only to be disappointed again at having to leave the new story with strands left unresolved, perhaps forever.

Some of the relationships are genuinely moving, such as the hard-bitten, selfish, corrupt Lou's love for his sweet, gentle son, whom he cannot help inadvertently damaging, just through being the bastard that he is. I was impressed by the study of Scotty, mentally ill but managing after a fashion, who convinces himself half the time that being a failure is as good as being a success.

My good opinion suffered a blow in Chapter 8, an over-farcical account of a disgraced PR manager trying to make ends meet by advising a genocidal dictator of some unnamed country, which was an annoyingly unconvincing mixture of Arab desert too close to lush African jungle.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Best fiction I've read.
Published 1 month ago by S. Loewenthal
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Speedy delivery. Book as described.
Published 1 month ago by Kathryn Simpson
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointed
I wanted to like it, and I did at first. Some of Egan's writing is fantastic - she's clearly an insightful individual - but if you're perceptive you'll pick up on how the insights... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Mia
4.0 out of 5 stars Nearly there
I enjoyed this book, but probably not enough to give it five stars. I think it actually works better if you consider it as a collection of inter-connected short stories rather than... Read more
Published 2 months ago by Todpete
5.0 out of 5 stars I have not loved a book as much as this for a long
I have not loved a book as much as this for a long, long time. Felt bereft when it finished. A truly life-changing read too: out really wakes you up to say: don't let the time goon... Read more
Published 2 months ago by Anna-Claire Schroder
4.0 out of 5 stars Unique, clever and quirky!
This is a really unique, clever and quirky book that I really enjoyed reading. Mostly each chapter is about a different character, but as you progress through the book, some of the... Read more
Published 2 months ago by Elainedav
2.0 out of 5 stars as it was highly recommended. I am afraid that none of us really ...
I read this with my book group, as it was highly recommended. I am afraid that none of us really enjoyed this book. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Justin
4.0 out of 5 stars Unorthodox
A Visit from the Goon Squad is a difficult book to review. I can see why it won the Pullitzer Prize for Fiction, but I can also see why it collects its fair share of one star... Read more
Published 3 months ago by Calypso
1.0 out of 5 stars 'A Visit From The Death Squad' Would Be More Fun
Let's get straight to the point. This book is execrable. I mean it is very, very bad indeed. I detest its pretentious nastiness, its tedious lack of originality (jumping about... Read more
Published 4 months ago by Ozric Tents
4.0 out of 5 stars Unusual
I liked this more and more as it progressed and the links between the stories became more obvious. It's like a collection of short stories where all the characters are linked... Read more
Published 5 months ago by Cece de la Vela
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