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A Visit From the Goon Squad [Paperback]

Jennifer Egan
3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (148 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.

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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 (148 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 4,669 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

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. --The Guardian

Egan s writing is remarkable for its ability to anchor postmodern trickery to more reassuringly solid novelistic virtues ... Goon Squad hangs together with the airiness of a mobile, constructed to catch the slightest gusts of longing and lust. -- The Sunday Times

Very smart and very funny--BBC Radio 4 s Saturday Review

Is there anything Egan can t do? Remarkable... Darkly, rippingly funny... Pitch perfect.--New York Times Book Review Best Books of 2010

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

Truly magical... A Visit from the Goon Squad is a new classic of American fiction. Time Magazine, Best Books of 2010.

If Jennifer Egan is our reward for living through the self-conscious gimmicks and ironic claptrap of postmodernism, then it was all worthwhile. . . . A deeply humane story about growing up and growing old in a culture corroded by technology and marketing. . . . [A] triumph of technical bravado and tender sympathy. . . . Here, in ways that surprise and delight again, she transcends slick boomer nostalgia and offers a testament to the redemptive power of raw emotion in an age of synthetic sound and glossy avatars. Turn up the music, skip the college reunion and curl up with The Goon Squad instead. The Washington Post.

Egan constructs the novel with great skill and greater empathy. Village Voice, Best Books of 2010.

Wildly inventive and lovable. O, The Oprah Magazine, Best Books of 2010.

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

[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.

[A] spiky, shape-shifting new book. . . . A display of Ms. Egan s extreme virtuosity. --The New York Times

Clever. Edgy. Groundbreaking. . . . For all of its cool, languid, arched-eyebrow sophistication that s the part that will make you think Didion and for all of the glitteringly gorgeous sentences that flit through its pages like exotic fish that s the DeLillo part the novel is actually a sturdy, robust, old-fashioned affair. 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

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
122 of 131 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
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 1 day ago by Cece de la Vela
5.0 out of 5 stars Quirky
A Visit from the Good Squad is a fun tale of interconnecting characters and relationships which questions the way in which we communicate and how that will affect out futures.
Published 1 month ago by Amazon Customer
1.0 out of 5 stars 5 star or 1? I couldn't decide.
Firstly, Egan's writing is blisteringly good in parts and I wanted dearly to love the book as a whole. Sadly I can't. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Josey Wales
3.0 out of 5 stars Thought provoking but happily disjointed
I read this book after seeing it in the mashable book club, I enjoyed the individual stories (some more than others)
but at the end I was left a little sad and slightly... Read more
Published 3 months ago by natmo
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb!
I cannot believe this novel had anything other than five star reviews let alone the critical one star responses. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Mrs. Claire Buckle
4.0 out of 5 stars Not best on Kindle
A great read - like a series of tales linked together, rather than a linear story. The big problem on the Kindle is that a section of one of the stories is told via Powerpoint... Read more
Published 4 months ago by val vernon
3.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable but...
I don't know what exactly I expected - something more literary, maybe, considering all this book's garlands. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Caitlin G
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book, recommended for a easy intellectual read
Jennifer Egan's writing is extremely neat and satisfying. This book seems very astute in its predictions and its reflections, and it enthralled me from start to finish. Read more
Published 5 months ago by MusicMad
4.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful in parts
This is a set of interlocking short stories concerning an ever-increasing cast of characters, all linked in some way to one of the others. Read more
Published 5 months ago by GeordieReader
5.0 out of 5 stars adore this book
Have recommended it to many friends. If you like One Day then this is a million times better and a lot more unisex....
Published 6 months ago by stephanie laing
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