Thursday, May 12, 2011

Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan

I kept seeing this book mentioned in places.  Then it won the Pulitzer and I decided to see if it was available at the library.  It was and I decided to grab it before there was a long waiting list for it, as I knew there would be once there was more press about the Pulitzer.

The book doesn't read like a novel, but rather a bunch of short stories about some of the same people.  There lives intersect at different points.  And the stories are not in chronological order.  The stories are interesting and I enjoyed reading them.  However, I felt like I was reading the introduction to a story and the actual story never happened.  We meet all these people, we learn a little bit about them, but nothing much happens to them.

What I wanted to do, after I'd finished reading the book, is go back through the story and map out who was in what story and where their lives crossed.  Then maybe it would have made more sense - but the book was due at the library, and by then there was a long waiting list.  I don't mind paying late fees, but I don't want to be the jerk holding onto the book everyone is waiting to read.

Most of the stories take place in New York, and involve people in the music or entertainment industry.  I found this of interest because that's a field with which I'm familiar and I've spent a lot of time in the East Village.  I thought the past stories were much stronger than the future stories.  I found the stories that took place well into the future to be a little silly.  She was trying to make a statement about social media and smart phones and our dependency on technology and maybe she's accurate, but right now, it seems too out there.

There were a few moments in which the characters reflected on growing older -- "being visited by the goon squad" -- hence the title -- which I found to be especially poignant.  These people wanted so much out of their lives and often it didn't quite work out. 

I was also bothered by the whole, bad girl makes good bit.  Runaway teenage prostitute, kleptomaniac who turns into the perfect mom in the perfect marriage.  Stories like that just make me roll my eyes.  This story took up so much of the end of the book and it caused me like the story less than I might have otherwise.  I thought there were more interesting characters on which to focus.

But I like that it was different, and it made me think and it made me want to revisit the book at some point.  And it's a book that I wanted to talk about and really wish some of my friends would read it, but that seldom happens.