Wednesday, November 2, 2011

A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan _ Book Review #136

Wednesday, November 2, 2011
A Visit from the Goon Squad
by Jennifer Egan

Bennie is an aging former punk rocker and record executive.Sasha is the passionate, troubled young woman he employs. Here Jennifer Egan brilliantly reveals their pasts, along with the inner lives of a host of other characters whose paths intersect with theirs. With music pulsing on every page, A Visit from the Goon Squad is startling, exhilarating novel of self-destruction and redemption.

A Visit from the Goon Squad was lying on my desk for a very long time, waiting to be read. I can’t intelligibly tell you why it took me so long to pick it up. I guess I was afraid that it wouldn’t be a book for me. I could’ve being afraid to read it during a wrong mood to spoil my impression. I might’ve being afraid it would be too sad. All of the above, none of the above? I really don’t have an answer. However, I do know that I’m glad I finally read it, this would be a tragedy to miss out on such a phenomenal book.

If I would be asked to summarize the book, I would use the quote directly from it:

They resumed walking. Alex felt an ache in his eyes and throat. "I don't know what happened to me," he said, shaking his head. "I honestly don't."
Bennie glanced at him, a middle-aged man with chaotic silver hair and thoughtful eyes. "You grew up, Alex," he said, "just like the rest of us.” 

This quote really nicely summed up a book for me – it is about growing up, not growing up from child to teenager, but growing up from a teenager into a middle-aged adult. I cannot fully judge (I didn’t yet reach my middle age, though I’m not a teenager anymore either), but somehow A Visit from the Goon Squad rang very true and honest, sometimes scary, sometimes sad, sometimes funny, hopeful and optimistic.

A Visit from the Goon Squad has a nonlinear narrative. If I would be asked before I read this book what I think about books with nonlinear plots, I would’ve answered that I generally don’t like them, that I mostly confused and feel a need to reread a book again now knowing what the author is talking about in each section. Now, after I read A Visit from the Goon Squad, my answer is I never before this book read any GOOD books with nonlinear plots. Jennifer Egan even went further, she also switching points of view during narration. And if it isn’t enough yet, this book is following at least dozen characters. Despite that, I wasn’t confused for a single line. I always knew what time we are in and whose point of view used here. Jennifer Egan is a genius. I’m very grateful to her for showing me how such a complicatedly constructed book can be written so masterfully that it reads so easily.

This book is mostly famous, besides its winning Pulitzer, for having an entire chapter created in Power Point. I wasn’t too impressed with this idea before started reading the chapter. I never really worked with Power Point myself, however any serious meeting in my company usually includes a Power Point presentation. I never was really impressed with Power Point presentations, because they never really aid me to understand the topic of the meeting, they were usually distracting me – I was reading boxes and arrows in wrong sequence then I had to stop and try to figure out what the right sequence is – like solving a puzzle, while missing what the presenter was saying. I’m working for a very big company, so even though I do not know people who are usually creating these Power Point presentations for meetings, I would guess that they should be pro in doing it. Jennifer Egan in A Visit from the Goon Squad, showed me that Power Point presentations can be created without becoming a puzzle, they can even tell, doing it very clearly, a story. She showed me that a good Power Point presentation doesn’t require an aid of speaker – it can be read by itself.

I’ll probably never stop praising this book, if I won’t stop myself deliberately. A Visit from the Goon Squad is a most definitely the greatest book I read this year so far that was published in last 5 years. I would still have to see what the rest of the year will bring, but A Visit from the Goon Squad could easily become my favorite book of 2011. If you still didn’t read it, go get it right now and start reading – satisfaction guaranteed.


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