words words words

the goon squad is good enough for me

So, I guess a Pulitzer Prize is a big deal. If you’re into that sort of thing.

Over the years, I’ve gotten into the habit of purchasing books faster than I can read them/faster than I can make the money to justify such spending. Anyway, I caved and bought Jennifer Egan’s “big deal” novel a visit from the goon squad. The cover was funky; the book smelled good; I’d heard things. Good things. From who? Apparently everyone.

Understandably, there’s been some hype over this little gem. The title itself suggests that the reader will be cooler if he/she reads it. I mean, who doesn’t want a little piece of the goon squad? Whatever it may be…

Embarking on goon squad, I knew little more than that the book won the pulitzer and punk rock was somehow involved. Oh, and a lot of people agreed that the book was worth reading, apparently. Hello, alternative bandwagon.

The book itself is a fast read, with some truly beautiful writing. The novel fluidly transitions from past to present, and vice versa, following characters whose lives ultimately are all intertwined. The cast of characters include washed-up punk stars, a chronic thief, a journalist convicted of attempted rape of a movie star—to name a few–through various stages of their lives. The novel is full of the “ah ha” moments, when certain characters reappear unexpectedly.

But I don’t want to summarize.

Though the book left me unsatisfied in terms of wanting more of certain side stories (Sasha’s children and Bennie’s son Charlie, for instance), Egan’s compilation of the different lives, realistically, is brilliant and heartbreaking and just, perfect. There are so many “jesus christ!” moments in this book, and I mean that in the best way imaginable. She’s taken a concept that has been done to death—the loss of innocence and subsequent disillusionment— and made it more about what happens in between; in other words, what happens from “A” to “B” and why. Characters are presented with narrative start and end points, then Egan zeroes in on specific “whys” and “hows” without definitive answers.

It’s a book that demands revisiting. Perhaps this is what earned it Pulitzer status. Or maybe it was the 74-page powerpoint journal.

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