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Book 112: A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan

Book 112: A Visit from the Goon Squad.
Author: Jennifer Egan, 2010
Genre: Contemporary. Comedy-Drama. Post-modern. Music.
Other Details: Paperback 368 pages. (with a little help from audiobook)

Time is a goon, right? You gonna let that goon push you around?" - Bosco, former rock star, A Visit from the Goon Squad.

Winner of the 2011 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and other awards this is an intelligent and inventive novel that rather defies any summery of its plot. It contains 13 chapters, each of which are self-contained and could easily be read in any order as the setting hops about in time from the late 60s to the present day and near future. One of the chapters is a Powerpoint presentation and it was for this section that the audiobook proved an invaluable resource.

It features an ensemble cast of inter-related characters including Bennie Salazar, an ageing rock music executive, his one-time assistant, Sasha, along with various friends, family and associates. Popular music is central to the book as most of the characters work in and around the music industry. Given the emphasis upon youth culture in music, this plays well into the novel's themes of the loss of youth, innocence and the changes in circumstances brought about by time.

Egan cites Marcel Proust's In Search of Lost Time as one inspiration and while I have never dared tackle that mammoth work, I can appreciate that time and memory are major themes in it as indeed they are in this novel as well as the interconnectedness of people. It also examines the changes brought about by the digital age and certainly allowed me to reflect upon the times I have lived through and my own brief experiences on the fringes of the music industry.

I loved this book and it is one I certainly look forward to reading again as it is coming up as a selection for our library reading group next year. I had been intrigued by its positive reviews when it was selected by the UK's Channel 4 Book Club and so suggested it for one of my reading groups this autumn. However, aside from myself only one other adored it. Its unusual, complex narrative format just did not appeal to others in the group. So it may well be a Marmite book, one that people either love or hate.

Jennifer Egan's page for 'A Visit from the Good Squad' - includes Powerpoint chapter, some sides with audio and other links.
Tags: award winner, contemporary, music, period fiction (20th century), post-modern, pulitzer winner, richard and judy/channel 4 book club
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