Sunday, July 7, 2013

22: A Visit From the Goon Squad - Jennifer Egan

"People will try to change you, Rhea, Lou goes. Don't let 'em. 
But I want to change.
No, he goes, serious. You're beautiful. Stay like this. 
But the freckles, I go, and my throat gets that ache.
The freckles are the best part, Lou says. Some guy is going to go apeshit for those freckles. He's going to kiss them one by one.
I start to cry, I don't even hide it.
Hey, Lou goes. he leans down so our faces are together, and stares straight into my eyes. He looks tired, like someone walked on his skin and left footprints. He goes, The world is full of shitheads, Rhea. Don't listen to them - listen to me.  
And I know that Lou is one of those shitheads. But I listen. 

This novel was recommended especially for me years ago, and I have been looking forward to having enough time to read it since then. For me, a recommendation from someone I trust is quite enough of a reason for me to read a book, and I have no need to investigate it further, so I opened this book with no idea what it was about. 

Pleasant Surprises:
1. It has interconnected narrators. If you find that gimmicky, this books is not for you! I love it, because we are all interconnected in real life and real life is no gimmick. Las Vegas is very curious because it is an overblown small town and anyone who has been here for a while is inevitably connected to everyone else who has been here for a while (oh, my college chum that I haven't heard from in 4+ years was best friends in middle school with a girl I met rockcliming after she found my OKCupid profile and approached me in a climbing gym because we like the same obscure band and we three are now at Pub Quiz together? Of course).

2. It jumps through time and space as it jumps through narrators. This means we get to see some characters from multiple perspectives and some events through multiple perspectives. It reminds me of George Plimpton's oral biography of Truman Capote as well as Please Kill Me: The Uncensored Oral History of Punk, and it is a style that I love. Even in my recent read Letters From Yellowstone, I stopped while reading and told my friend that I was so excited to read about an event from two perspectives. Again, if you find this gimmicky, this book is not for you. 

3. It is multigenre. There are regular first-person narrative sections as well as newspaper articles and an entire chapter told in a 'slide journal' (power point made by a tween girl). Quite a few people find this gimmicky and use this as their reason for hating the novel. The newspaper article section utilizes footnotes and the internet is all OMG YOU ARE NOT DAVID FOSTER WALLACE JENNIFER EGAN - those people are wannabe-pretentious-judgey-pants-wearing-idiots because footnotes are not a part of JE's narrative story, they are used by the character who wrote the newspaper article and it was completely unsurprising that he did so because he is totally that type of writer. (Also: what are people SO upset by women writers who do anything 'quirky'? I feel like people love to hate on women for being 'too quirky' and I am not as aware of the same criticism on male authors using similar devices (like Junot Diaz for footnotes). 

4. As for the content and characters - it's depressing, and honest, and sometimes beautiful. I have no problem with it getting the Pulitzer as it is in many ways SO American and SO filled with contemporary problems and that is what makes it SO depressing and SO honest and SO sometimes beautiful, and the ending is Perfection.

Highly recommended, especially if you were ever into punk music or have any thoughts on modern consumer culture.

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