Book Review Friday!

A Visit From the Goon Squad

Jennifer Egan
Alfred A. Knopf, 2010. 288 pages. $26 (hardcover).
I really need to figure out how to do cool book cover images on the blog.
Moving on!
I picked this book out because I’m looking for a fun, quirky novel to teach next year in my global literatures twentieth-century class.  Plus, I’m a sucker for teal and guitars, so the cover helped.  Yeah, I’m shallow like that.
This is a great book.  I haven’t read anything by Egan before, so I had no idea what to expect as far as prose or themes go.
It’s about a music producer and his assistant, sort of.  They are the main characters, but the novel weaves in and out through their lives and their back history and their future, so that by the end I didn’t feel like the two characters were connected at all.  But that’s ok, and here’s why.  Egan captures Life even though her characters are Larger than Life.  She captures the ordinary struggles, emotions, thoughts, feelings, hopes, dreams, and fears that all of us have, even though we might not be able to “relate” exactly with the characters.  To me, that’s a huge feat.
The story is told in alternating narratives, from different points of view and in different formats.  A little more than halfway through, the novel switches to powerpoint, an interesting narrative device and one that works in this context.  
“Alternating narratives” is a technique that I love and one that can be very effective.  Eighteenth-century epistolary novels and anything by Wilkie Collins are good early examples.  I’m not sure how to do it in my own work yet, but I love reading novels that do it successfully.

If you’re looking for a fun yet thought-provoking quick read, I would recommend this book.  Not sure if it will work on my syllabus


3 thoughts on “Book Review Friday!

  1. Laura Campbell says:

    I'm intrigued. The format of the novel sounds interesting. I like when authors play around with how they present their prose as much as the prose itself. As an aside, I usually look images up on Google and save them in a folder. Then insert into the blog post using the navigation bar at the top of the post area (to the right of the "Link" button. I'm not sure this was what you were thinking, but it couldn't hurt.

  2. Heather E says:

    "Egan captures Life even though her characters are Larger than Life. " How do you come up with great quotable lines like that? 🙂 I was actually just writing a review, and I wish I'd had that line in it. But I'll probably use it in the future (giving you due credit, of course!). Clearly, I should also be taking advantage of 175 to do some research …

  3. Anna says:

    Laura: Thanks for your feedback! I will play around with the images. My first stop for book information is usually Amazon, but they always have the "search inside!" logo at the top of the covers. Clearly I'm not spending enough time playing on the internet!As for the quotable lines, Heather, this is what happens when you spend too much time editing book reviews and not enough writing books themselves!

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