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Friday, September 24, 2010

Review: A Visit From the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan

288 pages
published by Knopf

When I began reading this, I almost put it down several times. I had heard so many good things about it, from people and blogs and critics I respected. I was skeptical though. I didn't like the cover. I didn't really like the title. And the plot didn't seem that interesting to me. I just imagined it was going to be some kind of bildungsroman thing sprinkled with lectures on punk rock.

Well, let me just say that I'm glad I stuck with it. It took me a little while to get into but after I shed all my preconceived notions, it turned out to a damn fine book. It's doesn't have a traditional narrative arch (thank God) with each chapter devoted to one character, with each story directly, or sometimes indirectly, related to previous chapters and their characters. So it's a little more short-story-ish in format than it is novel. Like a really tight, super connected short story collection. Egan also blends enough satire and literary trickery to keep things fresh and engaging, including an entire section told through a teenagers Power Point journal, which was, oddly enough, way more genuine than I thought possible.

So it kinda ends up being about music, but not in that slightly annoying way (think Perks of Being a Wallflower, think Love is a Mixtape). And time ends up being the goon. And the only reason I didn't like the cover is because I thought it was going to be an annoying diatribe about the death of music and the only real music is punk rock, etc.

The cover was misleading. But I'm not gonna stop judging books by them. What would happen if we went back to the age when books didn't have dust jackets? Like it was just the title and author on the spine and that's it? How would those sell in the now heavily image-based consumer culture, where the image is king? Cause now probably like half the reason a customer will decide on one book over the other is because it has a better cover, right? I know I've done it. This all being said, book covers has evolved into this strange art form. I don't know about you, but I think book covers are freakin' beautiful nowadays. But I digress.

So read this book please. I liked it a lot.
reviewed by Schuyler

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