It’s hard to describe Jennifer Egan’s A Visit from the Goon Squad. It’s not really a novel, with a single narrative strand; but I wouldn’t describe it as a collection of short stories, either. It’s more of a literary symphony. By which I mean it’s chapters, featuring overlapping characters and situations, synthesize into a mellifluous harmony.
The opening chapters introduce us to music producer Bernie Salazar and his assistant Sasha, a closeted kleptomaniac. Tertiary characters, who make an appearance or are briefly mentioned, become the focus of ensuing chapters; the same character never narrates more than one chapter; and Egan gleefully shifts the action backwards and forwards through time as she interrogates the interconnectedness of dozens of lives.
It’s ambitious, absolutely; and equal parts compelling and alienating. The narrative takes various forms, and Egan deploys different styles. I’d love to mind-map the whole thing; really deconstruct the novel, properly consider its architecture. It’s a book I admired more than I enjoyed as a storytelling experience. Unpopular opinion, but I prefer Manhattan Beach.
Publisher: Little, Brown Book Group
Publish Date: 9-Jun-2011