Wednesday, 16 July 2014

A Visit From The Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan

In a lot of ways, this book reminded me of a John Sayles movie. (That's high praise - he's my favourite director.) With the sprawling but interlocking cast, and the way it moved around in time, to show us many different characters at different moments of their lives, younger and older (not always in that order), A Visit From The Goon Squad seemed almost...cinematic.

And yet it unfolded, at times effortlessly, and although I never really knew what would happen next, I was more than happy to be along for the ride. (Maybe that's what reminds me of John Sayles - it's the same feeling I had while watching Lone Star for the first time.)

The theme of aging is intertwined with music, and being young, and making whatever music you wanted, to the business of music, and the interference of the world around you, to growing old and maybe, finally, making the music you want (if you're lucky) or wondering why you never got around to making that music at all (if you're not.) What selling out means, and what being authentic means, and whether authenticity is anything at all.

To describe the book is almost impossible. There are a few characters we return to over and over, but the book keeps looping out to show their teenage tribes, then back to show their children, and often, in other stories, what happened to those teenagers as they grew up. Who survived. Who faltered. Whether or not that faltering was irrevocable. (In this book, it almost never was.)

For this book, I think you need to have a high tolerance for ambiguity and a willingness to just ride along and see what pleasures Egan has in store. If you do, I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

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