A Visit From The Goon Squad, Jennifer Egan

The book is creative and exceptionally well-written, even though its subject matter is not easy to discern or decipher, in some chapters, and some people have opened and closed it without attempting to understand the message, rather becoming defeated by its style. It is very slow and lyrical in places and staccato in others. “Reading” the book with an audio version may largely be responsible for that impression.  The reader is very emotional and expressive although she does not throw her voice well, into the different characters, especially the males.
The storyline is confusing. The time-line travels all over the place as the characters are introduced, dropped and then reconnected with, at various points in the book, without regard to chronology, as the book travels back and forth over fifty years. It begins with four main characters, members of the Dildos, a musical group, four dysfunctional young adults making poor choices with a lackluster home life, each with a penchant for bending or stretching the rules, each wanting to make their own statement to the world, to define themselves as different, special. We watch as the characters and those they meet, develop, succeed, fall from grace, disgrace themselves, recover and sometimes proceed with normal lives.
At first the characters are rebellious. They don’t like society as it is and they protest with their music and their behavior. As the book progresses, they mature and change with the exigencies of life. From the days of rebels to the days of middle and old age, many learn to conform, some from necessity and others from desire. From the rowdy, defiance of their youth to the quiet acquiescence of their middle age and beyond, we witness the growth, and sometimes defeat, of the characters and the people with whom they interact. In the end, some years into the future, their progeny are the opposite of the way they were and disabuse foul language and protest. They seem more content and concentrate on keeping the peace, curing the planet and finding themselves, without confrontation.
Finally, years later, in 2023, with a concert featuring a bygone instrument, a slide guitar, and a has-been, the book seems to complete its circle. The performance begins with rather benign melodies and lyrics, but later, it descends into the protest of the songs of the once revolutionary musician.
Each of the characters carries some baggage with them, from their backgrounds, their personal dysfunction or simply their desire to oppose the “powers that be”. In the end, I believe the message may be that of futility, the futility of protest, of bucking the system, of defiance for the sake of defiance, since in the end we all seek the same thing, quiet, harmony, joy and contentment, progeny, success, health (our own and our planet’s), a coming together of disparate people: a blending of purposes which ultimately brings peace.
The world is populated with solar and lunar panels, helicopters flying low for security; the world is immersed in a constant hum of motion, so much so, that silence is relished, as one of the teen-aged characters discovers, as he graphs the pauses in music for the beauty of the silence rather than the rhythm and beat of the cacophony that used to be applauded.
Eventually, tragedies or victories return all things full circle, to complete the cycle.  As the child of one character is obsessed with musical pauses, yet another is obsessed with the Sasha he once knew and he and Bennie (a  character always obsessed with her) try to find her, but, of course, they can’t. They can’t go back, although, in the end, everything does return to the beginning, the starting line, and the process commences once again, but, with a different cast of characters playing similar roles, walking in their footsteps. Time moves, we all must move with it.
“Time is a goon,” so says the book, and as time passes, things change: people, seasons, lives, hopes and dreams, plans, nature, climate, the world. Time moves along and takes the non-conformists with it, until they too conform; the goon squad, rejecting time, must move on, as well.

About omasvoice

Who am I? I am you. I am everyone out there who loves to read and discuss and voice an opinion!
This entry was posted in Book Reviews, Books for Adults, Fiction. Bookmark the permalink.

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