A Visit from the Goon Squad

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A Visit from the Goon Squad Fiction

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Product Description

Bennie Salazar, an aging former punk rocker and record executive, and Sasha, the passionate, troubled young woman he employs, are at the center of Jennifer Egan's spell-binding new novel. Bennie and Sasha never discover each other's pasts, but the reader does, in intimate detail, along with the secret lives of a host of other people whose paths intersect with theirs in the San Francisco 1970s music scene, the demimonde of Naples, New York at many points along the way from the pre-Internet nineties to a postwar future, and on a catastrophic safari into the heart of Africa. Colliding destinies never had it so good!

Editorial Reviews

"Time's a goon," as the action moves from the late 1970s to the early 2020s while the characters wonder what happened to their youthful selves and ideals. Egan (The Keep, 2006, etc.) takes the music business as a case in point for society's monumental shift from the analog to the digital age. Record-company executive Bennie Salazar and his former bandmates from the Flaming Dildos form one locus of action; another is Bennie's former assistant Sasha, a compulsive thief club-hopping in Manhattan when we meet her as the novel opens, a mother of two living out West in the desert as it closes a decade and a half later with an update on the man she picked up and robbed in the first chapter. It can be alienating when a narrative bounces from character to character, emphasizing interconnections rather than developing a continuous story line, but Egan conveys personality so swiftly and with such empathy that we remain engaged. By the time the novel arrives at the year "202-" in a bold section narrated by Sasha's 12-year-old daughter Alison, readers are ready to see the poetry and pathos in the small nuggets of information Alison arranges like a PowerPoint presentation. In the closing chapter, Bennie hires young dad Alex to find 50 "parrots" (paid touts masquerading as fans) to create "authentic" word of mouth for a concert. This new kind of viral marketing is aimed at "pointers," toddlers now able to shop for themselves thanks to "kiddie handsets"; the preference of young adults for texting over talking is another creepily plausible element of Egan's near-future. Yet she is not a conventional dystopian novelist; distinctions between the virtual and the real may be breaking down in this world, but her characters have recognizable emotions and convictions, which is why their compromises and uncertainties continue to move us.Another ambitious change of pace from talented and visionary Egan, who reinvents the novel for the 21st century while affirming its historic values.First printing of 60,000 Copyright Kirkus 2010 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

Customer Reviews

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  • Stay, You Are Beautiful

    4 out of 5

    Written by , Posted on at 12:58:33 PM

    The goon squad of the title is time itself. Time is unkind to human beings, causing them to lose their bloom, beauty, freshness, vivacity, slimness and hair. But it can provide certain benefits too, calming sullenness or causing us to cast off unproductive or embarrassing behavior (and hairstyles). The various characters in this novel interact in surprising and unknown ways as the narrative loops backwards and forwards in time. Rebellious teenagers gallivant through the world in ways that make other people envious. A record producer has high times—until his clients dwindle away. A woman on top of the social world throws a lavish party that goes spectacularly awry and she sees this as the sharp demarcation between her glory years and her current failed life. It’s a phantasmagorical whirl of lives coming together and drifting apart as eras fade and new generations are born. Even as people turn to each other in a shared instance of bliss, demanding that they remain this way always, you know that the intensity of the moment will fade like an old photograph. The novel’s poignancy lies in the recognition that people will make futile efforts to imprison the fleeting moments, even as time shoves them forward with hard shoves between the shoulderblades. It’s a book of contrasts, squalor and splendor, fame and notoriety, joy and anger. People wallow, flounder, try and fail, each in their own individual methods and this novel manages to keep the reader absolutely riveted every step of the way.