"There are so many ways to go wrong. All we've got are metaphors, and they're never exactly right. You can never just Say. The. Thing."
So. A Visit From The Goon Squad. It almost defies classification really- there are all these chapters that are all different stories, but also they're all interconnected so that in the end you see this intricate tableau of people and their relationships and stories, and the way it all hangs together is really kind of magnificent. The day after I read it (and I read it all in one day, partially because readathon! But also because I'm not sure I could have not read it all at once) I actually made a timeline of when I assumed each of the important characters was born, which was pretty nerdy and which I've now lost, which is probably for the best. But the point is that this book gets to you, and you want to spend all your time figuring out who slots in where and who knows who and whatnot. Or possibly that's just me.
Now, when Red reviewed this ages ago (and probably was the biggest motivating force behind me buying it, her reviews are pretty persuasive!) she said that she saw the book as a series of short stories, and whilst I see where she (and all the people on the 'short story' side of the fence) is coming from, I have to respectfully disagree. The thing is, every single one of the chapters is connected to at least another one, there's nothing just shoved in there without reference to other characters in the novel, and there's definitely a closed loop thing going on in terms of the story. I can't think of anything raised in any one chapter that doesn't get answered in another one, and there was definitely nothing I was left hanging about. Everything and everyone is sorted out, even if it doesn't necessarily go the way you wanted.
So, we're 3 paragraphs in and I've literally said nothing about the story/stories. Anyone would think that style is all this book has going for it, but nope! Each chapter has clearly been carefully thought about and each has its place in the narrative, and the narrative as a whole is fairly awesome. It's basically impossible to give you a definitive 'This is what the story is all about' because it's not like that- each focused on character has their own story to tell, and the fact that characters from other chapters pop up in the others but aren't the focus is something that appeals to me so much because this is what life is like! Seriously- we each have our own stories (lives), people come into them and go out of them all the time, and sometimes they're part of our stories and sometimes they aren't. And that's just life.
Let's talk about a few of my favourite chapters, shall we? (This shouldn't really be spoilery, but if you literally don't want any information at all about this book then you should probably skip this paragraph) I loved the 'PR lady for a dictator' chapter so incredibly much, because it was kind of ridiculous and yet you can totally imagine someone getting themselves into that situation, and I also liked the 'Sasha's College Years' chapter, (that wasn't really about Sasha) even though, or probably because, it was really sad. I could take or leave the Powerpoint Chapter, but it really didn't feel like it was there to show off or anything, and I sort of see it as almost an autistic thing that the narrator of that chapter has almost picked up off her brother?- but that could just be me. And then I really really liked the last chapter, which felt slightly dystopian, but also not that far away from now, which obviously makes it ultra disturbing!
What I loved above all, though, was the way it all hung together so beautifully- that something could be mentioned so briefly in the first chapter, and come up as an actual thing that happens later in the book (obviously it's not in chronological order... that was obvious, right?), or that in the first chapter Bennie's in, he seems like such a loser, and from another person's story later on, we can see how he got that way. It's like getting to know a person- meeting them at a certain moment in time, and then patching together their past life in an attempt to get to know how they got to this point, this one, right here. And I can't even describe how beautifully the first and last chapters align- it's seriously perfect.
Basically, you should probably definitely read this book. I basically loved every character, and those I didn't love I at least understood, and could appreciate how they got into such a state (unlikeability). It's incredibly well crafted, and amazing, and probably one of my favourite reads of the year so far. I recommend taking a day for yourself and this book, and predict that you'll have a very lovely time together.
I read this book as part of the Fuck the Patriarchy Readathon. If you'd like to donate to Rape Crisis, please visit this Justgiving page. Thanks!
I'm glad you liked it. I found it absolutely painful to read, but obviously I'm in the minority there... lol.ReplyDelete
Do you know what, I think your review (you reviewed it and said it was a big load of suck, right?!) actually put me off it as well as all the other stuff! So... I mean, I disagree entirely now, but nice effective reviewing man! HeheDelete
The main thing I took away from that book was Egan's vision of the future with everyone and their weird handsets. It seemed way too terrifyingly real!ReplyDelete
Totally too real! Especially since they have some kind of weird pointing devices, and how far away is that from an iphone? Exactly! But but also the whole rest of the book and its awesomeness!Delete
I read this one awhile back and don't remember a ton of specifics, but I remember really liking it. I thought the entire novel was so delicately weaved, connecting ideas that, are incredibly relevant; notably time and memory. I'd love to read more books with her post-modern style soon!ReplyDelete
I definitely feel like this could be a book that I'm always thinking 'oh I really liked that!' but can't actually remember too much about it... which is sad, but it's sort of the nature of books that don't necessarily have the one character to root for or the whole cohesive storyline thing. I'd *definitely* love to read more books like it though, do you know of any?Delete
Yes yes, I will read this eventually. But can't short stories be interconnected? I feel like they can. COMPROMISE. And so forth. Or something.ReplyDelete
Anyway, I think I read like the first five pages a while back and thought it was good enough to read. And now you and Red've recommended it. So...y'know. Kinda have to get to it at some point now.
I gues short stories can be interconnected. But this just feels like SUCH a complete story, in the end, that I totally see it as a novel instead of short stories. This is a valid debate people have been having about this book (according to Wikipedia) so I just wanted to throw my thoughts into the ring too!Delete
Red and I are clearly the supreme overlords and authorities on which books are good. So yes, read this book!
Supreme overlords and authorities on which books are good. I feel like that should be stated on all of our blogs somewhere...Delete
Damn, you're so right. Maybe we should get business cards printed and that can be our main occupation... Awesomeness.Delete
The last chapter was soooo good. I really liked the whole book. Short stories or not, I'm glad you are in the 'loved it' camp.ReplyDelete
Me too! The whole book is SO awesome, cause even if there are chapters you don't like so much (and really, I can only think of maybe one or two that I was slightly meh about) you can still appreciate them and their role in the whole thing. Love it!Delete
I had the pleasure of hearing Jennifer Egan read an excerpt from this (a chapter about a kleptomaniac, I think?) and it has been on my wishlist ever since! Now that I know more about it (thanks to your review) I am even more eager to get a hold of a copy. It sounds SO awesome, and exactly like something I would like.ReplyDelete
Oh how awesome! The kleptomaniac chapter is the very first one, but obviously because of the way the book is, it could kind of be anywhere in it and it would work just as well! And YAY my review has extra convinced you to read it! I hope you love it now... heheDelete
Yay I'm glad you read it and realized its awesomeness even if we disagree on the short story-ness. Although thinking about it now I agree with you that it is more than short stories. Although the stories totally work on their own without the others (that PR Dictator one I read in a collection of short stories long before reading Good Squad and didn't realize it was part of a larger narrative) so they're still short story esque. But more. Damn Egan and her defying easy explanation.ReplyDelete
You know what, I definitely agree that each of them could stand as short stories, and yet because they're all together like this they end up being more than that. I feel like that's a definition we can agree on, right? But still, this is just so awesome that it doesn't even matter :)Delete
I do trust everyone's opinion but this book scares me as I generally don't like it when authors are overly experimental with the structure of their books. I have it on my kindle, and I'm sure I would like it, I just don't feel that push to actually start reading it.ReplyDelete
IT'S REALLY AWESOME!!!! (big enough push? Hehe)Delete
You know what? I basically felt the same as you just over a week ago, and it was only because someone had said to me 'you should read it all in one day because all the characters are linked and stuff' and because I was doing a readathon, that I was just like fuck it, I'm reading it. And it was awesome!
So basically, I hope that whenever you feel that push, you read it and you love it :), but I'm not going to force you into it because I think that'd make you like it less (and because I don't wield that kind of power over you. Or do I..?)
Ooo, I love books and movies with multiple narratives that somehow all fit together. This sounds really good - it's now on my to read list. I'm guessing you need to be in the right head-space to get everything out of it, but it sounds like the characters and writing would make it an enjoyable read even on a lazy-brain day.ReplyDelete
I liked this book but I got sad when some of the stories rushed by. I loved spotted all the links between people.ReplyDelete