A word of advice before you read Jennifer Egan’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, A Visit from the Goon Squad— it’s not a novel. It is a series of engaging, but only very loosely connected, short stories about a group of musicians.
In the Random House Reader’s Guide, Egan offers the following explanation:
When I talk to audiences about how I came to write A Visit from the Goon Squad in the form it takes, someone invariably says, “I really wish I’d heard what you just said before reading the book; I would have enjoyed it more.” So, it seems worth summarizing my remarks for the benefit of book clubs-or individual readers…
I began A Visit from the Goon Squad without a clear plan…My guiding rules were only these:
1) Each chapter had to be about a different person
2) Each chapter had to have a different mood and tone and approach
3) Each chapter had to stand completely on its own
This begs the question– if an elaborate explanation is necessary in order to appreciate a book, how good a book can it be?
Despite stylistic tricks, AVGS is a pretty good read, and prompted a lively discussion at the NCN Book Club earlier this month. But not being privy to Egan’s guidelines, I wasted precious time flipping back and forth through the book looking for errant characters and connections that weren’t there.
Armed with my new knowledge, I almost read the book again, but then thought, nah!
What Other Reviewers Say
The Wall Street Journal: “Egan has accomplished the tricky feat of using metafiction techniques without sacrificing old-fashioned storytelling…A Visit from the Goon Squad has a circuitous structure that seems almost designed for our Internet rewired brains.”
Who Wrote It
Jennifer Egan is the author of The Keep, Look at Me, and The Invisible Circus. Her stories have been published in The New Yorker, Harper’s Magazine, and GQ, and her non-fiction appears frequently in The New York Times Magazine. A Visit from the Goon Squad was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2011.