Tuesday, August 24, 2010

A Review of A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan

A Visit from the Goon Squad
3 out of 5: A Visit from the Good Squad, a collection of loosely connected short stories presented as a novel, spans decades and covers the overlapping lives of numerous characters. Each of the thirteen chapters is told from the perspective of a different character such that no single character emerges as a protagonist. In addition to jumping back and forth across various times and characters, Egan also experiments with form in these stories. The most unusual story takes the form of a PowerPoint presentation.

Egan's self-imposed constraints are conceptually interesting, and, evaluated individually, the stories are generally well-crafted and imaginative. Overall, however, A Visit from the Goon Squad lacks narrative cohesion and doesn't exhibit enough direction or momentum to tie the stories together. The PowerPoint chapter, for example, is visually striking but delivers a reading experience that feels more like an over-long business meeting than an engaging work of fiction. While Egan's creativity and willingness to push boundaries is laudable, the uncoordinated result disappoints.

3 comments:

Zibilee said...

I am glad to hear your honest opinion on this book because I had been thinking about reading it. Finding out that it's not really cohesive and a little eccentric pushes me towards abandoning my purchase. Thanks for sharing this review...I have missed seeing you around! Hope all is going well!

Bullwinkle said...

I liked the book better than you did, though I agree that the value is more in the parts than the whole. I wanted to point you to Jennifer Egan's website, where you can see the PowerPoint chapter in PowerPoint, with color and the music referred to in the chapter.

There is also lots of other interesting stuff there for people interested in the book and Egan.

Melissa (Betty and Boo's Mommy) said...

I'm reading this now and not quite feelin' the literary love for this one that everyone else seems to have ... so I'm glad to see this review. Thanks so much for making me feel like it's not just me!