Monday, May 7, 2012
A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan
Moving from San Francisco in the 1970s to a vividly imagined New York City sometime after 2020, Jennifer Egan portrays the interlacing lives of men and women whose desires and ambitions converge and collide as the passage of time, cultural change, and private experience define and redefine their identities.
Bennie Salazar, a punk rocker in his teenage years, is facing middle age as a divorced and disheartened record producer. His cool, competent assistant, Sasha, keeps everything under control—except for her unconquerable compulsion to steal. Their diverse and diverting memories of the past and musings about the present set the stage for a cycle of tales about their friends, family, business associates, and lovers.
A high school friend re-creates the wild, sexually charged music scene of Bennie’s adolescence and introduces the wealthy, amoral entertainment executive Lou Kline, who becomes Bennie’s mentor and eventually faces the consequences of his casual indifference to the needs of his mistresses, wives, and children. Scotty, a guitarist in Bennie’s long-defunct band, emerges from life lived on the fringes of society to confront Bennie in his luxurious Park Avenue office, while Bennie’s once-punk wife, Stephanie, works her way up in the plush Republican suburb where they live.
Other vignettes explore the experiences and people that played a role in Sasha’s life. An uncle searching for Sasha when she runs away at seventeen becomes aware of his own disillusionments and disappointments as he tries to comfort her. Her college boyfriend describes a night of drug-fueled revelry that comes to a shocking end. And her twelve-year-old daughter contributes a clever PowerPoint presentation of the family dynamics—including hilariously pointed summaries of her mother’s “Annoying Habit #48” and “Why Dad Isn’t Here.”
From a trenchant look at the vagaries of the music business and the ebb and flow of celebrity to incisive dissections of marriage and family to a provocative vision of where America is headed, A Visit from the Goon Squad is unnerving, exhilarating, and irresistible.
To find a discussion guide for this book in the NoveList Plus database, go to the Library's website, click on Novelist in the Reader's Cafe under "Book Finders." Click on "Book Discussion Guides" in the right sidebar on NoveList's home page. Then, either enter the title in the Search box or search for the title alphabetically. (You will need your Salt Lake County Library card number to access this resource outside a county library.)