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A Visit from the Goon Squad


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#1 Tyler

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Posted 20 September 2011 - 01:56 PM

I first read Goon Squad around 6 months ago, and while I thought it was inventive and some parts were interesting, I had no clue what was going on by the end of the book. Later, I heard that it had won the Pulitzer Prize for literature, so I figured there must be something I'd missed.

In case you're not familiar with the book, here's the Publisher's Weekly review on the Amazon page, which does as good a job summarizing Goon Squad as anyone could in one paragraph:

Starred Review. Readers will be pleased to discover that the star-crossed marriage of lucid prose and expertly deployed postmodern switcheroos that helped shoot Egan to the top of the genre-bending new school is alive in well in this graceful yet wild novel. We begin in contemporaryish New York with kleptomaniac Sasha and her boss, rising music producer Bennie Salazar, before flashing back, with Bennie, to the glory days of Bay Area punk rock, and eventually forward, with Sasha, to a settled life. By then, Egan has accrued tertiary characters, like Scotty Hausmann, Bennie's one-time bandmate who all but dropped out of society, and Alex, who goes on a date with Sasha and later witnesses the future of the music industry. Egan's overarching concerns are about how rebellion ages, influence corrupts, habits turn to addictions, and lifelong friendships fluctuate and turn. Or as one character asks, How did I go from being a rock star to being a fat fuck no one cares about? Egan answers the question elegantly, though not straight on, as this powerful novel chronicles how and why we change, even as the song stays the same. (June)



I read Goon Squad again this past week for my fiction workshop class. One of our assignments in the class is to take one of the books we're reading (the class is focused on linked stories, story sequences, and composite novels, which are all the same thing, really) and make a "reverse storyboard" from it. We have to take the book, break it apart, and figure out how it works. I volunteered to storyboard Goon Squad at the beginning of the semester, and I'm very glad I did now. I dreaded the thought of getting my head around the book at first, but by concentrating as much as I had to for the assignment, I really came to appreciate Goon Squad and how hard it must have been to pull off.

I'm creating a website for my storyboard project, in which I attempt to reconstruct the characters' story arcs into linear timelines. I'll post a link to the site here once it's up.

HBO has optioned Goon Squad, and plans to make a series out of it, or something. One of Egan's inspirations was The Sopranos, but all the same, I'll believe it as a series when I see it. One of the chapters is told entirely through Power Point slides.

Edited by Tyler, 20 September 2011 - 01:59 PM.


#2 Tyler

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Posted 21 September 2011 - 03:06 PM

My timeline website.

Pretty much the whole thing is a spoiler, by the way.

#3 Christian

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Posted 13 April 2012 - 01:01 PM

I first read Goon Squad around 6 months ago, and while I thought it was inventive and some parts were interesting, I had no clue what was going on by the end of the book. Later, I heard that it had won the Pulitzer Prize for literature, so I figured there must be something I'd missed.

I'm nearing the end of the audiobook but still have a ways to go (am avoiding spoilers, like your timeline). I'm trying to knock out the book before I see Egan later this month (if all goes according to plan).

The fractured timeline presents some challenges for the audiobook. I find myself wondering, "Wait, which character is narrating the story now?" But "rewinding" is a chore in audio -- paper is better for flipping back and scrutinizing -- so I hold on, hold my breath, and wait for an explanation that usually arrives a bit later. It may have been laid out earlier in the book, but if so, I've missed it and have to wait for the story to shake itself out a bit later on. I'm in one of those spots right now.

#4 Tyler

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Posted 13 April 2012 - 01:09 PM


I first read Goon Squad around 6 months ago, and while I thought it was inventive and some parts were interesting, I had no clue what was going on by the end of the book. Later, I heard that it had won the Pulitzer Prize for literature, so I figured there must be something I'd missed.

I'm nearing the end of the audiobook but still have a ways to go (am avoiding spoilers, like your timeline). I'm trying to knock out the book before I see Egan later this month (if all goes according to plan).

The fractured timeline presents some challenges for the audiobook. I find myself wondering, "Wait, which character is narrating the story now?" But "rewinding" is a chore in audio -- paper is better for flipping back and scrutinizing -- so I hold on, hold my breath, and wait for an explanation that usually arrives a bit later. It may have been laid out earlier in the book, but if so, I've missed it and have to wait for the story to shake itself out a bit later on. I'm in one of those spots right now.


My timeline site (link above) might help you sort some of those questions out--I had a hard time getting my head around the book before I made it--but it could also spoil some secrets if you're in the middle of the book.

#5 Christian

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Posted 18 April 2012 - 04:50 PM

My timeline website.

Pretty much the whole thing is a spoiler, by the way.


That was actually very helpful, Tyler. Thank you.

Edited by Christian, 18 April 2012 - 04:50 PM.