Time can hurt, time can heal; time can be indulgent; time can be a bastard. Time is a non-linear, intransigent, painful blob that traps everything. In A Visit from the Goon Squad, Jennifer Egan gives a vivid and moving representation of it.
What is at stake with experimental literature is a sense of coldness and detachment. It can divert the reader from the delicate process of immersion and empathy (one of the great pleasures of reading a story). But Jennifer Egan, thanks to brilliant dialogues and three-dimensional characters – wounded, lonely, lost in an everyday struggle in the effort of being understood – avoids affectation. Thus, Pulitzer-awarded A Visit from The Goon Squad keeps the connection with the reader alive without being cloying.
Proust mixed with The Sopranos
Starting from the two main characters, the musical producer Bennie Salazar and his assistant, Sasha, Egan intertwines other characters, timelines, and locations.
She states she found her inspiration in two sources: Proust’s In Search of Lost Time and HBO‘s The Sopranos. It’s an odd combination but makes perfect sense. Goon Squad is a book about memory and kinship, time and narrative, continuity, and disconnection. Relationships shift and recombine kaleidoscopically in the story.
Egan wrote neither a novel nor a collection of short stories, but something in between. She narrates every chapter from a different perspective, crafting it with freshness and plausibility. The author explores not only language and perspective but even format. For example, a chapter comes in the form of a magazine essay. A rape report has David Foster Wallace‘s style. Finally, one chapter has the appearance of a PowerPoint presentation, with a surprisingly touching effect.
Egan’s novel is a symphony that connects voices and experiences, moving back and forth in the cyclicity of life.