Tuesday, December 28, 2010
A VISIT FROM THE GOON SQUAD by Jennifer Egan (2010) Knopf
A VISIT FROM THE GOON SQUAD is my first exposure to Jennifer Egan, but it certainly won't be my last. I'll be shuffling through her backlist as soon as my local library branch can source each title. Her narrative is smart and her prose clean and sometimes startling.
The novel weaves together the stories of Bennie Salazar, a 60-something NYC record exec with a punk rocker past, with Sasha, his glamorous and competent assistant with a storied past of her own that includes kleptomania, anorexia and more than one attempt at suicide. And, although Bennie and Sasha are oblivious about the essential details of each others' complicated lives, we are party to every secret along the way from a family safari in Africa to getting lost and found in Naples, Italy to San Francisco's punk scene in the early 70s and New York City today.
There are supporting characters that move in and out of Bennie's and Sasha's lives and the gaps between their entrances and exits serve as musical rests in the symphony of each life. We come to understand that the silences are as resonant as the notes themselves. Sasha's 13-yr-old son Lincoln is obsessed with the pauses in songs and it is his obsession that leads Sasha to realize, "the pause makes you think the song will end. And then the song isn't really over, so you're relieved. But then the song does actually end because every song ends, obviously, and THAT. TIME. THE. END. IS. FOR. REAL."
Egan uses a variety of narrative techniques that embrace and satirize contemporary forms including texting and PowerPoint. For me, each page was a revelation, a pause on each character's path to redemption. Isn't that what we all yearn for?