Monday, June 3, 2013

A Visit From the Goon Squad: "We have some history together that hasn’t happened yet."


What can I even SAY about this book? That I had forgotten what a well-written book was like until I read the first five pages of this one? That I want to have entire paragraphs tattooed on my person? That it's funny and clever but still manages to make me feel the kind of profound sadness I get when I look at pictures of Earth from outer space?

Or just...I guess one word is fine, too.

Goon Squad reads like a book of highly cohesive short stories, because each chapter is told from a different character’s perspective and jumps around on the book's timeline, with corresponding (often drastic) changes in voice and tone. Egan basically wears a different body for each chapter (slimy but effective). And you've probably heard of the chapter that's entirely in slideshow format? It SEEMS like that would come off a little gimmicky, but it's so far from anything resembling a gimmick. You'll see, my friends (because you're currently purchasing this from your friendly neighborhood bookseller, I trust).

None of the characters are formally introduced. You get acquainted with them organically, within the framework of their connection to a previous character. And the more you read, the more you gather about the book’s two central characters. But you’re not always aware that they ARE the central characters, because you’re learning about them in such a roundabout way. Each chapter builds on the previous one to give you an idea of who these two people are and how they came to be that way, and it’s all based on the people whom they crossed paths with or who meant something to them at some point, and then it comes full circle and is JUST lovely.

I think the magical component is that this rings so true to life. We are an amalgam of all the people we’ve known and all the places we’ve been and all the things we’ve done. And the only way to really know a person is to know ALL those things, places, and people. And it’s so overwhelming and wonderful to realize that you just can’t. You can’t know. We don’t even know ourselves that way. 

ISN'T IT FANTASTIC AND ALSO TERRIBLE?

Egan’s writing is flawless. She drops a little nugget in one chapter as though it’s incidental and then brings it up several chapters later in another person’s story to powerful effect. It’s emotional but never emotionally manipulative.

It’s hard to pull out quotes for this book, because everything is seamless and interlocking. So here’s basically an entire paragraph (I’m sorry, Jennifer, if this breaks some sort of copyright law . . . you brought this on yourself):
Many years ago, he had taken the passion he felt for Susan and folded it in half, so he no longer had a drowning, helpless feeling when he glimpsed her beside him in bed. . . . Then he’d folded it in half again, so when he felt desire for Susan, it no longer brought with it an edgy terror of never being satisfied. Then in half again, so that feeling desire entailed no immediate need to act. Then in half again, so he hardly felt it. His desire was so small in the end that Ted could slip it inside his desk or a pocket and forget about it, and this gave him a feeling of safety and accomplishment, of having dismantled a perilous apparatus that might have crushed them both.
I KNOW.

22 comments:

  1. UM OKAY WELL NOW I HAVE TO READ THIS.

    I've read lots of reviews of this book and was waiting until the hype passed (because I am too cool for the hype, natch) BUT basically I'm trying to tell you that this review is excellent and you have convinced me. So thanks!

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  2. YESSSSSSSS! You said all the things I would have said if I'd been able to say things well (I believe I mainly went 'the structure! It's so different! And SO GOOD!') But basically yes to all of this you lovely eloquent person!

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  3. I got this from the library about a week ago and it has been staring at me, begging to be read.


    Nicely done, madam. Nicely done.

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  4. The hype can be SCARY, right? I'm still terrified of Ready Player One, and that's a little embarrassing. But I'm very flattered that I was able to convince you to read this one. : )

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  5. THANK you for saying that I made good words. I felt the way you usually feel when you're trying to write about an awesome book...which is aldkjfl;k lakdfj;diurj eoiu;lakdjf asldkjf.

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  6. You have it right THERE? Just...sitting there unread? You should fix that. ; )

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  7. Ready Player One is a tad indimidating to me, since I'm not a gamer and I'm worried I won't get it. Which is a reading feeling that is The Worst.

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  8. You and I have VERY DIFFERENT feelings about this book, Megs. Don't even get my started on that damn gimmicky PowerPoint chapter. But please say you still like me.

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  9. The one word is fine when Fassbender is saying it. Otherwise, I like your way. (of course, it's great when he says anything so...)

    Or you could just say this (as you did) because I love this: " We are an amalgam of all the people we’ve known and all the places
    we’ve been and all the things we’ve done. And the only way to really
    know a person is to know ALL those things, places, and people." Because really, THIS

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  10. I'm not a gamer either...and I don't know how up on 80s pop culture I am. Let's hold hands.

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  11. Noooooooo, Emilyyyyyyyy. But really, it's fine. Of COURSE I still like you. I just won't throw you a Goon Squad-themed birthday party or craft you a slideshow journal.

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  12. Fassbender needs to record an audiobook. We'll start a petition.

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  13. I LOVE books like this, where there are different perspectives that interlock so well, gotta hunt this one down!
    THANK YOU for Fassbender. Always. <3

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  14. I will buy 10,000 copies of that audiobook.

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  15. Don't worry, you don't need to be a gamer to love RP1!! I only have the most rudimentary knowledge of 80s arcade games but I still loooooved it. If anything it's the 80 movies that are more important/bigger.

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  16. MEGS YOU POSTED THIS WHEN I WAS TRAVELING OR SOMETHING AND I'M ONLY JUST SEEING IT NOW

    "We are an amalgam of all the people we’ve known and all the places we’ve been and all the things we’ve done. And the only way to really know a person is to know ALL those things, places, and people."

    SHIT I didn't even GET that from this book. Omg i'm the worst book blogger. You are awesome. This review was one of those good things that happen.

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  17. *looks down at half-finished slideshow journal*


    DAMNIT, EMILY

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  18. Oh I know allllll about the '80s movies. I feel much better about this now.

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  19. It has all the perspectives! And they interlock! You'll love it.

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  20. I DID I DID POST IT WHILE YOU WERE TRAVELING. I am sorry. I don't know what I was thinking.


    Your late comment was worth the wait though. I have good feels.

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  21. Done. Finished.
    Thank you!

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