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.