Skip to content

A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan

April 1, 2022

“Time’s a goon, right? You gonna let that goon push you around?” one character asks another toward the end of this remarkable novel.

Time is indeed a goon, inflicting relentless, harsh, but ordinary punishment on characters in this collection of interconnected short stories. Bennie Salazar and his trajectory from teen punk rocker to burned out record label exec, the members of Bennie’s high school band, his assistant and kleptomaniac Sasha, the uncle who tries to track her down when she runs away to Italy, a PowerPoint presentation by her daughter many years later. There are other stories, a safari in Africa, a past-her-prime American actress sent to meet an African dictator, the return of one of the teen band members, now clearly with some kind of mental illness as a Daniel Johnston-esque musician. A boy obsessed with songs with extended pauses. A jenga tower of interdependent lives.

But as much as time does a number on these characters before our eyes, Egan bends time to her will. She pops us masterfully from one story to the next, around the globe, decades forward and decades back. In the most impactful moment, she slides us forward twenty years in the middle of a sentence and gives us a devastating glimpse at the future of a young boy.   

A Visit from the Goon Squad won the Pulitzer in 2011. Reading it now, I wonder what took me so long. The writing is fantastic, the characters compelling, and the overall vibe—a blend of humor, satire, nostalgia and existential dread—is so unique. Egan’s new book, The Candy House, a sequel to Goon Squad will be released Tuesday, April 5. I’m looking forward to it.  

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: