A Visit From the Goon Squad

2011 Pulitzer Prize Fiction Winner

A Visit From the Goon Squad

Driving to pick up his son, Bennie alternated between the Sleepers and the Dead Kennedys, San Francisco bands he’d grown up with. He listened for muddiness, the sense of actual musicians playing actual instruments in an actual room. Nowadays that quality (if it existed at all) was usually an effect of analogue signaling rather than bona fide tape—everything was an effect in the bloodless constructions Bennie and his peers were churning out. He worked tirelessly, feverishly, to get things right, stay on top, make songs that people would love and buy and download as ring tones (and steal, of course)—above all, to satisfy the multinational crude-oil extractors he’d sold his label to five years ago. But Bennie knew that what he was bringing into the world was shit. Too clear, too clean. The problem was precision, perfection; the problem was digitization, which sucked the life out of everything that got smeared through its microscopic mesh. Film, photography, music: dead. An aesthetic holocaust! Bennie knew better than to say this stuff aloud.

Nostalgic journey through a yesteryear that already extinct for current i-pod generation. The story rewind and fast-forwarding like old cassette tape with new POV in each chapter, without anything spectacular ever happens.
Yes, that kind of plot structure can be too superficial for some readers. The nothingness surely can wear off patience. But on the flip side, you can also call it realistic. In real life, most people don’t blow up buildings for a living. And our memories don’t work in a straight line narrative anyway.
Does that make it a good read and worth the Pulitzer?
In my opinion, A Visit do have one conceptual flaw. Egan wants to write about time, but ended up writing a lot about the music industry’s past and present (Hardcover edition even features a Stratocaster headstock in its artwork). The inevitable consequence is clear, readers won’t enjoy it much if they have no keen interest in music.

>>Read my other review of 2011 Pulitzer Prize Fiction Finalist:
The Surrendered

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