A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan

In 2011, A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. This award for distinguished fiction by an American author, preferably dealing with American life, is granted annually, although no prize was distributed last year. That was the seventh time in the history of the prize, since the Novel category was renamed Fiction in 1947, that this has happened and the first time in over 35 years.

According to Seymour Topping on the Pulitzer website, the Pulitzer prize board has, over the years, been attacked by critics for their choice of award winners. Sometimes this was because a jury’s advice regarding a particular finalist was not followed by the board that makes the ultimate decision. The subjective nature of the whole process may account for that, as well as the board’s lack of regard concerning popular inclinations, such as choosing to honor fiction that hasn’t been on bestseller lists and drama that hasn’t been staged on Broadway, but rather off-Broadway or in regional theaters.

That being said, what would inspire you to read this book? In addition to winning this prize it won others, it got the popular vote too and was on several bestseller lists, and finally the critics DID agree that the novel was worth reading. Jennifer Eagan’s News page lists some of the book’s accolades. Check out what Will Blythe says in the review To Their Own Beat in the New York Times Book Review and what Sara Churchwell says in A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan – review in The Guardian about the novel. More published reviews can be found in the Academic Search Complete UWW access only database.

The plot of this novel cum short story collection is pleasingly convoluted and simply cannot be reduced by me to the miniscule outline I usually present. It can, perhaps, best be summarized using the words of Will Blythe from the review above, which are most edifyingly read without taking a breath.

“Sasha, a kleptomaniac, who works for Bennie, a record executive, who is a protégé of Lou who seduced Jocelyn who was loved by Scotty who played guitar for the Flaming Dildos, a San Francisco punk band for which Bennie once played bass guitar (none too well), before marrying Stephanie who is charged with trying to resurrect the career of the bloated rock legend Bosco who grants the sole rights for covering his farewell “suicide tour” to Stephanie’s brother, Jules Jones, a celebrity journalist who attempted to rape the starlet Kitty Jackson, who one day will be forced to take a job from Stephanie’s publicity mentor, La Doll, who is trying to soften the image of a genocidal tyrant because her career collapsed in spectacular fashion around the same time that Sasha in the years before going to work for Bennie was perhaps working as a prostitute in Naples where she was discovered by her Uncle Ted who was on holiday from a bad marriage, and while not much more will be heard from him, Sasha will come to New York and attend N.Y.U. and work for Bennie before disappearing into the desert to sculpture and raise a family with her college boyfriend, Drew, while Bennie, assisted by Alex, a former date of Sasha’s from whom she lifted a wallet, soldiers on in New York, producing musicians (including the rediscovered guitarist Scotty) as the artistic world changes around him with the vertiginous speed of Moore’s Law.”

Enticed? Check our copy out from the Great Minds Collection. If someone beats you to it, click on “Get It” in the Research@UWW record and then on “Request” to place a Hold and get on the waiting list. Alternatively, click on “UW Request” to get it from another UW System library for free (this is usually faster than waiting for a book to be returned).

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About Martha

Martha is a Reference & Instruction Librarian and the liaison to the Biological Sciences, Computer Science, Languages and Literatures, Mathematics, and Physics Departments
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