Wednesday, June 20, 2012

A Visit From the Goon Squad

Hopefully my students gathered that I genuinely like to read. (I'm not just blowing smoke. I'm not saying it because it's the 'teachery' thing to say... I really love reading.) I also hope I was able to pass that love to some of them.

I also like to think about what I read. As such, I'm posting my review of the 2011 Pulitzer Prize winning book A Visit From the Goon Squad here, as well as on goodreads.

While I wouldn't recommend it to students, I would recommend it to parents. It was very good.

Here's the review:

A Visit from the Goon SquadA Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Eleanor and Rabbie, Eleanor playing with rabbie

When I was young, my favorite toy was a stuffed rabbit. I took him everywhere, and I can't remember a time I didn't have him. I remember the time at my grandfather's house in Lancaster, Pennsylvania when my brother cut off his right set of whiskers. I was old enough to know they would not grow back. (Maybe that suggests I was old enough to realize playing with stuffed rabbits is neither very cool, very masculine, nor very mature... I didn't pick up on that, and I loved my rabbit.)

I remember giving the rabbit to my daughter, hoping she would love it as much as I did. She didn't play with it much at first - and maybe I was trying to hard, but I backed off a little, and the other day she was playing with Rabbie and it was an incredible feeling. Now she plays with a dozen baby dolls, and one stuffed rabbit whom she has rechristened, "Molly."

My favorite page in A Visit From the Goon Squad is page 255. Here's what I like: "Mom Spots the Toy Horse: I keep it on my windowsill. It's made of apricot shells. She and Dad got it when they lived in Pakistan. Mom told me once, 'We thought our baby might like to play with that horse.' After Dad and Mom found each other again, she packed up her life in New York and met him overseas. 'I never looked back,' she says. I still play with the horse sometimes, alone in my room. ...Even though I'm 12. ...I like to make the prediction come true."

If you've read the book, you know there is no way to capture that scene, or that chapter. In fact, style-wise, the entire book is unlike anything I've read before.

She writes an entire chapter (save for the last line) in second person. She writes an entire chapter as a power-point presentation. I have never seen that before. (Or if I have, I haven't remembered it.) Perhaps an even greater feat is that they both work. Beautifully well. Romantically well.

I am not a literary critic. I did not go to New York University and study under Harold Bloom, or some other fancy-pants literary scholar.

I'm just a son, husband, father, teacher, musician who loves to read. And the book reached me as few books have reached me.

I understand that books speak to different people in different ways. We read this as a book club book, and some members disdained the lack of plot. Maybe you're the type of person who has to read a plot driven book. To you I say, that was not the purpose of this book. Some books are plot-less and rambling and incoherent and pointless. This book had a purpose. There was intent. I've heard it said that in writing, every word must have a purpose. This may be the first piece of literary fiction where that ideal was attained.

This book is life, a web of connections that crisscross and connect throughout the whole. It is relationships created, relationships forced. It is a time machine speeding forward at a rate we cannot yet ourselves imagine. It is love. It is loss. It is never having loved at all.

View all my reviews

No comments:

Post a Comment