Jennifer Egan’s A Visit from the Goon Squad is a really well-crafted, well-written, interesting and funny book. Honestly. It’s really good. And that’s not just my opinion. I am stating it as an objective fact. (And if you don’t believe me, then believe a Pulitzer Prize). We’re told in the novel that “time’s a goon.” And so the novel is about time, the passage of time, things getting fucked up in time, and things ultimately being redeemed in time. And by things, I mean people and by people, I also mean music. This novel is about a jumble of characters all of whose lives, in one or another, intersect even if they don’t really know this and the book spans their lives sometimes from high school to death, sometimes, the suggestion is, even further. Time is their good. And perhaps they are the “the goon squad.”
There’s Bennie the terrible bass player who becomes a sell-out music executive who becomes something else in the end. There’s Sasha who we see as child, as a run away team, a Kleptomaniac, as Bennie’s assistant and as something else. There’s Jocelyn, who at 16 falls in love with Lou, the too-old record producer. They are a couple. And so, we come to understand are Jocelyn and Lou’s son. Lou’s son kills himself, Jocelyn becomes a drug addict, Lou gets old beside his pool. There’s Rob who we understand to be gay, but is unable to actually be gay. He drowns. And there’s this guy named Bix, Lizzie’s boyfriend. But he’s black and so her parents, from Texas, can’t meet him. Bix is in the novel for only a few pages. But his role is most important. Bix has a poster of Judgement Day in his apartment. Bix who works on computers before computers are a big deal. Bix who takes ecstasy with Rob and reveals that he’s had a vision of the judgement. There’ll be time and place when people no longer lose touch and those we’ve lost will be found. And no one will get lost again. And then there are about 200 hundred more pages and we never hear from Bix again. And Rob dies. But Sasha is found and has two kids, one of whom really likes a “pause”.
I’ve read some reviews that suggest that this book is post-modern. But I think those cats got it wrong. Sure these characters have angst. Sure they seem to be all over the place, without direction or end in sight. But that’s ok. Because time is a goon. And we’re all part of the squad. So time’s goonish means that we’re going to screw up. But time’s goonish means that it keeps rolling on. And in time we might also be redeemed, some characters are. But some aren’t. But we know that the best songs have a “pause.” A break wherein all time is confounded. And in this pause, we’re all redeemed. You just have to wait and bide your time.