You know a book is good when you’re asked to describe it and the first words that come out of your mouth are ‘I can’t even tell you what it’s about…’ This is precisely how I’ve been responding to questions about Jennifer Egan’s ‘A Visit from the Goon Squad’.
I do know how to construct a basic sentence (more or less), but in my defence, even the publishers (Corsair, Constable & Robinson) seemed to have a hard time explaining. This brings me to Exhibit A, the book’s blurb (which is vague at best):
“…vividly captures the moments where lives interact, and where fortunes ebb and flow. Egan depicts […] the sad consequences for those who couldn’t fake it during their wild youth – madness, suicide or prison – in this captivating, wryly humorous story of temptation and loss.”
Yeah. What did I say?
The book is split into 13 chapters, each dedicated to a single character. These characters are so random, and their lives equally so, yet the subtle way in which Egan links one to the other is so precise, so surprising, so utterly perfect.
You move from the life of a record producer with no sex drive, to a kleptomaniac half-heartedly seeking help, to that of a dictator’s publicist etc. You can’t make this stuff up. The book is funny; there’s no doubt about it, but it’s a dark humour that underlines the undeniable pathos of the characters’ lives. It’s so bizarre, yet so real.
I highly recommend this, if only to hear you say to someone else ‘I can’t even tell you what it’s about.’
If you’ve read this already, let me know what you thought! Only if you can articulate this of course! haha