Review: A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan

Posted: May 20, 2014 in Reviews
Tags: , , , , ,

Originally posted at West of Mars, this review is being moved to a new home here at The Rock of Pages

It figures that Jennifer Egan’s A Visit from the Goon Squad just won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction. The judge found it to be emotionally satisfying.

Before the prize was handed out, I sat down with a copy, freshly downloaded from my local library. And… I hated it. I didn’t finish it. I couldn’t make myself do it. (That’s why it figures that it won the Pulitzer! I’ve seen this happen waaaay too many times.)

To be honest, I found the book boring. I found it emotionally flat, the same way I react to way too many short stories I’ve read in my time. The stories may have been about rock and roll — and they were, since they featured an aging record exec and his young employee — but they failed to strike that chord with me. You know the chord I’m talking about: the one that resonates and makes the book breathe. The one that transcends words and makes everything come alive.

Goon Squad felt too much like I was back in graduate school, bored and yearning for something different. (Of course, I feel the need to point out that my fellow students felt similar loathings toward me — only they wished I’d conform and write something they could relate to. Needless to say, workshops could be difficult. You grow a thick skin FAST in those environments.)

I’m not surprised this book won the Pulitzer. The only award-winning books I seem to like are the Printz award winners, and I’ve only read a couple of them. (They’re for Young Adult, in case you aren’t familiar with it, and one of my all-time-favorite books, Fat Kid Rules the World, was the first Printz winner I encountered. Yep, another work of Rock Fiction.)

If you decide to see what you think, go for it. Let me know if I didn’t read far enough into it and if I ought to suck it up, check it out of the library again, and find the spark that wasn’t present in the first three or four stories. Or better yet, if you’ve read and reviewed this, holler. I’ll save myself the return to agony and give you some props.

  1. […] The plots sound okay, but … wow. These are short. They aren’t even novellas; it’s more like linked short stories. And while we saw Rock Fiction short stories win the National Book Critics Circle Award when Jennifer Egan put them in one volume, not everyone loved what came of it. (Like me) […]

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