Find us on facebook

Monday, April 9, 2012

"A Visit from the Goon Squad", in search of lost time in the digital age

A Visit from the Goon Squad- Jennifer Egan

Just to tell you which side I'm on, as an American literature reader (my family and friends would say "obsessed") my "education" is full of: "dirty realists and damned writers", "beatniks", the "lost generation", "southern gothics", "new journalists" and Woody Allen's humour and vision of life. I overtly admit vangardists and post-modernists writers haven't had a lot luck with me (few exceptions), but hey!, I keep trying.

In that sense, "A Visit from the Goon Squad" seemed a perfect choice. The 2011 Pulitzer's Prize, coming from an unknown writer (in Spain), Jennifer Egan, who has been included by Time Magazine among its most influential people list (whatever that means), and dealing with music. Curious? Needless to say I was. A lot.

I'm not going to spoil the intricate plot for you, but as the excellent artwork used by the promising new Spanish editorial Minúscula Jennifer Egan's book works as a coral mixtape dealing with one subject: time. A very peculiar "concept album" conformed by thirteen chapters, where thirteen characters explain, in their own different ways, a significant moment of their lives. From the 70s to 2020, this stories connect with each other, as the characters are linked through Bennie Salazar, who's work as musician and music producer gives the context of this peculiar novel.

One has to praise Egan's attempt to create something different, intimately connected with the "digital age" in which we are living. Her book is an intriguing "artefact", that despite its distorted, fragmented structure and therefore, different voices inside, is capable of permeating "A Visit from the Goon Squad" with a very cohesive (and classic, but don't worry, this is not Proust) element. A genuine sense of melancholy goes throughout the novel, the characters suffering that constant defeat against time, confronting their past with their changing present.  

But this book, as many mixtapes, records, compilation albums, in particular when they include "various artists", is unbalanced, some chapters being far more interesting than others, and a few of them, being a bit annoying, in my opinion. Yes, I'm basically referring to the "powerpoint" chapter. As a post-modernist idea it might be a literary achievement, and it might serve well the purpose of reflecting how communication evolve in the digital era. But after five pages, it is boring to read. The "journalist chapter" might be a fun homage to the ill-fated Foster Wallace, but lacks his punch. And the final, futuristic episode is, well, too blatantly "modern" to  bring you back to start, to collect the disjointed pieces and compose the fragmented puzzle. 

Again, I have the impression of aesthetics being more important for the author than the story she wants to explain. But as I said, "A Visit from the Goon Squad" leaves you with a quite powerful sense of longing for time, for the past that has gone, so aside from its original structure and attempts for new narrative forms, this is finally a "modern book" that achieves being substantial and interesting. Will look for more from Jennifer Egan.  

SCORE: 6,75/10

No comments:

Post a Comment