Think old school rock n’ roll. Think corrupt music industries, secrets, bands, friendships, family relationships, and the strange interconnectedness that music brings us. “A Visit From the Goon Squad” is best served in an off-beat laneway cafè with a side of soft electric guitar.
I haven’t read many books that have affected me quite like “A Visit From the Goon Squad” by Jennifer Egan did. If you haven’t read it, I highly suggest that you go out and pick up a copy right now. If I had to say what the book is about, I’d say it’s a satire on the music industry, but there is so much more to it than that. It reads almost like a collection of short stories; I’d heard about this before I started reading it, and it kind of put me off. I love reading individual short stories, but the thought of reading a whole collection back to back kind of exhausts me. Despite this, I thought I’d give it a go, and I’m so glad I did.
Each of the segments pretty much stands alone. So much so that the opening story, “Found Objects”, was published in The New Yorker as a short story back in 2008. When you read the book all the way through however, it really does feel like a novel. The stories interweave in just the right way – not too much, not too little. The crossovers are hidden in the minor characters, as the individual stories slowly reveal each character’s backstory until you realise how they’re all connected.
The book starts out following Sasha, a kleptomaniac who works for Bennie, a music producer. The subsequent story is then told from the point of view of Bennie, and so begins an intricate web of character relationships that spans years into the past and future, all the way until the epic, spec-fic ending. I’ve never come across a novel that brings together different genres into a literary work so flawlessly.
“A Visit From the Goon Squad” has a kind of melancholic, almost doomsday mood to it, but this is balanced out by the sharp humour and truly believable and lovable characters. The characterisation is so subtle but so precise, and when I finished reading the last page I felt like I’d lost touch with my childhood friends.
If you like stories about artists, families, music, and human nature, you should definitely add “A Visit From the Good Squad” to your to-read list.