14 March 2011

You all already knew this, but...

...Jennifer Egan's A Visit from the Goon Squad is ZOMGawesome.

I am approximately the gazillionth person to say so--partial list of honors and best-ofs etc. here--and among the least influential, but what I can say? Hardcovers are expensive, and I think I was hold 75 or something at the Brooklyn Public Library, so I didn't get to read it till this weekend. Or rather, in two bursts Saturday afternoon and last night--it is an OM NOM NOM of a book. Less a traditional one-narrative novel than thirteen interlocking, interdependent, inter-informing short stories, Goon Squad is about (in an oversimplified way, natch) the power of music and the power of time, to inspire and wound. The chapters--many of which previously appeared as stand-alone stories--are carefully ordered to shed light on characters, events, motivations backwards & forwards through the book, so that something mentioned in passing becomes a sudden lurch of heartbreak and/or beauty later on.

I did feel that the last chapter, "Pure Language," set in a social-network-global-warming near-future dystopia that's pure Super Sad True Love Story territory, was by far the least compelling--kind of an meh note to go out on. But right before that is the Powerpoint chapter, which can only be called brilliant. The book really is as good as everyone says, you guys.

Would I have picked it over Skippy Dies in the Morning News Tournament of Books? Nah. But Anthony Doerr, who did, admits that "because I’m in the absurd position of saying one very good book is better than another very good book—I’ll say that A Visit From the Goon Squad was a slightly more relevant book for this particular reader at this particular moment." As another particular reader, I simply leaned an inch or two the other way.

[P.S. Hey, you see those book title links that go to IndieBound? It's the trade organization for U.S. independent bookstores, and makes it super simple to buy from awesome stores all over the country and strike a blow for local, loving, bricks-and-mortar booksellers. If you spend a little extra to get the best produce at the farmers market, why not spend a little extra buying your books from someone who cares? Also, I think I get a couple cents. WOOOOO]

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