Thursday, April 28, 2011

Book #1: A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan

There are books driven by the characters who inhabit their pages and books driven by the author's ideas. This is an idea book. It is an ambitious book, a collection of stories strung together loosely by a sprawling cast ("squad") of characters, but more strongly tethered by the concepts of music and time. It struck me initially as gimmicky: A-side chapters and B-side chapters, even a Powerpoint presentation chapter, footnotes for Christ's sake...all that post-modern form play that usually irritates the crap out of me. But somehow Egan makes it work and even managed to win over this reluctant reader. While I prefer books piloted by the characters, this book takes flight based on some pretty beautiful examinations of time's passing, rendered in frequently luminous prose. I probably won't remember the people in these stories, but I will remember some of the wonderful details: the autistic child's obsession with the pauses in songs, the description of someone smelling like the inside of a peach, the slow loss of a sunset to a new building as it is constructed.

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