“A Visit From the Goon Squad” Who Knew? I generally read books for pleasure that have an exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and denouement. When I sit down to read, I want to find out what happens next. I have never taken the time during or after reading a book to ask myself, “what was the theme of that? What am I taking away from that book other than the chronology of events? ” But, I have been forced into changing my ways. After reading “The History of Love”, “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close”, and “Let the Great World Spin”, I have gotten my first taste of something I never knew existed: ostmodernism.Order now
Learning about this genre of writing has pushed me into expanding my boundaries and thinking in an abstract way that does not come easy to me. The trademarks of postmodern writing have come to be something I both loathe and love. Another novel that I consider the best example of postmodernism to cross my path yet is “A Visit From the Goon Squad,” by Jennifer Egan. Egan uses postmodern techniques to tell a story of many characters that get a “visit from the good squad. ” The “goon” in her novel is time and it treats each character differently, leaving some to flourish and others hopeless.
Time’s a goon, right? Isn’t that the expression? ” Egan’s novel is a concoction of stories told from different viewpoints covering many years in time that somehow tie together throughout. This postmodern fiction combines a nonlinear timeline, a shifting point of view and mixed media to create multiple stories that loosely hang together and convey a theme of how time relentlessly robs the characters of their success and their lives. Egan uses a nonlinear timeline in a way that provides a looking glass for the reader to create their own reality and interpretation of the characters’ lives.
Across the book Egan takes the reader backward and forward through time, crossing continents and decades with ease. We see Bennie as a young rock star and again as an older, successful record producer. Sasha is seen throughout as a kleptomaniac on a date with Alex and again in the end married and living with her husband in the desert. This form of writing is so non-traditional and so far from modernists’ writing that it forces me to reassess all preconceptions I had about literary narrative and story telling.
Egan attempts to “break the frame” of all traditional writings that I and a ot of other students have learned about since elementary school. She essentially blows up the preconceived notions about how a story is “supposed” to be written and puts in her own twists and turns of postmodernism. Even if a book starts in the past tense, I genreally expect that the book will be chronological from its point of origin. But Egan uses postmodernism to show that every person in this book is a combination of the past, present, and future, again contributing to my interpretation of reality within the story.
I think this form of narration also emphasizes Egan’s portrayal of discontent with the state of the human condition. With the use of this nonlinear timeline, Egan also tries to illustrate to the reader that life is somewhat predetermined. She makes it seem like we as humans have a really do not understand why or how we have a “fate” or “destiny’ but she attempts to explain this concept through her structures. These structures predict in a way what the outcome of a situation will be. “Structural incompatibility: A powerful twice- divorced male will be unable to acknowledge, much less sanction, the ambitions of a much younger female mate.
By definition, their relationship will be temporary. ” Egan s saying that although this “powerful twice-divorced male” thinks he is living his own free will by dating a younger female and eventually ending the relationship due to her ambitions, it was all set out before it happened by this structural incompatibility. She uses others such as structural resentment, structural affection, structural desire, structural fixation that are all meant to describe different situations and different predetermined futures that are completely out of our control, although we may not know it.
Egan’s novel embodies everything it means to be postmodern especially with its ontinuous shifting point of view. Bouncing from one protagonist to the next, “A Visit From the Good Squad” starts with Sasha, who works for a man named Bennie, who is a record label executive, and was once a prot?©g?© of Lou. Lou, an older man, dated Jocelyn, who hung around with Bennie when he was younger and in a band called the Flaming Dildos. Lou eventually marries Stephanie, who tries to rescue a washed- up rock legend, Bosco’s, career.
Stephanie’s brother, Jules, is a celebrity Journalist covering Bosco’s story, who was charged with raping Kitty Jackson, who eventually nds up working for Stephanie’s publicist, La Doll, who is working to soften the image of a genocidal dictator. In the end, Sasha disappears into the desert with her college boyfriend, Drew, to raise their family, Bennie, who is accompanied by Alex, who had a short rendezvous with Sasha in the first chapter, continues on in musician production, including his old friend Scotty who once loved Jocelyn.
This intricate labyrinth of stories, which is only part of the complete list of stories in the book, shifts between narrators from chapter to chapter and still manages to give the effect of a eal life experience to the reader. I think the shifting point of view makes the book more dynamic. Having multiple perspectives reinforces the ways in which “A Visit From the Good Squad” is postmodern; it allows us to see how each character constructs their own personal reality that is comfortable for them. We shape reality based on what we know and what feels right.
I think Egan uses first person in some chapters to allow the reader to feel and relate to what is going on with the character. First person gives us insight into the thoughts, emotions and opinions of the narrator. While it is more personal than other points of view, I think that first person takes away objectivity from the story, which tends to be a more modernist view anyways. Postmodernism rejects that there is an objective natural reality and they also follow that there is no real truth. Egan also uses second person, which I think is very under used.
Second person gives a reader-inclusive feel, which helps us in creating that vision of “reality’ from our own conclusions. “Interpretation is everything; reality only comes into being through our interpretations of what the world means to us individually. ” A third way in which “A Visit From the Goon Squad” embodies postmodernism is Egan’s use of mixed media. Egan spends 70 something pages on PowerPoint charts passage moves the book into the future and seems like a risky challenge for an author to take, which Egan skillfully conquers.
The chapter loses surprisingly little emotional impact considering that it relies on arrows and other visual cues to convey its part of the story. This use ofa PowerPoint as a literary genre in its own puts Egan’s novel on the far end of the postmodern spectrum but it in no way incapacitates her ability to convey the theme of the book. We see here that Sasha has overcome her constant urge to steal, or so we think, and has moved to raise her family with her college boyfriend.
We do know assume that her son has autism, and he has an obsession with the pauses in songs. I think these pauses that he obsesses over are also part of Egan’s emphasis on time. The song is still going, but there is a pause, and we do not really know when it is going to end, but it will end. I think Egan is implying that this is how life tends to be, which made a pretty big impact on me when I actually sat down and thought about that. It inspires me to live my life more ften, and not to let the pauses fill my time.
This novel uses other postmodern ideas to convey its theme; that postmodernism “relies on concrete experience over abstract principles, knowing always that the outcome of one’s own experience will necessarily be fallible and relative, rather than certain and universal. ” In the novel we see inherent helplessness of the characters against the insurmountable force of time. Their helplessness is shown through their degeneration over time, also shown within the nonlinear timeline. There is no way to avoid time. The “goon” is inevitable. There is almost never an optimistic outlook from he characters.
In the book, time strips each person of his or her youth, innocence and success. Bosco questions, “how did I go from being a rock star to a fat fuck no one cares about? ” Lou strips Jocelyn of her innocence, casually forcing oral sex upon her at a concert, and Scotty, stripped of his success as an adolescent, being rejected by Jocelyn and ending up as a Janitor, somehow finds that success again in his older age. The characters see the world in constant motion, but they are standing still. They are slowly becoming part of the past. We, as readers, can see Just how time has changed them through this nonlinear timeline. ou grew up Alex, Just like the rest of In conclusion, I surprised myself with how much I could take away from a book. Now that I know how much can really be behind the story line, I will hopefully keep it in mind to think about what the author is trying to get across to the reader when I finish a book. Egan makes a point to make it obvious to the reader what her main point is as to force them, like I was, into recognizing the more complex structure of postmodern writing. Even though postmodernism does not give all the answers, which I would like to know, it leaves the conclusions up to the readers’ imaginations.
The conclusions I came to about different characters are what I believe to be the real “truth”, which is a nice change from modernists writing that puts the opinions in my head. I think Egan expects that these postmodern principles should be reinforced in the readers’ daily lives to teach them to always seek out the truth for oneself based on what one knows to be the truth. Now that I am aware of postmodernism I am going to try and keep broadening my spectrum of reading. And who knows what else I might learn? Egan, Jennifer. A Visit from the Goon Squad. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2010. Print.