She takes hold of his hands. As they move together, Rolph feels his self-consciousness miraculously fade, as if he’s growing up right there on the dance floor, becoming a boy who dances with girls like his sister. Charlie feels it, too. In fact, this particular memory is one she’ll return to again and again, for the rest of her life, long after Rolph has shot himself in the head in their father’s house at twenty-eight: her brother as a boy, hair slicked flat, eyes sparkling, shyly learning to dance. But the woman who remembers won’t be Charlie; after Rolph dies, she’ll revert to her real name – Charlene – unlatching herself forever from the girl who danced with her brother in Africa. Charlene will cut her hair short and go to law school. When she gives birth to a son she’ll want to name him Rolph, but her parents will still be too shattered. So she’ll call him that privately, just in her mind, and years later, she’ll stand with her mother among a crowd of cheering parents beside a field, watching him play, a dreamy look on his face as he glances at the sky.
[Safari, in AVFTGS]
I first got in touch with Jennifer Egan’s work through The Keep, as I said in my previous post.
After reading that novel, I was so amazed by her ability to tell a story that I decided to read her latest novel, A Visit from the Goon Squad, with which she received the Pulitzer. Well, I thought, here’s someone to keep an eye on. And on I went.
Again, I was bemused by Egan’s imagination and capacity of creating these kinds of characters you get attached to and wish they were real. Again, I was struck by the power of her narrative and amount of emotion and real life she can put into fiction.
Goon Squad is rather impossible to summarize, for each chapter can be read separately as a short-story itself. The beauty of it is that, all together, they form an amazing picture of interconnected lives and stories. We start with Sasha, the kleptomaniac assistant of the once famous Bennie Salazar; then Bennie himself, a former record producer who led this glam-rock life – sex, drugs and rock and roll included, baby. It is great how one story is linked to all the others as we follow these characters through life, their transformations, successes and failures – saying more may ruin the surprises the book holds.
It is amazing how inventive Egan can be: the chapters shift narrators and each one of them is unique, making it very hard for me to pick my favs. I simply adore the manner she uses different time settings to tell her stories, even a rather dystopian one by the end of the book. Goon Squad deals, again, with the human nature – not in a moralistic way, for each character is likely to fail and make mistakes as anyone else –, with deep feelings and the choices one makes in life and their consequences in the ‘cosmic’ balance.
Goon Squad is a very clever and audacious book. It is worth every line of it.
One of my fav chapters is told in ppt slides – a journal from the technological era. You can read it right below:
I am currently reading Look at Me also by Egan and I’ll soon post some words about it.