team: goon squad

Time as A Big Fat Bitch

Jennifer Egan is the kind of writer who throws away all the works she has done before and reinvents herself. In her Pulitzer winning novel, A Visit from the Goon Squad, she defied the rules. The novel is not plotted in a conventional way; it does not have a beginning and an ending. It is all about the interplay of time and music. Most writers pen their work in chronological order, but Egan moved in and out of time writing each chapter in disarranged manner. In this way, the readers recall the songs they fell in love with and music scene they were part of. It would seem that the novel is a collection of stories – each chapter has its own protagonist, mood, and feel. That makes it sound like each chapter was written by a different author. Using satire and humor, Egan has weaved a shining piece of literature as striking as the truth.

In A Visit from the Goon Squad you only follow the story of a very few characters. There are some characters that appear in the novel but will not be heard of in the next chapters. The remarkable thing about these characters is that you see yourself in all of them: you know their struggles, you feel bad for their failures, you cry with their pain, and you rejoice with their triumphs. You mourn how their lives end. Jennifer Egan emphasizes one true thing: time is an inescapable goon.

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Yet each disappointment Ted felt in his wife, each incremental deflation, was accompanied by a seizure of guilt; many years ago, he had taken the passion he felt for Susan and folded it in half, so he no longer had a drowning, helpless feeling when he glimpsed her beside him in bed: her ropy arms and soft, generous ass. Then he’d folded it in half again, so when he felt desire for Susan, it no longer brought with it an edgy terror of never being satisfied. Then in half again, so that feeling desire entailed no immediate need to act. Then in half again, so he hardly felt it. His desire was so small in the end that Ted could slip it inside his desk or a pocket and forget about it, and this gave him a feeling of safety and accomplishment, of having dismantled a perilous apparatus that might have crushed them both. Susan was baffled at first, then distraught; she’d hit him twice across the face; she’d run from the house in a thunderstorm and slept at a motel; she’d wrestled Ted to the bedroom floor in a pair of black crotchless underpants. But eventually a sort of amnesia had overtaken Susan; her rebellion and hurt had melted away, deliquesced into a sweet, eternal sunniness that was terrible in the way that life would be terrible, Ted supposed, without death to give it gravitas and shape.
—  A Visit from the Goon Squad, Jennifer Egan