Review: A Visit from the Goon Squad

I basically don’t remember anything about Jennifer Egan’s A Visit from the Goon Squad, a novel in linked short stories featuring (among others) a kleptomaniac, an ageing record producer who uses gold flakes as an aphrodisiac and a dictator with PR issues.

Spoiler: time is the goon.

Specifically, this is a book about the ravages of time and the inescapable damage it wreaks upon everyone. It won the Tournament of Books in 2011, which is why I read it, and I honestly cannot see what the fuss is all about – despite its structural gimmicks (one story is told as a PowerPoint presentation, which is to be fair more effective than it sounds), the novel feels joyless and middle-of-the-road. This is, I’m sure, partly a matter of personal preference: I value sprawling and messy books that reflect the sprawling messiness of life, and Visit to the Goon Squad feels too controlled, its questions and conclusions too obvious.

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