2011 Pulitzer Prize Winner, Fiction
2011 National Book Critics Circle Award Winner, Fiction
New York Times Book Review Best Book
One of the Best Books of the Year: Boston Globe, Chicago Tribune, The Daily Beast, The Miami Herald, The Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Newsday, NPR's On Point, O: the Oprah Magazine, People, Publishers Weekly, Salon, San Francisco Chronicle, Seattle Times, Slate, Time, The Washington Post, and Village Voice
Jennifer Egans spellbinding interlocking narratives circle the lives of Bennie Salazar, an aging former punk rocker and record executive, and Sasha, the passionate, troubled young woman he employs. Although Bennie and Sasha never discover each others pasts, the reader does, in intimate detail, along with the secret lives of a host of other characters whose paths intersect with theirs, over many years, in locales as varied as New York, San Francisco, Naples, and Africa.
We first meet Sasha in her mid-thirties, on her therapists couch in New York City, confronting her long-standing compulsion to steal. Later, we learn the genesis of her turmoil when we see her as the child of a violent marriage, then as a runaway living in Naples, then as a college student trying to avert the suicidal impulses of her best friend. We plunge into the hidden yearnings and disappointments of her uncle, an art historian stuck in a dead marriage, who travels to Naples to extract Sasha from the citys demimonde and experiences an epiphany of his own while staring at a sculpture of Orpheus and Eurydice in the Museo Nazionale. We meet Bennie Salazar at the melancholy nadir of his adult life -- divorced, struggling to connect with his nine-year-old son, listening to a washed-up band in the basement of a suburban house -- and then revisit him in 1979, at the height of his youth, shy and tender, reveling in San Franciscos punk scene as he discovers his ardor for rock and roll and his gift for spotting talent. We learn what became of his high school gang -- who thrived and who faltered -- and we encounter Lou Kline, Bennies catastrophically careless mentor, along with the lovers and children left behind in the wake of Lous far-flung sexual conquests and meteoric rise and fall.
A Visit from the Goon Squad is a book about the interplay of time and music, about survival, about the stirrings and transformations set inexorably in motion by even the most passing conjunction of our fates. In a breathtaking array of styles and tones ranging from tragedy to satire to PowerPoint, Egan captures the undertow of self-destruction that we all must either master or succumb to; the basic human hunger for redemption; and the universal tendency to reach for both -- and escape the merciless progress of time -- in the transporting realms of art and music. Sly, startling, exhilarating work from one of our boldest writers.
- ISBN-13: 9780307477477
- ISBN-10: 0307477479
- Publisher: Anchor Books
- Publish Date: March 2011
- Dimensions: 8.01 x 5.2 x 0.7 inches
- Shipping Weight: 0.72 pounds
- Page Count: 368
Best bets for reading groups
This month’s best paperback releases for reading groups include this year's National Book Award winner and two much-touted novels.
Jennifer Egan’s raucous new novel, A Visit from the Goon Squad, offers a perceptive look at today’s music industry by focusing on the career of a man who’s seen it all. Bennie Salazar was in a punk band years ago in San Francisco. Now a record producer in New York, he serves as the center of Egan’s narrative, which is structured as a group of loosely connected vignettes about Bennie’s career and the California music scene that nurtured him. The book flashes back to Bennie’s wild past, conjuring a range of voices and characters from that era—groupies, street kids, would-be musicians—then returns to the present, highlighting the changes that have taken place (for the worst, mostly) in the music business. Egan develops a wonderful cast of characters along the way. There’s Sasha, a kleptomaniac who works for Bennie, and Scotty, a fellow musician who’s now a recluse. At once humorous and earnest, antic and tender, this is an inventive look at an aging artist and the passions that fueled his career.
AT THE RACES
Winner of the National Book Award, Jaimy Gordon’s latest novel, Lord of Misrule, is a rich depiction of horse-racing culture set in West Virginia in the 1970s. Tommy Hansel, a trainer at Indian Mound Downs, hopes to swindle the competition through a con involving four different horses. When Tommy is joined at the track by Maggie, his attention-grabbing girlfriend, she’s quickly noticed by everyone, including gangster Joe Dale Bigg. Drawn to the dark side of racing, Maggie soon finds herself in need of protection, which arrives in the form of a tough guy named Two-Tie. At Indian Mound, a place where loyalty and honesty are in short supply, fortunes can change overnight, and Tommy’s luck doesn’t last long. In Gordon’s hands, the track is brought to vibrant life, populated with groomers and gamblers, coaches and owners. Her many narrative gifts include an ear for jargon, an instinct for pacing and a style that’s lyrical without being heavy-handed. This is a masterfully crafted novel that’s satisfying on every level.
TOP PICK FOR BOOK CLUBS
The top choice, hands down, of BookPage readers for best new title of 2009 will finally be available in paperback on April 5. With more than two million copies sold, The Help has been so successful in hardcover that publication of a paperback edition was delayed several times. Adding to the excitement surrounding this insightful Southern novel is a much-anticipated movie based on the book, scheduled for August release and starring up-and-comer Emma Stone. Set in Mississippi in the 1960s, the story of how smart, resourceful socialite Eugenia “Skeeter” Phelan joins forces with two black maids, Minny and Aibileen, to write a book about the lives of Southern servants is a poignant and ambitious work of fiction. Through the alliance of this unlikely trio, Stockett examines the big shifts taking place in 1960s society. The novel’s crisp prose, fresh characterizations and inventive storyline all seem the work of an old hand, but this unforgettable novel is Stockett’s debut.