“A Visit From the Goon Squad”
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: postmodernism. 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 lot 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 lack of free will, although we think that life is at our own free will. According to her we 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 is 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...
Cited: Egan, Jennifer. A Visit from the Goon Squad. New York: Alfred A.
Knopf, 2010. Print.
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