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Literature / A Visit from the Goon Squad

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Time's a goon, right? Isn't that the expression?

A Visit from the Goon Squad is a bestselling 2010 novel by Jennifer Egan.

It is a loose collection of short stories, mostly revolving around an aging rock music executive named Bennie and his kleptomaniac assistant, Sasha. Each chapter is told from a different viewpoint, revealing the past and future of Bennie and Sasha as well as the various people in their lives, nearly all of whom work in the music industry. A scrambled timeline follows Bennie and Sasha and the people they know through a good forty years, from the early 1980s until some time in the 2020s.

This book contains examples of:

  • Anachronic Order: The narrative of the novel is completely scattered, and the chapters jump around in time. Sometimes a chapter will recount a certain scene, then skip forward to comment on how the participants fared years and decades later. In Chapter 7 Stephanie briefly thinks about how her brother Jules went to prison for assaulting an actress; two chapters later we read about the incident where Jules assaulted the actress.
  • Awkwardly-Placed Bathtub: Sasha's New York apartment has one in the kitchen. She never uses it.
  • Ate His Gun: Rolph, Lou's sensitive son, who commits suicide at the age of 28.
  • Black and Nerdy: Sasha's college friend Bix, who is always bent in front of his computer and predicts, in the early '90s, that computer messaging is going to be a big deal.
  • Book Ends: The first chapter has Sasha going out on a date with Alex. The last chapter has Alex, many years later, working for Benny.
  • Bungled Suicide: Bosco wants to kill himself on his Suicide Tour, but ends up surviving and running a dairy farm.
  • Bury Your Gays: Robert is the only character who shows any interest in the same sex. He bites it by drowning in a river.
  • Call-Forward: "According to Bix, this computer-message-sending is going to be huge—way beyond the telephone." Later in that same chapter (set in 1993), Bix also predicts Facebook and other social media: "The days of losing touch are almost gone."
  • Central Theme: The inevitable decay of time, robbing all of vitality and youth, and how one has to resist anyway.
  • Fallen-on-Hard-Times Job: Dolly was once La Doll, queen of New York high society publicity. After a party went horribly wrong and not only ruined her career but sent her to jail for six months due to criminal negligence, she has to start over. She's now doing publicity for an African dictator, General B.
  • Freudian Couch: The opening chapter features Sasha on just such a couch, talking to a shrink about her kleptomania habit.
  • Gayngst: Robert was a high school football star who has enrolled at NYU. He is struggling to deal with his homosexuality, which recently led him to attempt suicide.
  • Good Girls Avoid Abortion: Dolly recalls getting pregnant sans husband when she was a high-flying New York publicist, and dragging her heeels over making the appointment until realizing with relief that it was too late.
  • Head-Turning Beauty: Nearly every male character lusts after Sasha at some point.
  • Hollywood Drowning: Averted with Robert, who only barely realizes what's happening to him as he goes down.
  • I Was Quite a Looker: Almost everybody, in the later chapters.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Bennie.
  • The Loins Sleep Tonight: Bennie, who is in his mid-forties, finds himself dealing with this.
  • Love Dodecahedron: Rhea loves Bennie, who loves Alice, who loves Scotty, who loves Jocelyn, who loves Lou.
  • May–December Romance: Lou, with both Jocelyn and Mindy.
  • Multiple Narrative Modes: There's a second person narration chapter, a chapter in the style of a Power Point presentation, a chapter in the style of a magazine article, a few chapters in first-person narration, a few chapters in present tense narration, some chapters in conventional third-person POV...
  • Once Done, Never Forgotten: One example in La Doll, due to a disastrous party she threw. This is why she's working with General B.
  • New Year Has Come: The setting for the party that ruined Dolly's life, when her special effect with swirling colored hot oils went horribly wrong.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Kitty Jackson, who was a hot young movie star at age 19 and is a burnt-out wreck at age 28, seems to be inspired by Lindsay Lohan.
  • Painting the Medium: One chapter is presented as a Power Point, another as a footnote-ridden article in a magazine.
  • Produce Pelting: Teenaged Bennie's band gets pelted with drinks and other refuse during a performance at a punk rock club.
  • Second-Person Narration: Chapter 10 only. You are Robert, Sasha's college friend. It's 1993, and you have just tried to kill yourself, because you can't deal with your homosexuality.
  • Sticky Fingers: Sasha is a kleptomaniac.
  • Through the Eyes of Madness: Chapter 9 starts off as a celebrity profile of starlet Kitty Jackson by journalist Jules Jones, but as the article meanders on Jones becomes more and more unhinged until at the end he tries to rape and murder her.
  • 20 Minutes into the Future: The latest chapters chronologically are set sometime in the 2020s, with the narration mentioning some technology that's somewhat credible (solar panels that actually harness moonlight as well) and some that isn't (altering the orbit of the Earth to combat global warning).
  • Wise Beyond Their Years: Rolph, and Sasha's daughter Ally, who narrates the Power Point chapter.
  • Villain with Good Publicity: General B. aspires to be one.
  • White-Dwarf Starlet: Kitty is already on this path by the time La Doll works with her.