I thought I was so behind in reading this novel or collection of linked short stories that reviewers have been raving about but when I finally got around to it, I realized that three of the first four chapters had been published as short stories in The New Yorker, so I wasn’t as behind as I had thought. Anyway, the feeling of being behind is a good way to come to the book, which is all about the passage of time — growing up, growing old, gaining perspective, losing your touch, falling behind, looking ahead.
In case your reasons for not reading it yet are the same as mine, here’s why they shouldn’t keep you from making the same mistake as me, i.e. not reading this right away:
- The title: If I had known that A Visit from the Goon Squad was a reference to an Elvis Costello song, the title would have been more appealing. Instead it made me think Mafia, and put me off.
- The theme: A Visit from the Goon Squad was described as about the “music industry“, a “rock and roll novel“, and as having lots of references to songs and artists that I figured I wouldn’t get. I probably did miss a lot of musical references but that’s OK. The story was about a lot more than music. And I did happen to grow up in the same musical era as the author, which was nice.
- The cover: i.e. a picture of a guitar. See #2 above.
- The form: Since the author herself admits in interviews that a novel’s being described as experimental doesn’t make her want to run out and read it immediately, I don’t feel so bad that I didn’t put A Visit from the Goon Squad at the top of my list because it was referred to as experimental so often.