Sunday, January 24, 2016

Fiction | The Music Stops, Time Goes On

I've been putting off writing about this book for a while. I read Jennifer Egan's A Visit from the Goon Squad as my award-winning book from the past decade (Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, 2011) for the Read Harder Challenge. I read it back before Labor Day which, being a hectic time of year with school starting, combined with not really liking it that much, I have to admit I remember next to nothing about it.

Sorry, Egan, for doing you this disservice. (Your book got enough praise anyway; you don't need me.) This post is going to be less reflective and meaningful, more just writing to mark it off the list. But thank goodness for the library's eBook checkouts, providing a quick refresher so I can write this with some level of credibility!

The novel's first two chapters introduce us to Sasha and Bennie, the latter an aging record executive, the former is young assistant. For this reason alone, their sequential placement in the novel, I have to consider them the main focus of this story (as does every synopsis written of this book), though we read many perspectives and meet many new people.

Chapter three knocks us to Bennie's past, as a high school student, a musician in a rock band, as the 1970s draw to a close. A group of friends—Scotty, Jocelyn, and Alice—are the key players in this historical interlude, the subjects of late adolescent friendships and relationships that strive for the complex gravitas of adulthood.

Subsequent chapters hop around, focusing on one figure or another that has been previously mentioned or introduced. Music is the most common theme. Relationships are also a frequent conflict. The finale circles back to Bennie and Alex, a guy we met along the way through, aptly, Sasha.

I think the whole point to this rigmarole is something about, simply, time and that things change and people change and lives go on and the past can end up unrecognizable. But the fact that I can't even remember the poignancy of this conclusion indicates that it wasn't too successful in reaching me. People adore this book and clearly so do award committee members and/or critics, meaning that someone has clearly found significance in this work. And normally this is a format that I adore, the shifting perspective to share a wide-angle view of a story. But with these people I just didn't care, because I didn't like them, and I didn't care about their music, and I didn't care about their lives. So maybe there was some meaning in there, amidst this unlikable lot; I just didn't care enough to look for it.

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