I started to write there are so many things I forgot, but really there are so many things I remember. Here are a few I remembered after the fact–being a Brownie leader, spending every New Year’s Eve until graduate school … Continue reading
2015: Back in Provincetown, I sit still and stare at the water. The last couple of years, all my writing efforts have poured into this current novel and apparently all my self-worth as well. When I see people, they ask if … Continue reading
Yesterday evening while I was walking, I began to think ahead to this year and to 2015. And these upcoming years made me realize that for 2012 and 2013 I left out two important things. One, my parents’ health is worsening, in particular … Continue reading
2013: One week a month in Provincetown. Space is opening all around me. I plan ahead, run the dates by Cal, and start booking flights. In January, I stay at The Watermark Inn. It’s closed. But I’ve stayed here before and it’s … Continue reading
2012: After I give my lecture and reading, I start making the changes to my first novel that my agent (late addition to yesterday’s post) has requested, Tori Amos’ Silent All These Years and Regina Spector’s Us on repeat. Cal comes … Continue reading
2010: The new year begins in the deep snow of Vermont. I stay in the dorm, wear my first pair of snow boots, and vow not to waste any more years writing novels that don’t sell. I will go shorter. And I … Continue reading
2009: Barack Obama is sworn in as the 44th President. After a visit to Bobby in Scotland, Cal comes with me to Sirenland. It’s the only writing conference I know that is spouse friendly. In Italy we make a daily habit of climbing all those steps … Continue reading
As you might guess from the length of yesterday’s and today’s posts–the squares turning into rectangles–writing these short is getting more difficult. The years feel unwieldy now rather than obscure. I’m working to contain rather than to remember. 2008: I start … Continue reading
So the music is back… 2007: Turning 50 gives me pause but not much. To celebrate, I want to go somewhere I’ve never been before. Cal and I plan a trip to a private island in Belize where we have a one-room villa with walls … Continue reading
For the past few years and for a few more to come, I don’t remember what music I was listening to, and I wonder why that is. I’m sure Dave Matthews still, and Jackson Browne always. James Taylor always. And … Continue reading
2005: In January I attend the San Diego State Agent Conference. Ten minutes with each agent. Speed dating. Bobby’s a junior and thinks he wants to go to the University of St. Andrews in Scotland. We plan a visit for spring … Continue reading
And just like that… I’m almost 50. 2004: My stomach issues post-hysterectomy require a trip to the Mayo Clinic. From there I go straight to Miraval–one of their ads caught my attention–but for my next spa visit, I will return … Continue reading
2003: I try the Golden Door Spa, but it feels like famine. While I’m there, I do a silent meditation walk, and before I can stop myself, I’m judging the way people walk. We listen to Dave Matthews as Bobby learns … Continue reading
2002: For her 21st birthday, I take Kathleen to Canyon Ranch. It’s snowing as we board the plane in Atlanta. As the boarding process continues, it snows harder. We pull back and sit on the runway. The captain comes on and … Continue reading
While I sleep, my memory plays. This morning, I remembered something I hadn’t thought about in a long time. I added it where it belonged–to the beginning of yesterday’s post. 2001: In January I read Mary Gordon’s The Rest of … Continue reading
At dinner one new year’s eve, my father told us that one day it wouldn’t be 19 anything; it would be 2000. And when it was the year 2000, he said, he would be 67. He laughed, as if that were … Continue reading
1999: Across the pond, the euro is born, but here at home, there are carpools times a thousand, dentist appointments, doctor appointments, snacks for all the various games, watching the various games, school conferences, the grocery times a thousand, the meals that … Continue reading
The assignment sounds straightforward enough. Select a small shelf of books that represent you–the books that have changed your life, that have made you who you are today, your favorite favorites. My Ideal Bookshelf. Jane Mount, a wonderful artist, asked over … Continue reading
As some of you may know from my recent post, last week, Jennifer Egan’s book, A Visit from the Goon Squad, won the National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction. This morning it was also long-listed for the Orange Prize for Fiction.
A Visit From the Goon Squad is brilliant. It’s not a novel in the traditional sense. The chapters can be read and appreciated as stand-alone pieces. In fact, four have been published that way: “Selling the General” in the anthology This Is Not Chick Lit published in 2006; and three in The New Yorker: “Found Objects” (Chapter 1) in the December 10, 2007 issue, “Safari” (Chapter 4) in the January 11, 2010 issue, and “Ask Me If I Care” (Chapter 3) in the March 8, 2010 issue.
In her review in The New York Times, Janet Maslin is unsure whether the book is “a novel, a collection of carefully arranged interlocking stories or simply a display of Ms. Egan’s extreme virtuosity.” In an interview on Selected Shorts, Jennifer Egan referred to sections of her book as stories and also as chapters of a longer book.
The chapters move backward and forward, and part of the pleasure of reading each one is to figure out where we are in time. From Chapter 13: “Pure Language:”
Time’s a goon, right? You gonna let that goon push you around?
And there are sufficient clues—dates, ages, references to events we’ve read about in other chapters—that the reader enjoys the challenge and never feels frustrated. And after all we should struggle with time, for that is the subject of the book. Time. Who we were then, who we are now, and how we got from there to here—from side A to side B.
From Chapter 7: “A to B:”
The album’s called A to B, right? Bosco said. “And that’s the question I want to hit straight on: how did I go from being a rock star to being a fat fuck no one cares about? Let’s not pretend it didn’t happen.
In the same Selected Shorts interview, Egan said, “And one of the principles of the longer book is that each chapter had to be written in a very different way technically from all the others.”
Because each of the chapters has its own separate sound, when they all play together, the result is the answer to E. M. Forster’s question in Aspects of the Novel:
Is there any effect in novels comparable to the effect of the Fifth Symphony as a whole, where, when the orchestra stops, we hear something that has never actually been played?
The first in a series of posts on A Visit From the Goon Squad. For the second post, click Pure Egan.
cross-posted at The Contrary Blog