Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Rock n' Roll Review

"A Visit from the Goon Squad" was the Newberry selection for November.  I was the one who suggested it so I was also asked to lead the discussion.  As with other books I have suggested the question from the people at Newberry was "why did you pick this book?".  If you've read this one you will understand when I say "I listened to the parrots".

Judging by the press and reviews people were falling all over themselves to praise this book.  It won the Pulitzer!  It must be good.  Not so fast, the Newberry group is not that easily won over. 

We have read a few books lately that follow this new (it feels new to us) trend of combining many stories into a book.  Is it a novel?  A collection of short stories?  It is a lazy way to write?  Did the author have so many ideas that she could not edit or sustain a narrative?  The other books we thought were similar were "Oscar Wao", "Let the Great World Spin" and "Olive Kitteridge".  The group was not saying that we hate this new format, just that we think Egan did not present it as well as others we have read.

People liked Egan's writing and choice of words - they just did not care for the content and stories.  I would have to agree.  The record idea of Side A and B was a little cliche after a while.  So if I don't like one of the stories is that like not liking a song and I can just skip it or not replay it?  But books and music are not the same for me - music I will repeat, books I will not.

My favorite story was the one about Dolly and the General.  I wanted to read more about those characters.  But maybe that is the point - that you just get a taste.  I think in some stories Egan was challenging any critics - if you don't like it you're too old - when Bennie talks about Lou being nostalgic and that means Lou is out of touch.  I also thinks she has fun with trends in the last chapter.  The wife writing her thesis about "quote" words was great.  The Power Point chapter was confusing to most.  We also wondered why even include the chapter withe the uncle going to rescue Sasha?  I thought maybe to include the line about his writing about Cezanne painting words - is Egan writing a record?  But would I re-read those stories?  No.  Would I read another book by Egan?  Probably not.

So we agreed that while we did not care for the book we were glad we read it because we don't want to be stuck in the past and want to experience new authors. 

Note to self:  next time I might read the book I suggest for the Newberry group.  And I heard people saying on the way out they would not recommend this book to someone to read.  I would not either.  The content I liked was a single, not an entire album.  I would say read "Oscar Wao" or "Downtown Owl" before this one.

One of my favorite moments from the discussion is when one woman said "do you know records are in vogue again?".

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