Monday, November 07, 2011
How Do You Want To Read This Book?
I suppose writers take a really long time to finish a book because besides an intelligible storyline, they would have to be very clear about what each character does and to what purpose. I don't know how Jennifer Egan keeps track of hers because there're plenty of names in 'A Visit From The Goon Squad'. Already hailed as an 'experimental writer' for her particularly 'innovative' style away from traditional narratives, this has been given a very different treatment from her other books.
I like the pessimism the author foretells for each character, right to the bleakness of their lives. You see patterns in the stories. 13 chapters spanning a time frame of 40 years; these stories, could stand alone instead of being read as one story in its entirety. (The New Yorker had published 3 of these separately.) Or if you want to, read it as a story within a story of stories. (Read reviews here, here and here.)
In all the 13 stories/chapters, the situations are familiar, but the brilliance is in the author's narrative and newfangled style of writing in contemporary times of our generation. NPR calls it the "rock and roll novel" that somehow seems to be able to run like a "playlist based on the themes of time and loss....run on rhythms that shift from the aggro mood of punk to the decentered energy of a rave to the fragmented confessions of indie rock." I heartily agree.
It's a novel of the now, meshing the past and future, melding time to the author's will. The story isn't about one person. Not about Lou, a music producer or Bennie the former punk rocker in a band called 'The Flaming Dildos' (Hahahaha) and record executive or his hireling female kleptomaniac assistant Sasha. It's not about the evolution of the music or digital industry which has permeated many facets of our lives. It's also about how technology has changed the way we utilize language to different ends. Many are very taken by how an entire chapter (Story/Chapter 12 'Great Rock and Roll Pauses by Alison Blake) is made up of a powerpoint of a 12-year old's journal.
From Story/Chapter 13 titled 'Pure Language', the book ends with its final paragraphs,
"Alex closed his eyes and listened: a storefront gate sliding down. A dog barking hoarsely. The lowing of trucks over bridges. The velvety night in his ears. And the hum, always that hum, which maybe wasn't an echo after all, but the sound of time passing. th blu nyt // the stRs u cant c // th hum tht nevr gOs awy// A sound of clicking heels on the pavement punctured the quiet. Alex snapped open his eyes, and he and Bennie both turned - whirled, really peering for Sasha in the ashy dark. But it was another girl, young and new to the city, fiddling with her keys."