Tuesday, February 22, 2011

A Visit from the Goon Squad

I'm a big fan of Jennifer Egan and have read all of her novels. Look at Me is absolutely brilliant, The Keep is great, and The Invisible Circus... isn't bad either!

Welcome to the Good Squad is her latest, and it's at least as good as my favorite (Look at Me). The main thing I love about Egan is she's soooo theoretical. When I was studying Art History, Look at Me really hit the spot because it's about visual images and definitions. At this point in my life, it turns out, I'm vaguely into quantum physics (in a theoretical, non-mathematical kind of way...) and, you won't believe what theme slips in to A Visit... Ok, I'll tell you: Quantum physics!

I'm working on a theory that we're in a period of Quantum Mechanical Angst right now, like, as a society, so it's no small surprise (according to my working theory) that this idea is popping up lately in art, literature, and theater.*

Egan's quanta explorations have mainly to do with Time. A number of characters slip forward and backward in time as she chooses parts of their stories that create who they are. At one point, one of the characters comes out and nearly quotes this book on quantum physics that I read recently:
Here was the bottom line: if we human beings are information processing machines, reading X's and O's and translating that information into what people oh so breathlessly call "experience," and if I had access to that same information via cable TV and any number of magazines that I browsed through at Hudson news for four- and five-hour stretches on my free days (my record was eight hours, including the half hour I spent manning the register during the lunch break of one of the younger employees, who thought I worked there) -- If I had not only the information but the artistry to shape that information using the computer inside my brain (real computers scared me; if you can find Them, then They can find you, and I didn't want to be found), then, technically speaking, was I not having all the same experiences those other people were having?

Egan employees various story-telling techniques, like a chapter in the form of an article written by a slightly disturbed hipster about a movie star and (guess what?) Quantum Mechanics! Another chapter is famously in the form of a power point presentation - it's surprisingly moving. Like so many authors today, Egan includes some txting language. I think it's interesting how so many artists today are starting to explore this evolution (for better or worse) in language.

Another theme she tackles is music today - its inspiration, creation and distribution. One of the characters, a producer, laments how so much music today is so cleaned up you can't hear its soul any more. I whole-heartedly agree. Egan's fittingly created a playlist on 8Track that's meant to accompany the novel.

Welcome to the Goon Squad incorporates some short stories from over the years - I remember one very clearly from the New Yorker about a publicist who goes to a unnamed country to improve the image of an unnamed dictator. I just stumbled upon another one if you're interested...

There's truly so much to process that I would like to read it again soon. I hope you'll become a Jennifer Egan fan if you're not one already - she's such a terrific writer and she requires an engaged reader.

* And math, for all I know.


d00dpwn1337 said...

Oh, is that why you were listening to pink floyd the other night?

Special K said...


Special K said...

I love when you read my blog. <3