Want to know what the best novel is that I've read in years? Possibly ever? Look no further. A Visit From the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan is the very one.
I probably won't end up featuring novels too often here. Reading novels regularly is a relatively new phenomenon for me; I never used to have time to indulge in fictional worlds before. My reading was always nonfiction, and usually art history. But since working at the bookstore, I've found a number of good reads throughout the last couple years that put me firmly into the fiction-reading crowd. Usually I finish them and think, "Well, hey, could've been worse." But every once in a while I finish one and think, "Wow. I want to read it again right now." This one was one of those.
It's funny that I very nearly bought it at O'Hare airport a couple months back when I was in dire need of something to read during a four-hour layover. It had just come out in trade paperback and the bright cover design for the trade is enticing, and almost makes more sense than this:
Pictured is the hardcover art. But needless to say, cover art does not make a book. I sometimes like to think that it does, and I'll be the first to admit that I ALWAYS judge a book first on its cover. It's smart to do so, I think. They say not to. But who's they? Metaphorical cliche lovers, that's who. Cliche lovers who are usually not talking about books at all. I am not an cliche lover. Or a lover of adages. In fact, I'm the opposite. I find them extremely annoying. But that's for another time.
At the airport, I ended up buying The Imperfectionists by Tom Rachmann, and though it was good and a worthwhile read, it's related to Goon Squad in that both books focus each chapter on a different, yet related/intertwined character. Goon Squad takes us back to the past and ahead a little into the future with a group of people who are as colorful and believable and wonderful as could be. You want to be them, and at the same time you're glad you don't know them personally. Their tales are moving, and hit very close to home. You can just see what Egan means, what she's getting at. And the prose moves at an astoundingly quick pace. One of the chapters is written entirely in flowcharts. It's novel. Pun intended!
Jennifer Egan completely outdid herself. I read about 1/3 of her prior book, The Keep, and though it was good, it wasn't brilliant, which A Visit From the Goon Squad clearly is. And just as clearly, the Pulitzer people and the National Book Critics Circle agreed that it was am-A-zing.
And do you want to know WHAT? What I JUST LEARNED? (This makes my day, hence the caps:) It's going to be an HBO series!