The older I get the harder it is for any book to get on my special-place-in-my-heart shelf. The last time I found myself raving about a book as if it was the Second Coming of Christ was when I read Evening is the Whole Day in December 2009. Either I have been reading lots of so-so books lately or I have become jaded.
Luckily, here comes this book to prove to me I am not as indifferent as I would like to believe myself to be.
Another thing this book proves is that you can have a best selling collection of short stories, as long as you pretend they are a novel. Short stories seem to be perfectly suited to our current busy lifestyles and short attention spans. It's baffling they are pushed off the literary mainstream, and judging by this book's success, it seems to be some unexplainable prejudice. After all, this book is just a collection of loosely connected episodes that could (and have been) easily published as stand alone stories.
The appeal of "A Visit from the Goon Squad" lies in its treatment of passing time and growing old, of how people go from being the protagonists to barely mentioned secondary characters. These are all things we know about but we don't like to think about. The delicate way in which Egan presents the inevitability of all of them makes it a very sad, melancholic, and bitter-sweet read. This book is also about rock'n'roll because music is one of those things that were always better when we were young.
No matter how accomplished and powerful the character, he or she will eventually get pushed aside and left to reminisce. This is the most powerful and important message that this book delivers. However, it doesn't leave you completely hopeless. It uses a beautiful metaphor of pauses in rock'n'roll songs. Just when you think it's all over, the song comes back on after a couple seconds for its one last hurrah.
I have read a few negative reviews (most notably Sarah Aswell's one) and while I see where they are coming from, I must say this book did it for me. It was so true that all I could do was sigh for two reasons. One, because we're all gonna die, two, because there is no way I could ever write anything this powerful.
Time is a goon and life is a bitch, eh?