Time is one of the most precious things we have in our lives. Ironically, it is also one of the things people do not value until they realize they have irreversibly lost it. The issue of time and its preciousness is the key aspect of Jennifer Egan’s book A Visit from the Goon Squad. However, the author does not proclaim time to be something treasured. On the contrary, time is depicted in a negative through a series of approaches in this book that it something between a novel and a series of short stories. The book’s narrative and its structure are its most unusual features. There is no certain connection to the past, present, or future. The stories are constantly traveling in time, just like their heroes and heroines are. It is not until one has read the last page that he or she can make sense of what has been read, arrange the elements, and imagine a whole picture of what the author was trying to convey. Even then, there is a fair chance that a reader might not grasp the whole idea of the character’s narrations, worries, and impressions.
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The first question that comes to mind after reading several stories from the book is, “What is going on?” The reader is stunned by Egan’s choice of narrative, but at the same time, it is impossible not to be enchanted by this decision. Because the characters and their stories are truly interesting, one keeps reading until the end to be able to make some order of the events and realize the causes of the actions and events. It is not an easy thing to do, but the diversity of characters and happenings fascinate and grasp the attention. Constant shifts of narration keep the readers curious and irritated at the same time. It might be problematic to follow all the events and characters, but it is also rather engaging to see them from different angles and build the whole picture by oneself.
Another unusual thing about the book is the choice of the narration types. Rather than speaking either from the first or third person, Egan’s stories constantly shift from one to another. Even more than that – one story – “Out of Body” – is being told in the second person, which gives it an absolutely peculiar sense. The reader is being addressed by the narrator, which makes them feel as if the young man is addressing them, talking to them, trying to share things with them. The readers feel themselves as characters of the story because “Sasha knows all your secrets” and “you stand up” watching Drew and Sasha kiss (Egan 64). The experience of this chapter is something too dramatic to forget quickly. Egan’s choice of narrators is indeed unusual and notable. Although ambiguous at times, it seems to be one of the unique forms of expression employed by the author to reach the effect of impressing the audience and making readers interested in the book.
Constant shifts of narrators and time dimensions not only keep readers alert and intrigued. These changes bring about one more crucial idea. Along with realizing the significance of time, the audience feels its strong impact and realizes how cruel it may be. This idea is partially hidden in the title of the book. A goon means someone violent, and the goon in the stories is the time itself. In fact, one of the characters challenges the others during a conversation by saying, “Time’s a goon, right?” (Egan 45). It is probably the main idea of each of the stories and the book in general. This is what all the characters voicing the author’s ideas proclaim. Time is, in fact, violent. Its cruelty is inseparable from its preciousness. These features are connected so closely that as soon as one fails to notice how time flies, he or she is bound to lose it.
The characters in Egan’s book are different, and their experiences and stories are quite diverse. However, there is one thing that unites all of them: they have all felt that time is “a goon” (Egan 45). Whether consciously or unconsciously, they have noticed how time flies, and at some point, each of them has asked a question, “How did I come to this?” Time gives people opportunities, but it also has the power to take things away. Egan’s A Visit from the Goon Squad is about taking away: it tells stories of people who lost their fame, family, love, happiness, and many other things. The narrative techniques chosen by the author make the audience realize the issue of time’s value better. If one does not treat time cautiously, he or she will eventually end up having nothing. Egan helps readers to realize that there are things to regret in the past, present, and even future. And the crucial thing is not to allow time to become one’s goon. The goon squad visits everyone, but it is up to each person how he or she welcomes this squad.
Egan, Jennifer. A Visit from the Goon Squad. Alfred A. Knopf, 2010.