Sunday, May 1, 2011

A Visit From The Goon Squad

It just gets better. Franzen without the hokeyness. Foster Wallace without the self indulgence.

Though I fear certain aspects of getting older, as most people do, in other ways I feel like I was made for it, because I always want to know what happens in the end. In my early 30s, I am already starting to learn who lives, who dies, who stays married, who gets a divorce, who succeeds, who fails. I'm getting to know people I knew when they were babies as adults, and I remember thinking about them when they were very young, I can't wait until you're old enough to have a real conversation with me.

A Visit From The Goon Squad is the perfect book for someone who always wants to know what happened. We see characters at 40-something, then back at 17, and others at 17 and then at 40-something. Some characters we meet and learn the fate of all in one chapter, almost as an aside: this is what happened to that person.

I also love this book because it is filled with women who make what one character terms "disastrous choices," but doesn't portray them as without agency. That seems obvious: choices, agency. But it isn't. In so many cases, the younger ex wives of a record producer would be portrayed as pitiable victims, and also as secondary characters, relevant only as per their role in his path toward redemption and maybe treating women better someday. Here, they are people who, as anyone does, make mistakes that they learn from. One woman comes back from an international expedition with her wealthy older boyfriend thinking, well, that was fun, but time to get on with my graduate work. She looks around at her ratty apartment, sees year after year of squinting over textbooks and living on lentil stew stretched out before her and thinks, hmm, pitching grad school to marry a guy who is fun and rich, maybe not so bad. Then, later, she's like, well, that was stupid, but what can you do. Pretty much everyone I know thinks just like that.


When I'm in a certain mood, this is also how I feel:

Jules put his arm around her. "If you'd ask me this morning, I would have said we were finished," he said. "All of us, the whole country — the fucking world. But now I feel the opposite."

Stephanie knew. She could practically hear the hope sluicing through her brother. "So what's the answer?" she asked.

"Sure, everything is ending," Jules said. "But not yet."

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