Jennifer Egan’s 2010 novel A Visit from the Goon Squad may be the first Pulitzer Prize winner to accurately reflect the reading experience shared by the majority of Americans today. It is connected, to be sure, but in digestible chapter-sized chunks that move the narrative forward through various perspectives that each reflect a difference writing style and perspective. (One chapter takes the form of PowerPoint presentation while another is presented in the format of a glossy magazine profile).
Focusing on a former punk rock bassist named Bennie Salazar and what must certainly be a representative of all those weasels that David Letterman used to insist populate the music business—Sasha, Bennie’s assistant with a gift for pinching what is not necessarily due—A Visit from the Goon Squad takes the reader on a journey from the 1970’s San Francisco music scene right 2010 and into the near future.
The disconnected quality of the chapters have led some to characterize the book as some more akin at least in spirit to the genre novels which are really more a series of loosely connected short stories. The narrative tying these fragmented chapter together eventually proves far more seamless and tightly woven than is typical of that genre. The disjointed quality instead comes off more like the experience of conducting a search on the internet and piecing together a narrative from various accounts in a non-linear fashion characterized by the distinctive approaches of different types of information sites.
In addition to winning the nation’s top literary honor, Egan also collected the National Book Critics Circle Award for A Visit from the Goon Squad.