50 LIBROS/ 50 BOOKS: Mujeres y sus historias.
“… Anyway, those were catastrophes”
EL PASO – This experiment of writing every week about books written by women or with intense female characters has been quite a journey for me. It has forced me to read more, to re-read more, to write more and, obviously, to become more aware of what good stories are made of. I have sat in different places to read, I have listened to different music to write. I have learned about the different techniques used by authors to create that so called fictional world. Therefore I feel ready now to talk about a novel that has it all: women, journeys, places, personal catastrophes, music and the mixture of it all.
A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan is one of those rare pieces of narrative based upon narrative. Let’s say this is the story of a group of friends from A to B, or something like that. Divided in two parts – A and B – and subdivided in thirteen episodes, A visit from the goon squad travels back and forth in the lives of a series of characters that share a past, a present or a future. Egan found inspiration in two of the most important pieces of modern and contemporary art: Proust’s À la Recherche du Temps Perdu, and HBO’s The Sopranos, at first sight this might not make sense but believe me: it does! No, there are no sweet madeleines or New Jersey’s cosa nostra in it, there is something far more important: memory and bonding.
Egan’s starting point is a band called the Flaming Dildos, the members of the band and the friends of the members of the band and the friends of the friends of the members of this band become the characters whose lives we are to follow. As readers we get the chance to read what happened from A to B in the lives of Rhea, Jocelyn, Lou, Bennie, Scottie, Sasha and many other characters. A Visit from the Goon Squad can be read both as a novel or as a short story collection because each vignette moves independently from the rest and, at the same time, is intertwined to another. One contains the other. One catastrophe after another, isn’t that what life is sometimes about? What outstands here is how the variety of characters and their variety of experiences are interlocked making one big story. The statement, if one, is that the individual makes the collective.
Author’s note: A Visit from the Goon Squad won the National Book Critics Circle Award in 2010, the 2011 Pulitzer Prize and was a finalist in the Pen/Faulkner Award. HBO is working on its adaptation for a TV series.