Books Made of Paper

Jennifer Egan: ‘A Visit from the Goon Squad’

It’s superfluous to say that Jennifer Egan’s newest book, A Visit from the Goon Squad is a great read. It won a Pulitzer, so that pretty much goes without say.

I think sometimes, the books that get raised to award-winner status are the ones that leave you not with a certain idea or revelation, but a deep exhalation and feeling of “whoa”.  A book that is not only popular but praised is a book that explores and digs.

This book, which takes on a different point of view (of various, linked characters) in each chapter, seems to dig through time, through characters, into music, culture and the ultimate question: Where are we humans going in life?

Yeah, that’s kind of way heavy. But Egan so fully absorbed me in the characters and the story that I willingly went digging with her into the lives of her characters. I kind of wished I knew more about music while I was reading, since that’s a connecting thread for her characters, but it was written in an approachable way.

In fact, writing about something you’re an expert on is a great way to teach your readers something, and make yourself, the writer, seem like you know your stuff. Have any of you written a work of fiction that utilizes a topic you’re an expert on or researched ‘til your mind was numb?

I’m writing a story right now in which I decided a child needed to die. Sad, but necessary. I probably won’t end up using very much of the back story in the actual story, but I found that in order to understand the psyche of the parents, I needed to concoct (if only in my own head) a believable medical history for the kid.

Luckily, my father is a doctor and a story teller. And once he started telling me some true-life accounts, I found my own story taking on a life of its own.

Have you read A Visit from the Goon Squad? Is there another book by Jennifer Egan you recommend? And what’s been your experience with researched fiction?

Image via by Pieter M. Van Hattem/Vistalux.

Top image from Barnes & Noble.

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