Jennifer Egan Makes Me Do Crazy Things

I recently finished Jennifer Egan’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, A Visit from the Goon Squad. If you’ve been paying attention, you’ll recall that Egan has been mentioned once on this blog already. In the wake of her win, she crapped on a couple of well-known “chick lit” authors, berating them for doing a disservice to literature penned by women. It was a little harsh.

Well, I went and read her book, and though I may not agree with her take on the lady literary landscape, daaaaaamn can that woman write. Her novel is a series of cartwheeling, somersaulting stories that cross paths and link up in more ways than you can count. It’s a chessboard of a book, but the payoff is well worth the intricate mind games required to keep up. As for my favorite chapter, it’s a toss-up between the chapter told in Powerpoint slides and the chapter about a PR spin doctor assigned to change the image of a dictator.

This is a book that will make you do crazy things. I drew out a map of all the characters and their connections, for example:

See? Crazy shit.

[UPDATE: I sent this diagram to Jennifer Egan on a whim. If I were an author, I would love to see anything creative that readers did in response to my work. She wrote back a SUPER sweet note,

Boy, do I love this.  Thanks for engaging so deeply with GOON SQUAD;I'm honored.  It's especially nice that you did so, given that you were offended by my thoughtless remark to the WSJ.  I wonder if you've encountered one of my public statements of regret over that comment?  In case not, I enclose a link to the first (of several) here:
klk

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17 Comments

Filed under Books, Media, Really Good Writing by Other People

17 responses to “Jennifer Egan Makes Me Do Crazy Things

  1. And now I have to read this book. Thanks for sharing!

  2. OK, so a person I friended on GoodReads, soley because we have a lot of the same taste, her review made me wonder if it was going to be like _The Imperfectionists_ (a book that made me feel melancholy for days, as it was a little too ‘realistic’ and just friggin’ depressing–although beautiful and beautifully written, one story had me in sniffles…I will not admit to tears), which is what I worried about before I read the review and then I’d read about what she said about chick lit and I LOVE smart chick lit (in the same manner that I LOVE a smart rom-com) and promptly put this book on my to never read list. Your review makes it sound totally different. I, too, have a tendency to IMMERSE myself in a book that I love and have been known to write essays for the heck of it (why didn’t I blog sooner) and make drawings and deface it in my expression. I like that she emailed you back (very cool) and I like that she pointed you to a post that doesn’t really say she’s sorry for the comment, just for how she approached it. She seems pretty cool and worth a looksie. Thanks for turning me on to this post! Dur! this is a bit long…sorry!

    • Thanks for your thorough response! I totally agree… I was super hesitant after the whole chick-lit debacle, but I PROMISE you will end up enjoying this book. It’s a great one to unpack with book clubs, if you’re into that! At the very least, your brain will keep coming back to it after the fact.

      • ok, so today i bought: one day, the help, a visit from the good squad, the art of seducing a naked werewolf and the pokey puppy (the last one was not for me) and i’ll probably read them in that order…

        i’d get room…sometime…

        thanks!!! :D

  3. Sophia

    Love this diagram! Thanks for doing it. I really wanted to see something like this after reading the book. Is there a line missing between Stephanie and Jules? I also loved the Power Point chapter. And the Rob one.

    • Oooh…. good catch Sophia! I can’t believe you actually went to the trouble of checking my work :-) On the other hand… I went to the trouble of making it… so you might as well!

  4. Susanna

    I found this via Jennifer Egan’s post on Facebook, and I love it! I am printing out your diagram and tucking it into my copy of Goon Squad for future reference – thanks!!

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  7. Great chart, and in this day of powerpoints and fonts, I like the hand-drawn quality. Jennifer Egan herself sent me here via link (following up on a Facebook question I posted to her fan page) — which shows, again, what a incredibly nice person she is, even with all the deserved attention coming her way.

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