Not yet.

12 June 2012

Took me a while to write about Jennifer Egan’s A Visit from the Goon Squad. My head says it’s a good, well-written book, and it tried really hard, but I think I must have felt it try too hard that it didn’t quite get there for me. It’s a collection of stories each written in a different style, consisting of interlocking characters and spanning about several decades. The book itself doesn’t feel as weighty as it sounds, though. It’s easy to read, evocative and revelatory. And the chapter on the greatest rock and roll pauses was pretty much genius.

+++

“What’s the matter?”Jules finally asked, chugging his third cranberry and soda. “You seem down.”

“I don’t know,”Stephanie said.

He leaned toward her, her big brother, and Stephanie had a flash of how they’d been as kids, an almost-physical sense of Jules as her protector, her watchdog, coming to her tennis matches and massaging her calves when they cramped. That feeling had been buried under Jules’s chaotic intervening years, but now it pushed back up, warm and vital, sending tears into Stephanie’s eyes.

Her brother looked stunned. “Steph,”he said, taking her hand, “what’s wrong?”

“I feel like everything is ending,”she said.

She was thinking of the old days, as she and Bennie now called them—not just pre-Crandale but premarriage, preparenthood, pre-money, pre–hard drug renunciation, preresponsibility of any kind, when they were still kicking around the Lower East Side with Bosco, going to bed aftersunrise, turning up at strangers’apartments, having sex in quasi public, engaging in daring acts that had more than once included (for her) shooting heroin, because none of it was serious. They were young and lucky and strong—what did they have to worry about? If they didn’t like the result, they could go back and start again. And now Bosco was sick, hardly able to move, feverishly planning his death. Was this outcome a freak aberration from natural laws, or was it normal—a thing they should have seen coming? Had they somehow brought it on?

Jules put his arm around her. “If you’d asked 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.”

A Visit From the Goon Squad, Jennifer Egan

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