(Halfway through “A Visit from the Goon Squad”)
Tim: For a couple chapters now we’ve been hearing about how Jules ruined a promising career by sexually assaulting a rising movie star (Kitty), for which he was sent to jail. But the first chapter I really didn’t enjoy this book was Jules’s article about that afternoon and the incident. I think there are several reasons why.
- Since Jules is talking directly to the reader, but doing it through a written medium, we question how his account came to be committed to writing in some manner that we’re now able to read. Can it really be an exercise he did himself? Surely this isn’t an article he actually turned in somewhere? Or was saved when he did?
- This was the first time I didn’t feel satisfied by the character arc of a particular chapter. It’s clear that the primary driver in Jules’s assault of Kitty was the conclusion of his engagement. A traumatic event, certainly, but it didn’t bring me to the point where I believed he’d have a complete breakdown and suddenly decide to rape a movie star.
- I know this is a subjective reason, but I frankly just didn’t like hearing Jules speak. He’s whiny, and although he’s probably right about Kitty, he’s a self-righteous whiner (no matter how self-belittling he is sometimes. The other characters thus far, for all their faults, have been fun to watch. Jules isn’t fun. Just weird. And I didn’t understand his actions. Ok, maybe that’s a little of #2 again, but that really bothered me.
Debby: For a number of (mildly absurd) reasons, I actually enjoyed this chapter. Let me explain. First of all, I am a rather big fan of Chuck Klosterman (author of numerous Rolling Stones articles, a number published in books like “Eating the Dinosaur” and “Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs”). Klosterman wrote a very memorable interview with Britney Spears that was strikingly similar to Jules’ lunch with Kitty. When Klosterman directly addressed Britney’s status as a “sex symbol,” she responded with blank looks and completely off-topic responses. Kitty seems to exhibit similar layers. She knows that the world views her as a celebrity, but she doesn’t realize that as a symbol she has become more than human. She has become the embodiment of the fantasies of the greater population. I think it is a fascinating thing to study. Yes, this is a weird “article” for Jules to write because we don’t know his audience (if any), but I still think it’s an important piece of insight for the reader into Jules’ character. He’s a creepy dude, but all he did was impose the desires that had been carefully cultivated by society onto this poor girl. I call her “poor girl” because she was simply naive enough not to realize how ably she had played into the world’s hands.
I realize that I failed to touch on most of your points, Tim. I guess I just found other parallels interesting. And I really, really love footnotes.
To read Klosterman’s interview with Spears, click here: http://www.esquire.com/women/women-we-love/britney-spears-pics-1103?click=main_sr#img