(finally finished with “A Visit from the Goon Squad”)
Tim: So finally, in the last chapter of the book, we learn who the goon squad is: time. And suddenly it all makes sense. We’ve talked plenty about the structure of this book and it’s propensity to hop through time. But what the book’s been doing, too, is showing us the effect time has on all these characters. Time is the goon!
Debby: Woah! Mind-blown. Okay kinda sorta not really. Didn’t you expect that? Just a little bit? They (and we) made SUCH a big deal about time… it was practically inevitable.
Tim: Honestly, I hadn’t thought about it much. The title seemed like a fun way to describe this collection of misfits and ne’er-do-wells the book focuses on. You brought up last week (I think it was last week) how all the characters seem to have such big flaws. Calling them a “goon squad” made sense.
Debby: I just looked up the literal definition of the word “goon,” and I’m actually a little impressed by the authors vocabulary usage. The first definition is “a silly, foolish, or eccentric person”– certainly fits the bill for the majority of our characters. If they aren’t blatantly crazy like fish-man Scotty, then they have rather silly priorities and prerogatives like wannabe Dolly. The second definition, however, is “a bully or thug, esp. one hired to terrorize or do away with opposition.” This certainly underscores the influence of time on Egan’s band of anti-heroes. Time intimidates them all, it bullies them into being more extreme versions of themselves. It holds them in its grasp and squeezes them until they either mold into what society wants of them or burst into a flash of messy particles.
Tim: I think you’re right, but it’s really interesting the moments Egan decides to pull out, because some of them are largely about the characters finding semblance of normalcy. But I guess even most of those chapters tend to end in extremes. Dolly’s chapter end in what’s her name – the actress – going off on the dictator. Stephanie’s chapter ends with Bennie cheating. But go back and forth some more, you get chapters like Ted, Sasha’s uncle, going to look for her. That chapter ends pretty cathartically.
Debby: Sure, Egan shows some of the characters “picking up the pieces,” but I find very little evidence resembling “normalcy.” I think she wants to show how eccentric everybody is– in their own way. Whether it’s boldly broadcast to society or internalized, everyone has their own “goony” side.
Tim: Ok, sure. Maybe not normalcy if you’re calling that some sort of ultimate middle-of-the-road, boring folks. There’s definitely no-one who fits that description here, and maybe not anywhere. But there are attempts at lives that aren’t runaway crazy. That’s all I was really trying to get at. But it definitely doesn’t diminish the earlier point, which I wasn’t trying to refute: “Time intimidates them all, it bullies them into being more extreme versions of themselves. It holds them in its grasp and squeezes them until they either mold into what society wants of them or burst into a flash of messy particles.”