The Other Goon Squad

{Three Chapters into White Teeth}

Tim: You know which book this has reminded me of so far? Here’s a hint – it’s my favorite we’ve read yet.

Debby: By the title to this blog… I’m guessing Goon Squad.

Tim: What? No, The Deptford Trilogy.

Debby: ……..

Tim: Ok, fine, just kidding. Yes, it reminds me of A Visit from the Goon Squad. Not in that its chapters are in any way self-contained like so many of the Goon Squad chapters, but this one has the same sort of shifting narrator. In fact, what’s notable when comparing the two is that the chapters feel so very not self contained. We go from one character to the next, and I haven’t felt like I could walk away from any of them yet. I won’t be surprised if even Mo comes back before it’s all said and done.

Debby: I will agree with you there. The shifting narrator dynamic is certainly unique– I’ve read too many “Young Adult” novels lately with extremely singular points of view. It’s refreshing to keep moving on, entering the minds of those around the situation. I am slightly frustrated by the fact that we have not retraced any of the storylines (some continuity might be nice?).

Tim: Not quite sure what you mean. Is it that we don’t return to the same perspective again?

Debby: Sorry. I didn’t really say that correctly. You’re right– the perspective is what’s bothering me. The storyline is, for the most part, very linear. I can just feel it going down the rabbit hole. Like as soon as Alsana finishes her raging, we will suddenly leap onto the back of the next person she encounters, like a flea on a dog.

Tim: The mechanic is intriguing to me, but I’m with you insofar as I’m not sure how long the book can keep it up. If all the story becomes is one backstory after another, that’s going to be a problem. I think it’s been very interesting how the blend of backstory and a present scene (usually in the background) has moved the plot forward bit by bit, even leap by leap in some respects (to borrow both your metaphor and describe the speed at which events are occurring in the “present”), but that seems untenable over the course of an entire novel. Eventually we’ll have to dig into Archie and Clara’s relationship with more persistence, I would think.

Debby: The problem is, I don’t know if Archie and Clara are all that interesting? Archie has already been confirmed a “boring” person, and Clara is simply desperate for a new life. I don’t know what kind of future they will find in this new house that will be able to hold my interest for the entirety of the novel. I almost hope we are introduced to more community members before the perspective switches back for good.

Tim: Hmm, good point. I had held out some hope for Archie after the narrator’s declarations that he was a changed man, but it seems that the changes haven’t been that permanent. Here’s the one thing I’ll say in Archie’s defense – well let me start with, have you ever read The Shipping News?

Debby: Nope, never heard of it.

Tim: It’s a novel by Annie Proulx that I almost stopped reading early on because it abuses it’s main character so badly in the early runnings. The man’s name is Quoyle, and he’s like Archie times seven. He’s uncontrollably overweight, mercilessly unskilled, and really pretty useless, except when he’s being used by other people. But Quoyle ends up being a compelling lens for seeing the story. So like I had no hope for Quoyle, I can see no hope for Archie, yet I believe he could still prove interesting despite himself. Perhaps not unlike our dear Oscar Wao, either?

Debby: Oh, Oscar. I’m not sure I need another Oscar in my life, Tim.

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