Book Review of “A Visit from the Goon Squad” by Jennifer Egan
This month we wanted to read something on the Pulitzer list and selected “A Visit from the Goon Squad” by Jennifer Egan which one the 2011 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. Generally, when you think of a Pulitzer Prize Winner, you think 300+ pages, subject matter will be well above Harry Potter, and has anyone really even read it. In fact, is it even “good” if no one even knows about it? Come on ladies, you know you have thought it... But you might be surprised to know that there are actually some great novels that have won - “The Color Purple,” “Tinkers” (won last year), “To Kill a Mockingbird,” and “The Stone Diaries” to name a few. The novel, “A Visit from the Goon Squad,” is possibly like no other novel on this list. So much so, that it left us wondering “What qualifies a book to win a Pulitzer?” I did some research, and here is what I found out.
For Fiction, a book has to be published in Hard Cover or Paperback for sale to consumers, and it has to be submitted to the Pulitzer Prize Board by a certain date of its original publication. The author must be a US Citizen. The Pulitzer Prize was established by the first Joseph Pulitzer at Columbia University - where it remains today. Columbia University awards the prizes based on the recommendations from the Pulitzer Prize Board. They recommend three per category. There are currently 18 people on the board who have positions ranging from Dean at prestigious universities and colleges to editors from the top newspapers. As far as criteria goes, I think this from the FAQ section of the main Pulitzer website www.pulitzer.org explains it best -
‘6. What are the criteria for the judging of The Pulitzer Prizes?
There are no set criteria for the judging of the Prizes. The definitions of each category (see How to Enter or Administration page) are the only guidelines. It is left up to the Nominating Juries and The Pulitzer Prize Board to determine exactly what makes a work "distinguished."’
As you can see, there is not a plethora of criteria. Which, if you think about it, is probably a great thing as any book by an American author can be submitted for review by the board. Which is how we get to “A Visit from the Goon Squad.” As we’ve now learned, it qualifies for a Pulitzer in Fiction.
So what is this book all about. “A Visit from the Goon Squad” is a collection of stories from numerous characters that are vaguely connected to one another in some way. The back drop is the music industry. Each chapter is from the perspective of a different character and may be told in the past or present. Although it is slightly difficult to understand just what “present” is since the timeframe hops around so much, even going into the future in the end. The topics range from drugs, sex (I mean we are in the music industry), affairs, kleptomaniac’s, parenting, and the music industry itself. Overall, it received mixed reviews from the group. Which, with a book of this nature, is probably to be expected. With so many characters though, you are bound to find one that you can either relate to (although if you relate to Sasha, I would like to know!), or at least empathize with. At the end of the day, check it out. You’ll at least have read a Pulitzer Prize Winner.