A Visit From The Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan (2011) 351 p.

There’s a phrase which gets thrown around a bit in creative writing workshops or certain book reviews: “very well-written.” It sounds like a vague compliment, but it’s backhanded. “Very well-written” is a way of saying that while you might respect an author’s technical ability, neither their prose nor their narrative has stirred any feeling in you whatsoever.

A Visit From The Goon Squad is very well-written. It follows the Quirky New Yorkers model of contemporary American fiction rather than the Multi-Generational Immigrant Family Saga model, charting the lives and fates of a group of loosely connected people between the 1970s and the 2020s. In other words it feels like a fractured collection of short stories, with characters disappearing and reappearing years later, the reader never really capable of properly getting to know them. The only author I know who can successfully pull this off is David Mitchell.

There are a couple of decent chapters in here – I quite liked the one about a down-on-her-luck publicist working for an African dictator, and a second-person piece about a young gay man from the South who’s moved to New York – but for the most part I found this book predictable, cliche and forgettable. Not outright bad by any stretch, but certainly not deserving of a Pulitzer.

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