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A Review of Life in Style™  
 
 

In Service to Your Style
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Book Review
Although it won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction, you can skip Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan with no great loss. Perhaps the upcoming HBO series, for which it seems to have been a tailor-made screenplay, will be more believable and compelling. There were a few bright spots, such as Ms. Egan's time traveling narrative with different voices and tenses. And her description of words like "friend" and "cloud" as empty husks no longer capable of existing except in quotation marks, was intriguing. However, the storyboard seemed too contrived, even for a work of fiction. The apparent attempt to capture the digitized lifestyle through allusions to what I will call "pop physics" seemed strained. And as an X Gen'r who grew up grinding his Indy trucks to the Sex Pistols and DK's, Ms. Egan's depiction of the early punk scene strikes me as a tale told by a poser. Without giving away anything, the ending palpably lacked irony and fell flat: There was no "aha" or sense of things having come full circle, the hallmark of great literature. Instead, it just sort of hung there. Perhaps that was Ms. Egan's "post-post-modern" point. And maybe that explains her presentation of a chapter as a powerpoint slide. I am hardly an unbiased critic because I disdain overwrought powerpoints, but it was too cute by half. Or maybe I'm just a 20th-century kind of guy who prefers stories about old fishermen named Santiago. Either way, Goon Squad seemed a tad silly and half-baked. In fact, as I considered how the Pulitzer folks could pick this as the best fiction of 2010, my mind wandered to Howard Roark's antagonist, Peter Keating. I'd like to think that it was an inventive reflection of our Tweeting society's sloppiness, but it's inexcusable that there is a typo on page 174, five lines up from the bottom. A better book choice for your summer reading might be "The Most Human Human," if you're into the intersection of artificial intelligence, philosophy, and daily life. It certainly will be more useful as you travel through this digital century.


Ashlawn Music and Arts Review
 

 
             
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