Year of the Book continues with ‘A Visit from the Goon Squad’

Reading a book is typically a sequential, conventional event. But some who read “A Visit from the Good Squad” by Jennifer Egan compared the novel to listening to an album.

English professor Valerie Vogrin discusses 'A Visit from the Goon Squad' by Jennifer Egan at the first Year of the Book event of the semester. Photo by Kari Williams

Egan’s novel was the January selection for the Department of English Language and Literature’s Year of the Book series, which explores a wide array of characters involved in the ’60s rock scene from their time in the scene and follows them into the future. The book’s 13 chapters are structured as short stories that could be read individually, but are connected by themes.

English professor Valerie Vogrin said the book’s style could be thought of “as a concept album from the ’70s,” such as The Who’s “Tommy.”

“I don’t think that you need to think of it that way, but I think it helps you to understand how you might experience [the book],” Vogrin said. “Because if you’re playing an album, you’re not worried about the connections, you’re just experiencing the connections. You’re not feeling like you need to analyze the lyrics or something.”

Others related the reading and chapter structure to listening to punk rock music – done in short bursts, one chapter at a time.

Discussion also occurred about whether or not the order of the chapters mattered since the chapters explore different characters. Returning to the album comparison, Vogrin said the order of the chapters can be thought of as how songs are arranged on records – in a certain order to be listened to in a certain way.

Each chapter takes the reader on a different character’s journey, but returns to those characters at the end.

Vogrin said as a woman writer she is sometimes frustrated that there are not a lot of “big books by women,” such as Egan’s, that take on a historical era, multiple eras and big themes.

The next Year of the Book event will occur at 3 p.m. Feb. 13 at the Lovejoy Library Friends Browsing Corner. DeMaris Hill will discuss Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison.

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