A Visit from the Goon Squad: Jennifer Egan’s Pulitzer Prize Winning Book Comes to Westchester, NY
Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Jennifer Egan brings the Goon Squad to Westchester
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I’m just getting around to reading Jennifer Egan’s A Visit from the Goon Squad, this year’s Pulitzer Prize winner for fiction. Reading it, a question popped into my head: What took me so long?
Man, were the Pulitzers on-point with this one. I enjoy the writing, sure, but it’s enhanced by the fact that Egan touches on some of my favorite subjects. The novel — a series of interconnected stories in which the points-of-view shift in each chapter — is mostly about people’s relationship to music, either personally or professionally. As a pop-culture editor, I find this fascinating (of course!), and I think she really gets what it is to be a music fan. But more than that, I’m obsessed with the characters of Stephanie and Bennie, because they live in — what else? — Westchester.
They live in the fictional town of Crandale (not to be confused with Scarsdale, which is referenced elsewhere). Egan explains the characters’ decision to settle in the ’burbs thusly: “It was Bennie who chose Crandale, and in some deep way Stephanie understood why: they’d flown in private jets owned by rock stars, but this country club was the farthest distance Bennie had traveled from the dark-eyed grandmother in Daly City. He’d sold his record label last year; how better to mark success than by going to a place where you didn’t belong?”
Unfortunately, Egan doesn’t treat the country club-going residents of Crandale, who give Bennie and Stephanie the initial brush-off, kindly: “They were snobs or idiots or both, Stephanie told herself, yet she was inexplicably crushed by their coldness.”
“I’ve never lived in the suburbs, but I do have a sense of country clubs — first from Rockford, Illinois, my mother’s hometown,” Egan writes. “I think the deep inspiration for ‘A to B’ was really the sensory atmosphere of country clubs: the sound of tennis balls, the smell of the snack bar, the mothers tanning their pregnancy-stretched bellies, the fathers subtly eyeing the teenage girls around the pool.”
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