Towards the end of this novel—more specifically in chapter twelve which is narrated with the help of PowerPoint—there are a couple of graphs which postulate a relationship between the pause-length of a song and its haunting power. Among others, the list includes hits such as ‘Long Train Runnin’,’ (Doobie Brothers), ‘Bernadette’ (Four Tops), ‘Faith’ (George Michael), ‘The Time of the Season’ (Zombies), ‘Roxanne’ (Police) and ‘Rearrange Beds’ (An Horse).
The ‘pause-length’ idea is a genial theory to explain what makes a particular song excellent—and there are undoubtedly many others within and across genres—probably as many as there are generations, fan communities, or individuals. In the end, what perhaps counts more is the search for that greatest hit and the associated experience.
The love of rock music is also what mainly links Jennifer Egan’s characters in ‘A Visit from the Goon Squad’—besides nostalgia for a time that was and a season that never began. Now in their late thirties and early forties they are sort of struggling (but not really) to figure out who and what they are, what moves them and who their friends might be. Their stories are episodic—snapshots of a life that passes by fast, time representing the ultimate goon.
The music back story of ‘A Visit from the Goon Squad’ reminded me of ‘High Fidelity’ by Nick Hornby (and the film starring John Cussack) whereby the latter is funnier and more hopeful—probably because it is more pop than rock.
In any case, Egan’s style is arresting, like the featured songs, the stories, most of them unresolved, letting you hang on wishing for more, whereby all you get is a repeat.
Her use of PowerPoint and Textese (SMS language) are original and prove that writing (just as reading) will outlive new technologies through adaptation—like music continues to reinvent itself in style and across genres.