A Visit from the Goon Squad
by Jennifer Egan
1. What did you think of the novel? Did you like it? Love it? Hate it? What made you lean that way?
2. What did you expect before picking up this book? How were your expectations met or missed?
3. Would you define this as a novel? Short story collection? Something else? Why?
4. What was your favorite story? Least favorite story? Why?
5. What character did you find most compelling? Why?
6. Do you feel like there was one character which was the focal point of these stories? If so, who? Why?
7. What character relationships did you find most compelling? Why? What about their evolution throughout these stories drew you to them?
8. The book is set throughout the world: San Francisco, NYC, Upstate NY, Africa, Italy, and other places. Does this add to the narrative’s interest or detract from it?
9. Why do you believe these stories are arranged out of chronological order? Did that enhance or diminish your reading experience? How did you feel when you read the final story?
10. Egan wrote these stories with three guiding rules: 1) Each chapter had to be about a different person. 2) Each chapter had to have a different mood and tone and approach. 3) Each chapter had to stand completely on its own. This means each story can be read as a stand-alone. How do you think pulling a story out of the context of this novel would affect its impact on the reader?
11. Most of the characters in this book are tied to music: Passionate consumers, in the industry, performers. Why do you think music has been given so much significance? Why is this an appropriate backdrop for these stories?
12. Jennifer Egan wrote this book as though it were a concept album (think The Who’s Tommy, Pink Floyd’s The Wall, David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust, Green Day’s American Idiot), a story told in parts which sound completely different from each other yet also work together. How do you see this reflected in these stories?
13. Why do you believe there was a chapter entirely in PowerPoint? Did you go online to see the real PPT? If so, what did you think of the music clips? How did this enhance or detract from your experience?
14. The phrase “time’s a goon” appears three times in this book. Once by Bosco, once by Scottie, and finally by Bennie at the end of the novel. What do you think this means, coming from each character? Why do you think this novel is titled A Visit from the Goon Squad? (Note: Goon (n): a thug who robs you of your youth and strips you of other aspects of your being)
15. Jennifer Egan won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2011 with the committee stating the book was “an inventive investigation of growing up and growing old in the digital age, displaying a big-hearted curiosity about cultural change at warp speed”. Do you agree with this statement? Do you think this is Pulitzer Prize material?