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Christine Lajewski posted a blog post

Tribute to Ashley

One of my closest friends, Rachelle, lost her daughter to a canoeing accident on a frigid November night in 2005.  I wrote a poem as a tribute to Ashley, which was later published in Deep Waters, the Tall Grass Writers' Guild 2012 anthology.  As we approach the 9th anniversary of the loss of this lovely young woman, I have posted the poem in my blog at Christine-lajewski.squarespace.com I think any "likes" would be appreciated by Rachelle.  Thank you for reading it.See More
Saturday
Lockie Hunter posted an event
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West End Poetry and Prose reading series: November edition at West End Bakery

November 22, 2014 from 7pm to 9pm
Join us for the 3rd in the West End reading series. This month we have 5 wonderful local authors. This is a marvelous Free family-friendly evening of prose, poetry, and storytelling featuring some of your favorite local Asheville writers. November's lineup includes:Allan Wolf Katey Schultz Matthew Olzmann Melissa Crowe Alli Marshallhosted by Lockie HunterSee More
Thursday
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

Ellison's new look at Kephart in Our Southern Highlanders, 3d edition

Ellison retells Kephart and broadens a legacyby Rob Neufeld             One of the most influential people in our region’s history—Horace Kephart, the controversial and fascinating genius of the Great Smokies—has warranted a new consideration by George Ellison, a long-time scholar of Kephart’s life and…See More
Nov 18
Rob Neufeld posted discussions
Nov 15
Spellbound posted an event
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December ROYAL Book Club: Sabriel at Spellbound Children's Bookshop

December 7, 2014 from 4pm to 5pm
ROYAL is Spellbound’s monthly book club for adult Readers of Young Adult Literature. We meet the first Sunday of each month at 4:00PM. Anyone over 18 is welcome, no RSVP necessary. Book club selections are always 20% off until the day of the meeting.See More
Nov 15
City Lights Bookstore posted an event
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Tangible Evidence of Jesus at City Lights Bookstore

December 7, 2014 from 2pm to 3pm
Sylva author, Mary Joyce will present her book Tangible Evidence of Jesus on Sunday, December 7th at 2 p.m. at City Lights Bookstore. Tangible Evidence of Jesus was written after the Joyce plodded through much archaeological evidence and academic research. It is intended to be a bridge between scholarly researchers and most of the rest of us. It also was written for those who would like proof of Jesus beyond what is written in Christian Bibles. The writing style deliberately is condensed and to…See More
Nov 15
Renea Winchester shared City Lights Bookstore's event on Twitter
Nov 13
Renea Winchester is attending City Lights Bookstore's event
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The Charm of a Simple Country Farm at City Lights Bookstore

November 15, 2014 from 3pm to 4:30pm
On Saturday, November 15th at 3 p.m. Renea Winchester will visit City Lights Bookstore to present her new book, Farming Friends & Fried Bologna Sandwiches. Decades before the Farm-to-Table and Sustainable Living movement, Billy Albertson started tending a little strip of land just off Hardscrabble Road in what was then rural Roswell, Georgia. The second book in the Farmer Billy series, Farming transports readers to a simpler time, when roadside vegetable stands were common, friends gathered…See More
Nov 13
Renea Winchester posted an event

Author Reading/Book Signing at Great Expectations at Great Expectations Books

November 14, 2014 from 6pm to 7pm
Award-winning author, Renea Winchester will read from her latest book titled: Farming, Friends & Friend Bologna Sandwiches (Mercer University Press, October, 2014). The author will also give away seeds courtesy of Botanical Interests Seed CompanySee More
Nov 13
Jerald Pope posted an event

David LaMotte reads from his new book at Monte Vista Hotel

November 20, 2014 from 6pm to 7pm
The Black Mountain Authors Guild presents David LaMotte, a true Black Mountain treasure, signing and reading from his new book, Worldchanging 101, at six o’clock this Thursday, at The Monte Vista Hotel. LaMotte has been a fixture on the local music scene since the early nineties, performing over 2500 concerts nationally and internationally. He has released eleven albums, won international songwriting awards, and earned accolades from the Boston Globe, Washington Times, Soundcheck Magazine…See More
Nov 11
City Lights Bookstore posted events
Nov 5
Doris Anne Beaulieu posted a video

Creative Christmas Tree Videos

I created this video with the YouTube Video Editor (http://www.youtube.com/editor) Share my three youtube channels with family and friend for hours of viewin...
Nov 4
CHARLES C FLETCHER posted a video
Nov 2
Spellbound posted events
Nov 2
Susan Griner posted photos
Oct 31
Bill Ramsey posted an event

7th Annual Blue Ridge Bookfest at Blue Ridge Community College

April 24, 2015 at 1pm to April 25, 2015 at 3pm
Authors interested in being considered for the April 24, 25 2015 event at BRCC should visit www.blueridgebookfest.org soon. Click on the author tab on the home page. Complete the application and submit it by e-mail shown there. While there please sign up for our emailed newsletter.This year we will offer free workshops on Friday afternoon for authors and writer panels ( first time) on Saturday. See More
Oct 30

Egan’s Goon Squad mirrors a cracked world

by Rob Neufeld

 

            Let’s look at Jennifer Egan’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, “A Visit from the Goon Squad.”

            It’s an example of the best modern writing.

            And by modern, I mean cracked.

            And by cracked, I mean singing with despair, humor, and empathy; shape-shifting into a Scheherazade of distractions.

            The book came out in paperback this year, and it is the subject of Book Discussion X at Accent on Books, Jan. 10.

 

Laughing all the way to the brink

 

            The side-shows in Egan’s tale are connected, and add up to a spiral of perspectives on social decline, ennobled by assertions of spirit.

            First, there’s Sasha, a 30-something woman who needs to steal things to feel good.  Then, in Chapter 2, there’s Bennie Salazar, her boss, a big record producer, who bemoans the synthesizing and digitization of music—an “aesthetic holocaust.” He’d been there at the rise of punk rock.  And now…

            Bennie puts flakes of actual gold into his coffee because he has heard that it increases one’s sex drive.  But we leave him in this state to travel back to his punk rock years in Chapter 3, narrated by Rhea, a song-writer for Bennie’s band.

            Rhea likes Bennie, who loves Alice, who loves Scotty, who feels safe with Jocelyn, who’s hooked on Lou, an older guy who’d picked her up hitchhiking.

            At a party at Alice’s house (she’s rich, not true punk), Rhea and Jocelyn follow Alice up to her bedroom to check out her retired private school uniforms.  Rhea sees that “her bed is under a mountain of stuffed animals, which all turn out to be frogs: bright green, light green, Day-Glo green…Her bedside lamp is shaped like a frog, plus her pillow.”

            Alice pulls her box of uniforms from her closet.  Rhea and Jocelyn promise not to laugh at her.  “Ask me if I care,” Alice goes.

            Lou enters the group’s life—he’s a record producer, and becomes Bennie’s mentor.  He also takes advantage of Jocelyn and introduces cocaine.  Very creepy—and yet he has a human side. 

He cares about his children—as the next chapter will show.  And when, at the band’s gathering in his luxury apartment, Rhea goes out on the balcony, he follows like an uncle, not a predator.

            “I’ll never get old,” he says in response to Rhea’s reality check about age differences.

            “You’re already old,” she tells him.

            He calls her scary, and says he likes it.  She says it’s her profusion of freckles that makes her so.  He tells her to stay as she is.  “The freckles are the best part,” he reassures her.  Some guy is going to go ape for them and “kiss them one by one.”

            People’s lives are careening everywhere.  As the book goes on, the careening intensifies, but so does the pathos and hilarity.

            “Time’s a goon,” a has-been rocker says in a later chapter.

 

Why read this book

 

            First, the storytelling is brilliant.  It’s almost as if, as faith and tradition wither away in society, virtuosity flourishes—like a dying tree producing a bumper crop.

            One chapter is told by Scotty, the band’s genuinely angry person, years after his performance years, his delusional personality amped up high.  He says things like, “There’s a fine line between thinking about somebody and thinking about not thinking about somebody.”

            Another chapter involves a black-listed movie starlet and a genocidal foreign dictator.

            Yet another is told by a 12-year-old doing a Power Point presentation about her family.  Perhaps the most heartbreaking one—although you might vote on this—is told in the second person (“You gave up the one chance God threw your way”); and switches to first person in the last dissolving sentence.

            Post-modernism—a fractured, fun-house mirror of cultural references —is very rarely so good.  Kevin Brockmeier achieved the highest level, also, with his novel, “The Illumination.”

            The main reasons Egan excels are: 1) characters dream, bleed, stumble, laugh, and let us love them; and 2) her theme is fearless.

 

No faith, new faith

 

            If we, as humans, are losing faith, except for our faith that we’re headed toward disaster; and if we see optimism as fairy tales, with what are we left?

            It is the job of literature to answer this question.

            What we get in our fiction is much that’s rich with anti-heroes—such as John in Kurt Vonnegut’s “Cat’s Cradle” and Yossarian in Joseph Heller’s “Catch-22” and even The Dude in “The Big Lebowski.”

            Jules Jones, a character in “Goon Squad,” whose chapter is a loopy, footnoted piece of journalism about his failed interview with a 19-year-old sex goddess, expresses his anguish about the post-9/11 world when he visits his younger sister in her plush home.

            “Buildings are missing.  You get strip-searched every time you go to someone’s office.  Everybody sounds stoned, because they’re e-mailing people the whole time they’re talking to you…And now my rock-and-roll sister and her husband are hanging around with Republicans.”

            Are there moral heroes who are activists?  Yes there are some—simplistic with guns and fists; and subtle with self-doubts and diplomacy.  But, we also need our Jennifer Egans and Mark Twains—authors who put their characters under a microscope and reveal them to be squirming.

            The religion of this world view is lovable absurdity.  Egan’s squirming is so beautiful, she ultimately morphs her novel into a chapter set in the year 2021, with deliciously painful parody.

 

THE BOOK

A Visit from the Goon Squad (Knopf hardcover, 2010; Anchor trade paper, 2011, 352 pages, $14.95)

 

DISCUSSION

Book Discussion X meets to discuss “a Visit from the Goon Squad” by Jennifer Egan at Accent on Books, Accent on Books, 854 Merrimon Ave., 7 p.m., Thurs., Jan,. 10.   Call 252-6255.

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