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Rob Neufeld posted discussions
Saturday
Rob Neufeld posted a blog post

Bobby Norfolk starts storytelling, June 28

Bobby Norfolk Throws First Pitch for Kaleidoscope: Celebrating Diversityat Stories on Asheville’s Front Porch 2014from press release June 28 eventBobby Norfolk, three-time Emmy Award-winner is the lead storyteller for the fifth season of Stories on Asheville’s Front Porch--Kaleidoscope: Celebrating Diversity, June 28 in the Rhino Courtyard of Pack Place.  The stories begin at 10:30 a.m., rain or shine, and are free to the public.  Entrances to the Rhino Courtyard are from Biltmore Avenue under…See More
Saturday
Evelyn Asher posted photos
Friday
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

Inez and Annie Daugherty and African American history

The Daughertys of Black Mountain spanned racial historyby Rob Neufeld             “The children in Cragmont (an African American neighborhood in Black Mountain) and High Top Colony, where my family lived, walked to school in groups,” Daugherty recalled about her 1920s childhood in a talk she had with me in 2005.            “White children rode the bus,” she revealed.  “They sometimes threw things at us and called us ugly names, but my mother told me, ‘You know who you are.  Those names do not…See More
Apr 14
Sue Diehl posted an event

MONTREAT COLLEGE FRIENDS OF THE LIBRARY LUNCHEON at Montreat College, Gaither Fellowship Hall, Montreat, NC

June 21, 2014 from 12pm to 2:30pm
Pamela Duncan, author of Moon Women, Plant Life, and The Big Beautiful, will be the speaker at the Montreat College Friends of the Library Annual Luncheon on Saturday, June 21, 2014, in the Gaither Fellowship Hall.See More
Apr 14
Rose Senehi posted events
Apr 11
Jerald Pope posted an event

It ain’t for wimps: readings on aging at Monte Vista Hotel

April 17, 2014 from 6pm to 7pm
Increased life expectancy brings with it increased opportunities, problems, and responsibilities. Both the aged and the pre-aged will find much to ponder at the Black Mountain Authors Guild’s reading at the Monte Vista this Thursday at 6 pm. Four local writers will share their thinking on the subject: Danielle Laverty will read her essay on aging that won the Black Mt. Public Library contest, Nancy Werking Poling will read from her current and published fiction, and James and Cannan Hyde will…See More
Apr 9
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

Asheville Wordfest May 2-4, 2014

Asheville Wordfest 2014(Photo top right, Laurey Masterton from Asheville Chamber of Commerce; 2nd photo, Laura Hope-Gill from www.thehealingseed.com) A webpage in progress!Asheville Wordfest, an annual…See More
Apr 8
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

Fiddler of the Mountains by Eva Nell Mull Wike

Fiddler and His FamilyFiddler of the Mountains: Attuned to the Life and Times of Johnny Mull by Eva Nell Mull Wike (Donning Company hardcover, Nov. 2013, 96 pages, $25)See other new WNC books Wike, author of the…See More
Apr 7
William Roy Pipes posted a blog post

Four Novels Are Now Available

I now have four Novels in print. A fifth Novel, True Love, is finished, but to date not yet published. The four available on-line are: Darby, my bestselling Appalachian novel; Hanging Dog, An Appalachian Community, is a sequel to Darby, Doodlebug, Doodlebug, Your House is on Fire, an Appalachian novel beginning in 1940; and a novelette, Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star, a murder mystery full of intrigue, danger, and espionage. All four novels are available on Amazon.com and wherever books are…See More
Apr 7
Bill Ramsey posted a blog post

Brain Injury Recovery

Brain injury recovery is difficult and anything but certain. When I met Angela Leigh Tucker in late 2008, she was only four months into her battle. A sudden truck-on-car crash had killed her young husband and left her hanging on to life by a thread.For the next three years I researched the topic of traumatic brain injury or TBI. Angela and I travelled together to meeting of brain injury survivors and conferences on the subject. I interviewed countless doctors, therapists, co-workers, family…See More
Apr 7
Rob Neufeld posted discussions
Apr 5
Malaprop's Bookstore Cafe posted events
Apr 4
Laura Hope-Gill updated their profile
Apr 3
Laura Hope-Gill posted an event
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Asheville Wordfest May 2, 3, 4: Fiction, Poetry, Storytelling, more! at Asheville Lenoir-Rhyne University

May 2, 2014 at 5pm to May 4, 2014 at 5pm
Asheville Wordfest reaches its seventh year (lucky lucky!) with an expansion to include fiction, poetry, storytelling, songwriting, community conversation, poetry animation, and creative nonfiction. Coming of age with the help of North Carolina Arts Council, Katuah Market, Fine Arts Theater, Malaprops Bookstore/Cafe, and more than thirty writers, poets, musicians, and songwriters, Wordfest continues its commitment the Asheville and WNC communities, representing as many of our communities as the…See More
Apr 3
RhondaKay Brigman updated their profile
Apr 1

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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