I am reading a book that I really like right now. Well, actually, I love it. And I love is so much I want to marry it. It’s been a long time since that’s happened—I had forgotten what it’s like to want to run away for the weekend to a B&B with a stack of paper. It feels good.
The book I have fallen for is Jennifer Egan “A Visit From the Good Squad.” You may have heard of it. (Other people besides me seem to really like it, like anyone who wrote a Top Ten Books of the year list for 2010, and also, ahem, those people who give out the Pulitzer Prize.) I’m not much of a reviewer, because I have too much A.D.D. and I’m bad at describing things, but here goes: READ THIS BOOK NOW. IT’S COOL AND “MODERN” AND HAS CRAZY CHAPTERS. IT MAKES YOU CRY AND LAUGH AND WISH YOU HAD JENNIFER EGAN’S MIND. THIS MEANS THROW YOUR CELL PHONE OUT THE WINDOW AND GO BUY IT. EVERYBODY DANCE NOW.
My love affair with Goon Squad started in the airport in Boston, as I was on my way to a vacation in Pittsburgh. (I’m into exploring oxymorons.) I was perusing the magazines and doing my usual “pretend-I’m-not-going-to-buy-anything” song and dance at Hudson News, when I came across Egan’s book. I had been aware of it for awhile. The first time I had seen it, a year ago, I was by myself in a pretty much empty library in Williamstown, MA, checking out the new releases and being cool. Back then, the title of the book had caught my eye—goon is a fantastic word—but the guitar on the jacket design sort of scared me, and when I picked it up and read the intro blurb, I had thought, “music industry…meh…” and then walked away. (I am not a cool music person. Cool music people intimidate me. Books by those types of people intimidate me. I basically listen to Bruce, Fiona Apple when feeling emo, and a dash of the horrible rap music I liked in college if I need energy to do something strenuous, like organize my toiletries. It’s all very weak.)
But this time, something was different. As I stood there debating whether to buy VOGUE or to save my money, I was overcome by a desire to do neither. I wanted to spend money yes, but what I really wanted was a book, and I wanted a good one. And this time Goon’s new soft-cover design—as well as all of those “I have won awards!” blurbs—was enough to make me take the plunge. (I was also sick of trying to make myself read non-fiction books about war. I really need to just give up on that. Why can’t I give up on that? John Keegan haunts my dreams.) Twenty minutes into the plane ride, I was feverishly turning pages and eating peanuts and feeling that strange pang you get in your heart when you realize you’ve fallen hard for a book. (Other people get that, right?…) I was in love.
But things had to cool off in Pittsburgh. I only read about a chapter a night when I was there, as I was on vacation with MikeTomlin and her family, and didn’t really want to be recalled as the anti-social girl who seems eerily similar to Todd from Wedding Crashers, angry that she can’t be left alone with her book. (In elementary school I used to read under the table all day.) When we got back to Boston though, I was all in. And again, perhaps I sound insane, but I am, and it was just so nice to have Egan’s book as company all week. I felt something like actual gratitude whenever I would realize it was in my bag to read on the way home from work (the T suddenly turning into a lovely place), or relief knowing that I could start out my day with some coffee and a lovely ten minute excursion into her world. It was a week of Goon quickies, left and right.
So yeah, books are awesome. And Jennifer Egan is pretty amazing. (Chick can spin a yaaan for reals—that power-point chapter is mindblowing.) I really do believe that fiction, or any writing for that matter, is such a strange and special art. I mean, I love movies, and I love going to see plays, and I love improv, but books…—well, reading them—it’s so personal, isn’t it, and such a mysterious experience? I love that. And you can read the book, and we can both love it and know it, but we’ll have seen and experienced completely different things—we’ll know characters with different faces and voices and smells in our head, and we’ll see different cities and different skies and different safaris in Africa, and all because of this one lady telling us a story she has in her head, and from reading it we actually feel changed a little bit, and for the better. Have I freaked you out enough? It’s called too much whiskey prior to typing….
But I mean, hey—it’s the little things in life sometimes.