Archive for the ‘Literary Fiction’ Category

The Sense of an Ending

Monday, March 12th, 2012

As we age, our memories of things past shift as well.  What we experienced as a young person may be recalled in an entirely different manner from the realty of the time.  Consider Tony Webster in Julian Barnes’ novel The Sense of an EndingTony has the usual experiences as an emerging adult -  fast friendships, school challenges, and a somewhat difficult relationship with a young woman.  He isn’t with Veronica for long and only meets her family on one rather miserable occasion, that awkward weekend’s stay at their house, with Tony trying to remain polite while puzzling out the subtle messages the various family members might be sending him.  The breakup between Tony and Veronica appears inevitable from the first page when we find the two together, but it is the lingering memory of an incident that carries the relationship forward in time.  When it becomes necessary for Tony to contact Veronica after years and years of separation, his well-established perception of their relationship, breakup, and subsequent events seems to become topsy-turvy.  So vast is the separation between recalled memory and reality that one wonders if they were living in the same universe.  And as the reality of  past events and his past behavior pushes its way into Tony’s consciousness, so too does the reader perhaps reflect on his or her own embellished and altered memories of youth.  Was that really the way it all happened?  When Veronica tells Tony that he just doesn’t get it, we know that he may never get it.  Age can bring wisdom or willful ignorance.  Which one will we choose when facing the past in the glaring light of day?

D. L. S.

Literary Fiction Review from Annie Kovach

Monday, April 11th, 2011

  A Visit from the Goon Squad  By Jennifer Egan (Find this book in our catalog)

Imagine the movie Crash, with its intertwining characters and plotlines.  Then add the element of time passing and you’re approaching the book A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan.  It includes a large cast of characters, with the reader going forward and backward in time (but not in a time travel kind of way) to various times of their lives and seeing what they are, what they were, and what they will become.  

The story starts in modern day New York with the story of Bennie and Sasha; Benny is a music producer and Sasha is his kleptomaniac assistant.  It soon goes forward and backward in time, witnessing Benny’s teen years in the punk music scene in San Francisco and Sasha’s experience as a runaway in Naples, Italy.  Each chapter introduces another character (or three); Benny’s wife Stephanie, Stephanie’s brother Jules, Sasha’s boyfriend Drew, Benny’s childhood friend Scott, Stephanie’s employer Lulu, Sasha’s daughter Alison…and a few more.  It sounds confusing, but each story is told with such skill that the element of jumping through time adds interest and complexity to the characters.  In addition to the intriguing character plotlines and the unique storytelling techniques (I never thought a PowerPoint would be such a powerful and effective storytelling tool), A Visit from the Goon Squad is a thought-provoking commentary on the past, present, and future of the music industry, as well as the tools of human connection.

Review by Annie Kovach