Thursday, April 18, 2013

On Hype

I can be an intellectual snob. There, I said it. It is embarrassing but what can you do? Admit you have a problem and strive against it. Intellectual snobbery is boring and obnoxious and, as with all types of snobbery, it blinds you to new and interesting experiences. It can stand between you and pleasure. Still, I struggle to shake the connection between popularity and badness - if something is popular it can't be good. This is obviously rubbish yet I can't help but find hype off putting. My punishment, I suppose, is missing out on all those great, popular things in the world...

Luckily, I am not totally inflexible and hype rarely lasts forever. Years later, when everyone else is done with talking about how great xyz is, I can creep towards the celebrated object and enjoy it on my own. This is a roundabout way of saying that three years after it was originally published and much raved about I enjoyed A Visit from the Goon Squad. I resisted reading it for ages for all the above reasons but eventually the personal recommendations from people whose opinion I trust stacked up and there was a cheap secondhand copy and it couldn't be ignored any longer.

I remained unconvinced even through the first few chapters because the 'We're All Fuck-Ups Now' trope doesn't do much for me. Yes, it can be done well but so often it is just self-indulgent and self-fulfilling. Egan powers through though and Goon Squad is, thankfully, much more than a beautiful young woman with a shrink, daddy issues and kleptomaniacal tendencies. She explores how we exist within society and how our lives interact with others. The interlocking mini narratives could be pretentious or dryly theoretical but she handles them lightly. They are relaxed and elegant and totally contemporary without being too slangy (apart from some very irritating text-speak in the last chapter which I LOATHE - authors and publishers, please stop already, it is not exciting and modern, it is just. the. worst.). The whole book is just easy and enjoyable while still being gently thought provoking and considered.

It didn't change my life but it was pleasant and if you're looking for some engrossing modern fiction you could do much worse. And there was a conclusion that was worth waiting three years for, right!?

Chuck x


  1. I just adore you - for the honesty, for your writing and for your ability to read my mind and express it in words. :)
    Have a wonderful weekend!

  2. I have had this book in my queue for a while now. I am the total opposite when it comes to books (I love crap). I enjoyed reading your take on this.

  3. Going off of your intellectual snobbery comment, can I say there's not that much modern fiction that I truly enjoy? I feel like most of it tries too hard. Or maybe that's just the mainstream poppy lit stuff.