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“Books are a uniquely portable magic.” 
― Stephen King, On Writing.

Nataliya's quotes

"If you want to know what a man's like, take a good look at how he treats his inferiors, not his equals."— J.K. Rowling

'A Visit from the Goon Squad' by Jennifer Egan - the ruminations on time, the cruel old goon

A Visit from the Goon Squad - Jennifer Egan

Time is a strange old fella, isn't it? It creeps up on you and changes you bit by bit until you the new you and the old you are barely more than strangers to one another.


You can see time as a continuum, a line stretching from the past into the future, a long straight road to travel along with occasional proverbial 'road not taken' splitting off to the side - where barely perceptible changes accumulate one by one.


Or else you can look at it as a series of snapshots, a deck of cards randomly and carelessly shuffled, each one showing a face different from the rest - life in snapshots.



And these snapshots are so different from one another, separated by the years of smart choices and poor choices, pain and happiness, gains and losses, laughter and tears, having formed an invisible network of scars that forever preclude us from following that once-long-ago good-natured yet impossible advice of 'Please don't change; just stay the way you are!' - the promise we can wholeheartedly make but no matter how hard we try we cannot keep.

"Alex imagined walking into her apartment and finding himself still there— his young self, full of schemes and high standards, with nothing decided yet. The fantasy imbued him with careening hope."


I still can easily remember being sixteen, not knowing anything besides the blissful strong-willed ignorance of youth, where everything was just beginning, everything was still about to start, nothing was decided yet, and the world was one giant untapped possibility with no way of telling where time will eventually take you.


But time goes on, and now I can almost see thirty from this point in life and occasional gray hairs are creeping onto my temples (yes, I know - thirty is the new twenty and all that bullshit we tell ourselves to feel younger and preserve that feeling of endless, overwhelming potentiality and possibility that we so took for granted half a life ago), and there's not that much connecting me to that girl in the Land of Ago (to borrow Stephen King's phrase).


Time passes, and with it we change, slowly and subtly but unavoidably, until one day, just like a character in A Visit from the Goon Squad notices, we stop being ourselves 'without recognizing it'.



And then maybe we learn to appreciate the pauses in songs, like a young autistic kid the glimpses of whom we see through a powerpoint presentation made in the future by a 12-year-old girl (oh dear, how much do I loathe the inescapable omnipresent powerpoints that have reduced public speaking to mindless reading of slides!) - because they make us think the song is over, and then it restarts and we get a temporary reprieve from the end, the real end, and it's that giddy feeling of almost having cheated the inevitable, of having gotten away with something at least for a while longer.


They resumed walking. Alex felt an ache in his eyes and throat. “I don’t know what happened to me,” he said, shaking his head. “I honestly don’t.”

Bennie glanced at him, a middle-aged man with chaotic silver hair and thoughtful eyes. “You grew up, Alex,” he said, “just like the rest of us.”


This is a book about losses and regrets as people change with time - as well as glimpses of personal redemption, especially in the threads of the story connected to Sasha (who I really started to love after the NYU chapter - because how can you not?). It's a book full of little often unseen connections between the characters who have touched each other's lives in the ways they may never understand.


"Redemption, transformation — God how she wanted these things. Every day, every minute. Didn’t everyone?"



This book is about people connected by time, connected by music, with moments in life captured just like the pauses in songs, full of realized hopes and shattered dreams, with constant reminders of beautiful fragility of life. The road from A to B - be it in time or on two sides of a musical record - is not always in a straight line; it curves around, zigzags madly, loops back, runs into life itself - and is a path connecting the kaleidoscope snapshots of our beings that somehow will eventually fall into the beautiful but ever-changing patterns, which before you know it will fall apart into another snapshot, something different and unrecognizable - because time is a goon, after all.


"I came for this reason: I want to know what happened between A and B.”


And in the meantime, while the unrelentless goon is mercilessly dragging us along, we can look around at the fragile beauty of life around and try to remember the world for what it is now - because it will never be the same again. Because time is a goon. But for now, it's not yet over. “Sure, everything is ending,” Jules said, “but not yet.”



And for an instant he would remember Naples: sitting with Sasha in her tiny room; the jolt of surprise and delight he’d felt when the sun finally dropped into the center of her window and was captured inside her circle of wire. Now he turned to her, grinning. Her hair and face were aflame with orange light.



“See,” Sasha muttered, eyeing the sun. “It’s mine.”