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The Purple Sponge

A bibliophile's happy place

Time is Such a Fucking Goon

Webs upon webs upon webs – a web of people tangled up in the great web of time. That’s Jennifer Egan’s A Visit from the Goonsquad, and time is such a fucking goon. It beats you up, and not one of Egan’s characters can escape.

I just… ugh. I love this book. I love books that play with time like it’s silly putty (The Sound and The Fury, anyone?), and Egan manages to do this while showing immense respect for the damage it can do, knowing no one who can get out alive and unscarred; knowing that those who attempt to live in their memories will suffer most of all.

But let me back up for a moment. According to my book’s cover, A Visit from the Goonsquad is “a novel,” but it takes the form of interwoven short stories, each story focusing in on a different time, different characters, in different phases of their lives. The web holds up 10 or 20 total characters – main players and side-liners. But if we chose two characters to call the protagonists, I (and the back cover of the book) would loosely choose Bennie Salazar, a former punk rocker and record executive, and Sasha, his (former) assistant, necrophiliac, and fellow punk rock enthusiast.

Like everyone, readers and fictional characters alike, Bennie and Sasha are living their lives, popping in and out of others’ lives just as others appear in theirs. If a name is mentioned, you can count on them reappearing somewhere. Like I said, no one gets to escape the goon (AKA Time). We’re introduced to Sasha at the height of her necrophiliac addiction, and Bennie’s eating up gold flecks at $10k an ounce so he can feel a hard-on like the good old days. Their memories haunt them, their pasts following them to the present and ruining whatever good comes their way.

But the best and most interesting character is the goon in the title: “’Time’s a goon, right? You gonna let that goon push you around?” Scotty shook his head. “The goon won.’” The goon always wins, but not always in the way you would expect. I told you no one escapes alive, right? Well, some come out better than others. You have to decide for yourself who those people are and why, but Jennifer gives us a hint:

“Poets claim that we recapture for a moment the self that we were long ago when we enter some house or garden in which we used to live in our youth. But these are most hazardous pilgrimages, which end as often in disappointment as in success. It is in ourselves that we should rather seek to find those fixed places, contemporaneous with different years” – Marcel Proust, In Search of Time (the epigraph).

Time changes people, situations, relationships. Time is like ocean waves, breaking mountains without a care in the world. The characters are the best part of this book: they are their own personalities and they have their own lives, their own trials. They aren’t you. You’re probably not Scotty or Bennie or Sasha or Lulu. But they are caught in the same merciless ocean of time that we are, fighting the current back to the good times. Little do we know that those times were taken in by the tide.

The goon or the ocean or whatever metaphor you like, beats you up until you find that you’re fading away, dying. As brief as Bosco’s appearance is, his statement resonates with the plight of a few key characters: “I don’t want to fade away, I want to flame away – I want my death to be an attraction, a spectacle, a mystery. A work of art.” Bosco is old news, a former rock star who’s gobbled up the pounds and wasted away on his couch for years after the height of his fame.

As a college senior graduating in a matter of days, this book makes me feel like I’m standing on the edge of a cliff – staring into the eyes of a goon that’s about to throw me into the churning ocean waters. It makes me want to hold on for dear life, to my partner, my friends, my family, because who’s to know if I’m one of the ones who will come out okay? And even if I do come out okay, there’s a lot of shit to go through first. A lot of failure, bad luck, good luck, love, work, adventure, hardship. I can never go back and can never see too far forward.

But that’s life, isn’t it? It’s being human, being present and mindful. Soak it up because no one makes it out alive and unscarred.

Questions:

Is the goon beating you up? How in the world are you surviving?

Who are the people featuring in your life right now?

If you’ve read A Visit From the Goonsquad, what is your interpretation, your thoughts, your experience with this novel/collection (whatever it is)?

Closing quote
Context: Sasha scolding her husband her yelling at their son who is totally obsessed with the length of pauses in rock songs.

“The pause makes you think the song will end. And then the song isn’t really over, so you’re relieved. But then the song does actually end, because every song ends, obviously, and THAT. TIME. THE. END. IS. FOR. REAL.”

PS: If you’re a music nerd, especially a punk rock music nerd, this is the book you need to buy.

The 2AM struggle

The title says a lot about my thoughts and a lot can be inferred from it: bleary eyes, dry mouth (okay, that might be the wine…), words blurring, sagging energy.

But here’s the update:

I’ve been reading The Two Towers for the vast majority of Dewey’s readathon, and gotten over 500 pages into it (full disclosure: it’s one of the itty bitty ones. But still). As much love as I still have for the prose and the characters and the world that’s sucking me in in a way only the likes of J.R.R Tolkien can do, I had to stop. The words were blurring together and I was missing entire paragraphs because I had been reading too long, even after a 4-hour break to attend semi-formal.

Yes, I wore a pretty dress. When I got home at 10 p.m. I tore it all off and went back to my “Keep Calm and Let It Go” Frozen shirt.

I made two more valiant attempts including The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon by Brad Stone and Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. From the former, I learned that if you type relentless.com into your search bar, Amazon will come up. Because Bezos is just the kind of guy you want to work for if you’re looking for a good work-life balance. The latter, I definitely absolutely whole-heartedly want to read. I just can’t give it my all tonight.

I’m also too attached to my evening and morning routine. How am I going to mediate with a readathon hangover? The other hard reality is finals week. It’s starts on Tuesday, folks, and I’ve gotta be ready.

Until next time, readers.

 

Character Road Trip

hqdefaultI’m cuddling up to The Two Towers (which is by far not a cuddly book – but hopeful! We’re hopeful. Everything is going to be okay). And I just read Gimli’s glowing recommendation for the caves under Helm’s Deep:

“And, Legolas, when the torches are kindled and men walk on the sandy floors under the echoing domes, ah! then, Legolas, gems and crystals and veins of precious ore glint in the polished walls; and the light glows through folded marbles, shel-like, translucent as the living hands of Queen Galadriel.”

In light of such a passionate speech, I would road trip with Gimli (in the hopes that a car would be more pleasant for him than a horse) and take him to the mountainous regions of the US: the Rockies, of course, and the Appalachians. Perhaps we would march the Pacific Coast Trail together, and skip over the woody bits. Unless we’re visiting Legolas, in which case he would be more than willing.

ReadBlock

Like writer’s block but for reading.

What stops me from reading? My #1 place to go when I don’t have something to do (but could be reading) is the notorious time monster, FaceBook. I just hate it.

Bookish Childhoods

My take on the bookish childhood prompt from book-blogger Bookgirl1987:

  1. My mom tells me that I came home frustrated and upset from Kindergarten after the first week because “I’ve been going to kindergarten for a whole week and I STILL can’t read!”
  2. Elementary school daycare – they were always trying to get us to go outside. I would hide in a shady spot under the play-set reading Harry Potter or some version of Eragon. My poor care-givers (as I called them) would have to come and get me because I never heard them calling.
  3. I read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone because my daycare had a Harry Potter trivia board-game based on the BOOK. So I had to read the book to beat my friend at this silly game. It changed my life.
  4. My parents used to read to me (bless them), but soon enough I preferred to read to them. But after they had left the room, I would continue reading our book on my own, so they would always miss those chunks. It drove my mom bonkers. I also couldn’t read books that would give my mom nightmares (ahem… The Series of Unfortunate Events)
  5.  I identified with A Little Princess on a deep deep deep level. I, too, thought my dolls came to life when I wasn’t looking. And, silly though it sounds to me now, I considered my imagination to be a real and true friend.

Get ready, get set…

As I was getting into my comfy-wear for the readathon (note the cupcake pants and “Keep Calm and Let It Go” shirt), I had a revelation:

I don’t have to wear a bra to this thing.

Hello friends and readers! It’s almost 11AM here, and I’m finally getting to it after a slow start this morning.

1) What fine part of the world are you reading from today?
The great state of Ohio, and you can see a (rough) picture of my 20th floor view at The Ohio State University campus (ya’ll can’t track me down because I’m moving out in two weeks anyhow)

2) Which book in your stack are you most looking forward to?
That’s a tough one because I have The Lord of the Rings AND Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie on my shelf.

3) Which snack are you most looking forward to?
Pictured above are the crumbs of my Tagalongs (thank goodness for girl scout cookies in a time like this) and Brownie Brittle which is chocolatey deliciousness.

4) Tell us a little something about yourself!
I’m graduating college in two weeks so I decided why not do a 24 hour readathon a couple days before finals?

5) If you participated in the last read-a-thon, what’s one thing you’ll do different today?
At the last readathon, I started late in the day and fell asleep early (I was weak). This time I have many more daylight hours and a less comfortable couch to nap in (because college).

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