A Visit from the Goon Squad: Jennifer Egan’s Pulitzer Prize Winning Book Comes to Westchester, NY

Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Jennifer Egan brings the Goon Squad to Westchester

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I’m just getting around to reading Jennifer Egan’s A Visit from the Goon Squad, this year’s Pulitzer Prize winner for fiction. Reading it, a question popped into my head: What took me so long?

Man, were the Pulitzers on-point with this one. I enjoy the writing, sure, but it’s enhanced by the fact that Egan touches on some of my favorite subjects. The novel — a series of interconnected stories in which the points-of-view shift in each chapter — is mostly about people’s relationship to music, either personally or professionally. As a pop-culture editor, I find this fascinating (of course!), and I think she really gets what it is to be a music fan. But more than that, I’m obsessed with the characters of Stephanie and Bennie, because they live in — what else? — Westchester.

a visit from the goon squad

They live in the fictional town of Crandale (not to be confused with Scarsdale, which is referenced elsewhere). Egan explains the characters’ decision to settle in the ’burbs thusly: “It was Bennie who chose Crandale, and in some deep way Stephanie understood why: they’d flown in private jets owned by rock stars, but this country club was the farthest distance Bennie had traveled from the dark-eyed grandmother in Daly City. He’d sold his record label last year; how better to mark success than by going to a place where you didn’t belong?”

Unfortunately, Egan doesn’t treat the country club-going residents of Crandale, who give Bennie and Stephanie the initial brush-off, kindly: “They were snobs or idiots or both, Stephanie told herself, yet she was inexplicably crushed by their coldness.”

“I’ve never lived in the suburbs, but I do have a sense of country clubs — first from Rockford, Illinois, my mother’s hometown,” Egan writes. “I think the deep inspiration for ‘A to B’ was really the sensory atmosphere of country clubs: the sound of tennis balls, the smell of the snack bar, the mothers tanning their pregnancy-stretched bellies, the fathers subtly eyeing the teenage girls around the pool.”

(Continue on next page)

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Marisa LaScala

Marisa LaScala
Elmsford, NY

Associate Editor Marisa LaScala joined Westchester magazine in 2003, and ever since she's blown every paycheck at the Greenburgh Multiplex. She also staunchly defends Richard Kelly, doesn't mind spoiling the endings of trashy movies you're curious about but don't want to pay to see, wishes the Hold Steady would come back and rock out Westchester, misses Arrested Development more than anyone can imagine, and still watches cartoons and Saturday Night Live. You can find more of her cultural criticism at www.popmatters.com, where she is a staff writer.



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