February 13, 2012
Angela Conyers introduced the book, noting its moving stories and its depiction of life within a mixed group of 20th century American associated with the music industry. There was no single direct narrative but poetic descriptions and an interesting variety of styles of writing.
In discussion we thought that it was more than a mere collection of short stories in the way the characters were linked. We enjoyed the range of characters – few of which we found sympathetic but they were clearly drawn and their changes with time were the main burden of the book. We missed continuous narrative and the process of change for example what happened to Sasha as she changed from kleptomaniac druggie to PA to the main man – Bennie – to wife of a liberal doctor whose children provide a fascinating, power point chapter).
We found the mood to be optimistic overall (the American way!) but this was rather belied by the title – goon squads beat people up – and the only textual reference (in the dystopic final chapter) is to time being a goon. Certainly time beats up many of these people although some subsequently recover, but we also noted that this redemption was often dependant on chance as much as individual effort.
Individual responses ranged from throwing it at the wall to wanting to read it again, and collectively we were interested rather than overwhelmed, but the book provoked a very good discussion.