About the Book

Book Protagonist: Sasha Grady Blake
Publication Date: 2010
Genre: Coming of Age

Best Quotes

A Visit from the Goon Squad

By Jennifer Egan

The inevitability of time is one unchanging aspect of reality that Jennifer Egan’s ‘A Visit from the Goon Squad hammered severely on. All her many characters - major and minor - are impacted by this phenomenon and there’s certainly more than a few admonitions for readers to pick out from the best quotes offered by the book.

When time is fed up, age, youth, and aspiration are flushed away – leaving only memories to say. ‘A Visit from the Goon Squad,’ teaches on this and more. Egan cuts through time (and music) to cover a wide range of everyday, relatable themes for her readers, and all these come alive through her character quotes. For a book that is 13 chapters long and far from straightforward, Egan’s insights and ideas make it a worthwhile, value-adding read to handle. Here we will examine all the best quotes from ‘A Visit from the Goon Squad’ by Jennifer Egan.

Quotes on Time

Time, or more specifically, the passage of time, is one of the core messages Egan embedded in her masterwork, ‘A Visit from the Goon Squad.’ It’s refreshing to know that time presents us with the opportunity to live, love, dream, and achieve our goals, but it’s heartbreaking to know that the same time will take them all away in a snap of a finger. 

The story of ‘A Visit from the Goon Squad is character-populated, and to talk about the main characters goes beyond just Sasha and Bennie because they’re many more people (some from different generations) who play key roles in the book. And while some of these characters’ personas are dark and less than well-meaning, time still somehow takes the place of the book’s ultimate villain seeing as they all dread it (or its passage). 

Because the time factor is so important in the book, we have tried to single out and analyze the excerpts that Egan uses to emphasize the power of time. 

‘Time’s a goon’

Time’s a goon, right? You gonna let that goon push you around?” Scotty shook his head. “The goon won.

‘Time is a goon’ is a proverbial statement that appears more than a few times in this book and it’s also from whence the book’s name is derived. Like a dangerous mobster, time attacks every single character in Egan’s ‘A Visit from the Goon Squad’ – leaving each in grim conditions such as regret, despair, or self-loathe. 

By extension, the same applies to the reading audience. We can have a quiet introspection about certain past events that we are not proud of because we missed opportunities or wasted our time and resources chasing empty passions. However, there’s an important lesson to learn here. Much like this quote where Scotty later finds the courage to seize the moment and perform on the big, intimidating stage, we can also seize our moments by forgiving ourselves and people from the past and striving intentionally and impactful with our actions from today onwards.

Time has the Final Word

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.

Alison Blake narrates this quote in her beautifully illustrated PowerPoint slides chapter, and with this, she further attests to the power of time not only on humans – but on everything that exists. 

Time puts an end to an era, overseeing the rise and eventual fall of a man. Time defines the extinction of species. The universe and other planetary bodies exist in time: there’s nothing outside of it. What then is humanity before the time of not a mere spec on the surface of the earth? This quote shows there’s no comparison or bragging rights between humanity and time phenomena. There never was and never will be. 

And Flashes Quickly Before Our Eyes 

We stand there, quiet. My questions all seem wrong: How did you get so old? Was it all at once, in a day, or did you peter out bit by bit? When did you stop having parties? Did everyone else get old too, or was it just you?

Sometimes time can jet off leaving us in no man’s land, dizzy and reeling on our balance. This is why it is important to make every day count: every event should not be memorable for their vanity but for the lasting values they hold.

Quote on Hope and Despair

Another important message Egan passes down to her readers through ‘A Visit from the Goon Squad’ is the message of hope. Even though hope is portrayed in small fractions – and appears to be no match for an adversary like time, it should not be taken for granted as even a grain of it can turn out to be very effective.

The author uses some powerful instruments – such as children – to drive her message of hope even in the most despairing of moments possible. Quote excerpts that express hope have been analyzed. 

The Future Belongs to Children 

An army of children: the incarnation of faith in those who weren’t aware of having any left…

This might well be a platitude but it’s one that needs mentioning. With nearly all the adult characters battered by the harsh hands of time, children seem to be one of the few sources of hope or joy for the future in ‘A Visit from the Goon Squad,’ and that is not surprising. 

They are the generation of innocence filled with positive drives and ambitions. Only they have the power to correct the wrongs of the last generations. This is a message that cuts through this book and is applicable to the reality that we all live in. 

The Best Hopes come from Within 

If I had a view like this to look down on every day, I would have the energy and inspiration to conquer the world. The trouble is, when you most need such a view, no one gives it to you.

It’s easy to tear down people who lead a decadent lifestyle, especially when you turn out to be a better person with all these values. But the sad truth is, the despair, corruption, and hate might be a result of past circumstances outside of their control, maybe even buried in their upbringing or family. 

Egan adds this wonderful quote to help inspire us all to self-motivate, show up and give ourselves that long, hard pep talk. Whether you’re lucky to have a team of competent advisors or you’re all by yourself with a terribly hopeless background. It doesn’t matter because the most important thing is to pick yourself back up and keep going. 

It is Bad, Only When We Think it is

Things had gotten — what’s the word? Dry. Things had gotten sort of dry for me.

We are only defeated when we ourselves admit to it. Bad situations linger to destroy us but to do so, it must first take over our minds and make us admit to being a failure and no other way out for us. 

This quote of Egan’s sends a strong message to the readers to persevere and stay psychologically positive in delicate situations of life. As long as our mind is undefeated, all other scenarios surrounding us are intact, and no unpleasant consequence endures forever. It’s only a matter of time before we find our moment.

Quotes on Dying and Death

Although applied in the most subtle way, much like the passage of time, death is also a core theme element in Egan’s ‘A Visit from the Goon Squad. When time is at its most brutal state, death is usually at the end of it – making death (However ironically) a saving grace for all of the human race. 

In the book, readers will notice different characters lashing out in frustration over failure, while constantly making direct and indirect references to death. Let’s examine some of these quotes from ‘A Visit from the Goon Squad’ corroborating this notion.

The Legacy You Leave 

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.

Death as a phenomenon is constant and universal, and it is the most potent instrument of time. The characters in ‘A Visit from the Goon Squad are all weary of this – especially given that they aren’t where they want to be in terms of their achievements and legacy. 

The iconic punk musician, Bosco, leaves us with this audacious quote that’s also inspiring because it reminds us that while we can’t stop death from happening, we have the luxury of choosing to die strong, like a hero. How to die strong? How to die like a hero? Live, love, be kind, and inspire the world around you. Leave a pleasant taste in the mouth of everyone who crosses paths with you.

Suicidal Thoughts

‘Her only thought was of getting away, as if she were carrying a live grenade from inside the house, so that when it exploded, it would destroy just herself.’

It’s not surprising that we find a number of quotes where ‘A Visit from the Goon Squad’ characters hint at ending life and putting a stop to all its miseries. This is because the book is filled with characters who hate themselves for their past, are depressed over it, and have fallen mentally and physically sick. 

Characters like Bosco, Jocelyn, and Rob – even Sasha – are especially vulnerable to this and, at one point or the other express their disdain for their life and show interest in making it stop. This exposes a vital subject covered by the book and as usual, leaves the readers with important lessons to learn. 

There’s a way around self-hurt thoughts, and Egan shows us just how in the life of characters like Bosco, who goes from wanting to kill himself to becoming a happy and content countryside farmer. 


What is a golden quote in ‘A Visit from the Goon Squad’?

‘Time’s a goon…’ is a golden quote from Egan’s ‘A Visit from the Goon Squad,’ appearing more than a few times and pretty much capturing the essence of the entire book.

What is a quote that embodies hope for the future in Egan’s ‘A Visit from the Goon Squad’?

The expression ‘an army of children: the incarnation of faith in those who weren’t aware of having any left…’ is one of the few moments where hope is appreciated in a book that clearly has a dearth of it.

What is a quote that cements the superiority of time over all else?

‘…every song ends, obviously, and THAT. TIME. THE. END. IS. FOR. REAL.’ Although the quote makes reference to music, it is also a metaphor that shows time’s ability to bring an end to all things.

What Sasha’s quote exposes how lonely she is?

‘I get to know a lot of people. But it never really lasts.’ When Sasha says this, her uncle Ted immediately knows his niece – through appearing brave and bold about it – is really lonely and forsaken in a foreign country. 

Victor Onuorah
About Victor Onuorah
Victor is as much a prolific writer as he is an avid reader. With a degree in Journalism, he goes around scouring literary storehouses and archives; picking up, dusting the dirt off, and leaving clean even the most crooked pieces of literature all with the skill of analysis.
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