The Biggest Thief of All: Time
Bennie Salazar’s life is anything from ordinary. He grows up with a love for music, dreaming of one day becoming a successful rock star. Although the Flaming Dildos did not receive a platinum record, he successfully involved himself in the music business to continue working in a career that was both enjoyable and worthwhile. However, Jennifer Egan’s novel depicts the ebbs and flows of Bennie’s life, including his rocky career, his marriage to Stephanie, and his opportunity to rediscover himself. The phrase, “Time’s a goon”, illustrates how time can wither a person away and steal what is important to him. Although time robs Bennie of continuous success, his self-determination and drive for achievement allows him to reach old age in a positive and content state.
When Bennie is first introduced in A Visit from the Goon Squad, he is portrayed as a hardworking kid whose goal is to make it big in the music business. Although it seems difficult for a high school garage band to actually have success and play in clubs, Bennie believed his band could do it. Rhea refers to Bennie always listening to the sound of the music, letting it dance through his head to make sure it sounded just right. Additionally, Bennie continuously drove from club to club with Scotty in an attempt to book gigs, and at the age of only eighteen, “Bennie was dealing with the rude assholes inside the clubs” (Egan, Ch. 3). Because Scotty was unable to persuade anybody to let the band play, it was Bennie who was put in a position to act like an adult in order to receive respect from the adults around him.
During the wild shows Bennie and his friends went to, he took himself out of the pushing and shoving of sweaty mosh pits. Instead, “he actually listens to the music” (Egan, Ch. 3). Instead of engaging in the activities most teenagers would at crazy concerts, Bennie used these events as learning methods to figure out how his band could be the next to go on stage. Bennie Salazar underwent adversities including dealing with rude managers and observing crazy teenage raucous instead of participating in it in order to do what he loved best: perform. From even the age of a teenager, Bennie strived for excellence.
As years passed, Bennie, like many middle aged people, lost sight of what was most important to him. His marriage to Stephanie crumbles after she discovers his affair with her friend Kathy, while his nine year old son, Chris rarely has anything to say to him. His career at this point does not look prosperous, considering the Stop/Go, a band he signed three years earlier, was about to be cut from his music label. He was dealing with some sort of midlife crisis due to all of his recent failures, but was unaware of how it happened: “The divorce from Stephanie? The battle over Christopher? Having recently turned forty-four?” (Egan, Ch. 2) In any case, Bennie is able to show self-determination, even if it is not in the most appropriate way: his need for a sex drive. “He shimmied a tiny red enameled box from his pocket, popped the tricky latch, pinched a few gold flakes between his trembling fingers, and released them into his cup” (Egan, Ch.
2). Bennie is willing to spend hundreds of dollars on flakes of gold in an attempt to feel a certain way. Although according to the Aztecs, gold and coffee ensures sexual potency, there is no real guarantee the combination will work. However, Bennie is prepared to go great distances to regain the success he is used to. Although at this point in his life, it is difficult for Bennie to be triumphant, he puts all of his determination and efforts into eating gold flakes and gaining a sex drive back.
By the latter part of Bennie Salazar’s life, he pulls himself together. He remarries to a woman named Lupa and has a daughter, Ava, while returning to the music business by turning former band mate, Scotty into a star. In a roundabout way, Bennie reinvents himself into a better version of the man he has been for the past forty years. From the time he began working in the music industry until he got fired from Sow’s Ear, Bennie’s accomplishments never seemed to last. He signed the Conduits, yet Bosco ends up becoming a washed up artist going on a suicide tour; his first family unfortunately did not satisfy him the way being married with a child should; even the label he worked at began to disgruntle him.
However, getting fired allows Bennie to reevaluate his life. Through his determination that dwindled at points in his life and his want for success, Bennie Salazar creates a life that fulfills him. When ensuring Scotty that he could perform in front of a live audience for the first time in over thirty years, Bennie told him, “Time’s a goon right? You gonna let that goon push you around?” (Egan, Ch. 13) He knew he let time rob him of his potential as a husband, as a father, and as a man. Instead of taking charge of his life, he just allowed time to pass by. But with the realization Bennie makes, he not only finds the success and tranquility he always yearned for, but he also reciprocates that onto the people around him so that they do not make the same mistakes he did.
A Visit from the Goon Squad depicts the ups and downs of various characters’ lives. Bennie Salazar in particular lives a life far from stagnant. He encounters successes and failures in all aspects of his life throughout the forty years Egan illustrates. However, by the time he reaches sixty he is successful and satisfied with the life he has. Because of his self-determination and drive to flourish, Bennie Salazar overcomes time as a goon.
He no longer looks at time as a thief, but more as an opportunity for more chances to thrive.