Tag Archives: Dave Eggers

Review: The Circle

The Circle
The Circle
By Dave Eggers
(Vintage, Paperback, 9780345807298, April 2014, 512pp.)

The Short of It:

In a world that is nearly 100% transparent, how does one survive?

The Rest of It:

The book opens with Mae Holland on her first day of work at the Circle. Think Google or Facebook but kicked up a notch. Jobs at the Circle are hard to come by, but Mae’s friend Anna, pulled some strings and got her a seat in Customer Experience. Mae’s job is to answer questions and obtain a satisfaction rating of 97% or higher. At the Circle, everything is driven by customer satisfaction and positive reinforcement from the supervisors. Every click is tracked. If your CE rating goes up, you received dozens of chat room comments congratulating you and if your CE rating falls, you get a call from the boss.

In addition to the job itself, Mae is expected to maintain transparency at all times. Every feeling and thought needs to be documented somewhere for the benefit of others and when a new project lands in Mae’s lap, her every move is documented as well. Pulse is recorded, tests are taken randomly to ensure health, regular visits to the doctor to maintain the status quo are all a part of the job. Mae’s fascination with the technology and the Circle’s promise to extend health care to her uninsured parents make her a loyal employee.

But at what cost?

I work in technology so I see the benefit of technology daily, but I also see what’s lost in the exchange. The constant need to be connected is wearing thin with me. Cell phones, data plans, Wi-Fi and the like mean that people no longer talk to one another. We spend hours on our phones and at work, how much of your day is spent answering email? Years ago, when we left the office the work was left behind. Now, the work follows us wherever we go and I hate it.

Every day companies try to out-do each other with wearable technology. If you don’t believe it, consider the recent rise in fitness trackers. More affordable than you think and fitness enthusiasts love them. Then there’s Google Glass.  Not an affordable piece of technology, which will ultimately be its downfall but someone, somewhere picked-up on the idea that people want to be connected all the time. How sad is that?

The world that Egger’s creates is totally blown-up and exaggerated but not by much. We are heading down a dangerous path. One that cannot be maintained by normal human beings. I mean, how can a person be “on” 24/7 without falling apart at some point?

The Circle is a terrifying read. Everything is wonderful until it’s not, right? It really makes you think about society and where it’s headed. Will we ever be able to return to simpler times? A part of me thinks so. After upgrading my phone this past December, I now feel as if I should have just went with a regular phone and skipped the “smart” part of it.  Frankly, I am tired of it. I am tired of the constant stream of information. I am not a true abuser of it either but I feel as if I am unable to turn it off sometimes. When you are watching a show and have a question, you Google it. Looking for a restaurant? You pull out your phone to see what’s close to you. Instant gratification and it’s making me sick. Literally.

Have you read The Circle? Do you plan to? It’s a frightening read in a lot of ways but an effective way to relay the fact that society is headed for the $hit*er (if it’s not there already).

Source: Borrowed
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.

Everybody Loves a Festival: L.A. Times Festival of Books 2010 Recap

L.A. Times Festival Map

On Saturday I attended the L.A. Times Festival of Books. This is an annual event here in L.A. and I have to say, each year it seems to be a bit more popular than the previous year. The crowds always amaze me. So many book lovers all in one place. It made me want to sway to a 70’s song and wave a BIC lighter. Except, I don’t smoke and it wasn’t dark and there wasn’t any 70’s music to be found. That being said, it was still cool. 

For years and years I attended the event but never attended any of the panels. Last year was my first year doing that and it added another level of excitement to the day so I decided to do it again this year. I always feel a little nerdy being around authors that I admire but that’s okay. 

Life Stories Panel

The first panel that I attended is the Fiction: Life Stories panel. This panel included Rafael Yglesias, Paul Harding and Colson Whitehead and was moderated by David Kipen. As you may know, Paul Harding’s Tinkers, just won the Pulitzer for Fiction so there was a great deal of enthusiasm from the audience over the book. Mr. Harding, in sharing his reaction over the news,  said that he was flabbergasted because the book had been turned down by many before getting published. I found his humor charming.

Conversely, Rafael Yglesias had his first book published at the age of 17 and never even finished high school. He’s since wrote several books and although they are all fictionalized to a degree, they do mirror his personal life story (hence the title of panel). 

Colson Whitehead was asked how he could have written such a believable protagonist in Sag Harbor and his response surprised me. I expected him to say that he wrote what he knew, but his response was quite the opposite. He said that he feels compelled to write about what he doesn’t know and that sometimes he gets it’s wrong but that ultimately is comes down to lots of practice. 

David Kipen did a fantastic job. This panel was interesting and the conversation flowed naturally. He pointed out similarities when he noticed them and drew conclusions when possible and he was handsome and funny while doing it. I sort of had a little bit of a crush on him by the end of the panel. 

In Conversation with Dave Eggers

The next event I attended was a conversation between Dave Eggers and David Ulin. I decided to attend this panel because my book club’s pick for next month is Zeitoun and I was hoping to pick-up a little bit of background on it. He didn’t talk too much about his books although he briefly mentioned What is the What when a member of the audience asked him a question about it.

No, this conversation was geared towards the publishing industry, mainly the creation of McSweeny’s and 826. I knew of McSweeny’s but I wasn’t aware of Egger’s tie to it and 826 was brand new to me. It was an interesting conversation that pretty much focused on the importance of writing and what a difference it can make in a young person’s life. Eggers asked if anyone would be willing to volunteer since 826 has a local chapter in Venice, California. If you’d like to learn more about 826 or would like to volunteer (there are chapters all over), click here. 

In Conversation with Yann Martel

For my 3pm panel, I was torn. I had printed off two tickets to two different events. I wanted to see Gabrielle Burton, author of Impatient with Desire but I had just recently reviewed Yann Martel’s Beatrice and Virgil and because his book has gotten so many conflicting reviews, I felt the need to attend his panel to see what he had to say about his book.

Let me tell you, he said many beautiful things during this panel. I was tweeting them the entire time and found myself in awe over him. At one point during the conversation, an audience member stood up and admitted that she at one point thought that Life of Pi was a true story. Everyone kind of squirmed in their seats over it but he said that Life of Pi IS a true story. That “art is true.” I pondered that awhile. At another point in the conversation, he said that “literature puts you in the skin of someone else.” So true. I tried to get a better photo of him, one where he did not look bored but he sort of looked bored throughout the entire conversation although I didn’t get that impression from him at all.  

Michael Silverblatt of KCRW’s Bookworm did a fabulous job of fielding questions and asked several thought-provoking questions of his own. If you are not familiar with him he can seem a bit over-the-top, but I really enjoy his commentary. He also shared that Life of Pi is in production with Ang Lee directing. Hearing all this talk about Life of Pi has me wanting to pick up the book again. I enjoyed Beatrice and Virgil but did not enjoy Life of Pi the first time around. 

The Bloggers

Can you guess what the best part was? Meeting up with other bloggers. I included this photo as it is the only one I had of the group but it’s not the greatest (I look horrid and people are hidden) but then again, I didn’t take it. See how quick I am to blame the nice waitress that took it for us?

Going clockwise from the bottom left:

Mark from Random Ramblings from Sunny Southern CA,  Florinda of The 3 R’s, Thea from The Book Smugglers, Lisa from Books on the Brain (with her oldest daughter who was hiding), Danielle of There’s a Book (along with her husband), Leah’s Mom (forgot your name, so sorry!) and Leah of Amused by Books, Amy of My Friend Amy, Jill/Softdrink of Fizzy Thoughts,  and me.

If you care to know what I bought while there, check out this post.

It was a lot of fun. I wish every day could be spent hanging out with friends, shopping for books and listening to authors you love. Maybe I’ll see some of you there next year.