The Circle is a crescendo of creepiness, and it works—I couldn't stop turning pages to find out which social contract would be next eviscerated in the...moreThe Circle is a crescendo of creepiness, and it works—I couldn't stop turning pages to find out which social contract would be next eviscerated in the name of progress. It's been compared to 1984, and although 1984 is a much better book, Eggers' world benefits greatly from its similarity to our own. His characters' obsession with comments and "smiles" and "frowns," and their emphasis on quantity over quality, and the withdrawal-like symptoms they exhibit when their "feeds" are empty—these are all only slight exaggerations of what happens on Facebook today. And although the pace of technological development is pretty unrealistic (especially with regard to batteries), the moon-shot ambitiousness rings exactly true as a caricature of Google/Google X. As a result, compared to most novels that I would classify as dystopian, it's a lot easier to see Eggers' world coming true. We are already the frog in the pot and the temperature is already inching its way upward.
That said, some of his technology is just too outlandish. That's okay if you're writing a steampunk novel because outlandishness is kind of the point, but here it detracts from the plausibility of his world and makes the book feel like a cartoon.
The cartoonishness extends to the characters as well. I can't say too much without giving away spoilers, but Mae Holland, the protagonist, doesn't seem to stand for anything or believe in anything. I felt the whole time as if she were merely a prop for Eggers; he tosses her into the right place at the right time so that she will move the story forward, and because she has no personality of her own with which to object, she obliges. This applies to most of the other characters as well; Mercer comes out the best, perhaps because Eggers is most sympathetic to him. [Anyway, if you're reading this and you know of another novel in which (view spoiler)[a more believable protagonist makes the same choice at the end that Mae does (hide spoiler)], I'd like to read it.]
In short: it's a fun read, it raises lots of interesting questions, and I would recommend it. Just don't go in expecting to moved.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
When you don't know how to cook, you are especially dependent on recipes, and many recipes are intimidating/daunting because they're complex --they ha...moreWhen you don't know how to cook, you are especially dependent on recipes, and many recipes are intimidating/daunting because they're complex --they have many ingredients and/or many steps. Because you're a newbie, you don't know which ingredients are crucial, which means you may think you have to go to the store when you didn't really need to, which means you may abandon cooking for the night when you didn't really need to.
Bittman's column in the New York Times is called "The Minimalist," and it's an apt moniker; his versions of recipes are invariably the simplest, and they often do the best job of letting good ingredients (if you have them) shine. In this book, most sections and groups of recipes are prefaced with what a basic chef would need to know but might not know if all they had was a recipe: how to cut a certain kind of meat, or how different kinds of heat work differently.
And if you want fancy versions of recipes, those are here too, but they're listed as variations below the minimal base recipe; he'll typically say something like "try it with ingredient X instead of Y." I found this enormously helpful because it makes me think more like a chef working with flavor combinations instead of a culinary technician slavishly adhering to procedure. This also reduces the likelihood that I'll feel the need for a special trip to the store for an ingredient, which makes me more likely to fire up my stove.(less)