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Is The Circle Real?

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Richard Toscan It's not scifi, the way 1984 was when that novel was published. If you're wondering how close The Circle is to our contemporary world of Google, Amazon, and Facebook, here's Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg speaking to Wall Street types this past October, eerily lifted from the mouths of the characters Eggers has running his fictional company:

Every day people post billions of pieces of content and connections into the graph [on Facebook] and in doing this they're helping to build the clearest model of everything there is to know in the world. This has the potential to be really powerful, but right now we actually do very little to utilize the knowledge that people have shared to benefit everyone in our community.


message 2: by Jason (last edited Nov 26, 2013 05:00AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jason I think the book works as both a commentary on Facebook or Google and as a quasi-science fiction dystopian work. Either reading is valid.


message 3: by Amy (new) - rated it 5 stars

Amy Lillis Within the context of it being only dystopian, did Meg do the right thing?


message 4: by Jason (last edited Jan 22, 2014 03:54AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jason She certainly didn't take the Guy Montag route or even the Winston Smith route. I think she's a narrator who has chosen to buy into the system. Even if she's initially sort of an outsider, by the end of the book she's been thoroughly indoctrinated into the world of the Circle. She probably did the right thing for her own career, but it's not the choice we'd expect from a dystopian fiction hero.


message 5: by Amy (new) - rated it 5 stars

Amy Lillis I agree. When I thought back on her choice, I felt let down. I felt that she had forgotten who she was. Ultimately she lost her identity to the uber-world of the Circle.


Richard Toscan I was surprised by the ending and not in a good way. The character logic of Meg finally buying into the whole Circle package didn't support her final decision, at least for me, though I guess you could say she was lost from the moment she caused the death of her former semi-boyfriend. Likewise, the decision of the Circle leaders to let their renegade founding partner live on seemed out of character -- but perhaps Eggers wanted to keep his options open for a sequel.


message 7: by Jason (last edited Jan 22, 2014 03:55AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jason It's a good point. It does seem surprising that more or less orchestrating the death of her ex-boyfriend doesn't provide a wake up call for Meg. It seems to lead her even farther into blind subservience.


message 8: by Amy (new) - rated it 5 stars

Amy Lillis She didn't have any "saviors" besides the "BIG MACHINE" of the Circle. Her parents didn't acknowledge her, after she got so into her job; her friend went catatonic, in part due to Meg; and she denies the renegade founding partner love interest. She's got a lonely existence ahead of her.


Jason True. Even though she makes some terrible choices, she's still a fairly sympathetic character. At least I find her to be one. And you're right about her future.


message 10: by Sam (new)

Sam Spade In a word, no. A much better read is Thieves Emporium. It's technically accurate and, what's most scary, may be very real.


message 11: by Michelle (last edited Mar 03, 2014 08:35AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Michelle Why is everyone calling the protagonist "Meg"?

Her name is Mae, as in Maebelline. This is spelled out in bold letters at the beginning of the book. The author seems to expect the reader to recognize Maebelline as a popular brand of makeup (and Mae's disgust for burlap) and then register Mae (and Annie) as superficial. She is a follower that does not question the status quo. Neither does Annie, which is why they were both chosen for leadership roles. Mae herself is experimented on and manipulated and doesn't realize it.

The screen name Mae was given is MaeDay, as in the distress signal. I was hoping that Mae would be redeemed, but per her screen name she was not.


Jason Don't remember the bold letters, but it's clear we've misused the name Meg for Mae. Incidentally, the makeup brand is Maybelline rather than Maebelline. Interesting ideas about allusions though.


Michelle Please excuse the typo. Mae's full name is written out on page 42.


Carolyn Mae was selected to join the Circle because they could better predict what her ultimate choice would be. She turns away from lovers, parents and friends and choses the Circle and the "love" of the impersonal crowd. She may think that she thought of all those phrases and ideas, but they were all planted. She is a zero, just a cipher holding a place, and a circle!


Jennifer Grainger Amy wrote: "I agree. When I thought back on her choice, I felt let down. I felt that she had forgotten who she was. Ultimately she lost her identity to the uber-world of the Circle."

Perhaps that was the point. . .


Robert Strupp I am 100% opposite of the author David Eggers, and I know because I also read 'A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius.' So when I picked this book up at Barnes and Noble intending to maybe read it as a 'library book,' I instead ended up buying it and reading it in a week. No doubt about it, Mr. Eggers is a fine writer. I too was surprised at Mae's decision, which made me like the book even more.


Kylie Carolyn wrote: "Mae was selected to join the Circle because they could better predict what her ultimate choice would be. She turns away from lovers, parents and friends and choses the Circle and the "love" of the ..."

Fantastic - you have hit the nail on the head perfectly there.


Richard Toscan There are a number of parallels between Mae's decisions and the culture/discourse of the Circle with the typical dynamics of cults. I wonder if that may be at least part of Eggers' point: firms like Facebook, Google, and others are cults.


message 19: by Gustav (last edited Jul 09, 2015 02:26AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Gustav Dinsdag It's remarkable to see that most of us here (still) have an adverse reading of Mae and her Googleplex environment. We're waiting for her to rebel. My two cents: 'the point' of the book is to highlight a switch from the era of the 'authentic personality' (babyboomers and x-ers:) to that of the upcoming 'hive' state of mind in the early 21st century. In a hypermedia environment the 'real life' of parents, friends and nature just doesn't compare to the Photoshopped ideal. Mae goes out in her canoe. The night is beautiful. But no reflection on the potential conflict between nature and Mae's digital social environment is evoked. The world doesn't really affect Mae. The character personifying the old paradigm meanwhile is Mercer, and he's the big loser in the story.


Andrew Amy wrote: "I agree. When I thought back on her choice, I felt let down. I felt that she had forgotten who she was. Ultimately she lost her identity to the uber-world of the Circle."

This.


message 21: by Vee (last edited Nov 06, 2015 11:55AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Vee Read this NYTimes article. Inside Amazon: Wrestling Big Ideas in a Bruising Workplace

Is the Circle real? This article pretty much answers the question. The answer is 'no it is not real' but I'm sure there are employers that want more control over their employees.


Gustav Dinsdag Vee wrote: Is the Circle real? This article pretty much answers the question. The answer is 'no it is not real'

Thanks for posting this NYTimes article. I'd be curious to hear how, after reading this, one would get to the conclusion that Egger's setting is not 'real'?


message 23: by Vee (new) - rated it 3 stars

Vee I just think example in "the Circle" is a bit exaggerated based on what's going on in some of the top organizations like Amazon and Google.


Gustav Dinsdag @Vee: For sure it's exaggerated, but then again: it's a novel ... For non-fiction on the topic of the influence of the new media-environment on mentality and society one can read for example Jaron Lanier, Andrew Keen and Evgeny Morozov. It's pretty shocking to read about some of the ideas of 'the Lords of the Cloud'.


QueenAmidala28 Amy wrote: "I agree. When I thought back on her choice, I felt let down. I felt that she had forgotten who she was. Ultimately she lost her identity to the uber-world of the Circle."

I agree


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