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2014 Book Discussions > The Circle - Part 1 Join the Circle (February 2014)

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message 1: by Deborah (new)

Deborah | 983 comments In part one Mae settles in to her new job. What do you think of her? What do you think of The Circle?
Is it clear that this book is meant to be satirical at the outset and if so how does that color how we come at the story and how we feel about the characters?


message 2: by Peter (new)

Peter Aronson (peteraronson) | 516 comments So where do you think this section ends? I realize you're listening to the audio book, but do you have a page number in mind? After all, we don't want to post spoilers for people who don't want them!


message 3: by Peter (last edited Feb 19, 2014 11:21PM) (new)

Peter Aronson (peteraronson) | 516 comments OK, something from the very first part of the Circle. You know that single sign-on that supposedly swept the web (the Unified Operating System)? That's been tried before (anyone remember Microsoft Passport?). It went over like a lead balloon. And there's TruYu which is basically a magical unicorn plot device, since there's no convincing way to make that work as described without new, world changing technological breakthroughs. Really, the whole background on how The Circle succeeded is a load of technical hooey. I suspect Eggers was throwing a bunch of vaguely plausible (to him at least) sounding words so he could get on with his plot. In a plot-driven book this might be excusable, but I found it threw me out of the story then and there.


message 4: by Peter (new)

Peter Aronson (peteraronson) | 516 comments Another point where Eggers seems to misunderstand technology: getting a new type of tablet six months before it's generally available means you're getting beta test hardware and software (if you're lucky!), and it will crash all over the place. That's not a benefit! With most sorts of products getting a early version is just sort of cool, with technology, not so much.


message 5: by Deborah (new)

Deborah | 983 comments For me the book begins or my reaction to the book begins at a meeting where people cheer the guy spying on his mother. Um.... from that point forward its impossible to take Eggers seriously.


message 6: by Casceil (new)

Casceil | 1692 comments Mod
I've barely begun, but I am already baffled by why Maggie's good friend and past room-mate would put so much time and effort into making Maggie's first morning at work miserable. Burlap? Old computer and nasty cubicle? What was the point? Was this supposed to be funny? I already don't like that character.


message 7: by Deborah (new)

Deborah | 983 comments I also dislike Mae for being hateful about her old coworkers. I wish I got that sort of recognition and validation at work. I wonder if LIPA is hiring!


message 8: by Casceil (new)

Casceil | 1692 comments Mod
Mae, not Maggie. Right. Mae did come in with a chip on her shoulder about being too good for her old job.


message 9: by Daniel (new)

Daniel Deborah wrote: "For me the book begins or my reaction to the book begins at a meeting where people cheer the guy spying on his mother. Um.... from that point forward its impossible to take Eggers seriously."

I had a few moments before that, but the video feeds were definitely a millstone around the neck of this book's credibility for me. I can see what Eggers is trying to get at, but the logistical nightmares around thorny issues like pedophilia and sex slavery alone are enough to make the head spin. My assumption going in was that there would be at least some modicum of plausibility or even basic research. I'm about halfway through, and am now wondering whether there was even a token gesture of even thinking these ideas through before hoisting them onto the soapbox.


message 10: by Deborah (new)

Deborah | 983 comments I am hoping that we get some input from people enjoying the book.


Evelina | AvalinahsBooks (avalinahsbooks) | 116 comments the video surveillance part about the book made me cringe as well. there's this part where a public person puts on a camera to wear at all times (I won't give more details in the case of anyone seeing is as a spoiler). so when I was reading that, I was thinking - man.. am I the only one who asked the question about what she'll do with the camera when she goes to the bathroom..? it's plainly stated she will wear it at all times.. come on, Eggers - seriously?
then when they talk about posting cameras in beaches and absolutely anywhere else - I don't know, maybe I'm totally ruined as a human being here - but the only idea I get from that is that it's going to be a thousand secret porn channels on 'SeeChange' or whatever it's called instead of 'Universal transparency'..

then I also thought that TruYou would be a tragedy. it's kind of what China does with its citizens though, so I've heard.. you have to log on with your own name. I don't think that would be possible in the whole world, but it would be a tragedy if it actually happened. now that makes me shudder. not that I'm a troll and want to hide my actions, but.. hell knows. scary thought, right? and I mean, if it worked the way Eggers put it - weird creepy stalkers would be able to know where you bought your ice-cream yesterday and stuff.. I guess that's what creeps me out so much.

another thought about the circle that I find contradicting.. is that the circle absolutely won't accept introverts - the people who may go to events (like Mae first did) but just watch silently. at least half the world's people are introverts, and there's no way you'd make them post on their profiles 5 times a day without making it super stressful for them - and it's said that the Circle is all about not causing stress, they keep checking every week at the clinic.. how the hell does that even work? I don't see the logic here. what's even funnier is that the main founder of the Circle is clearly a hermit - an introvert - and yet it's condemned to be introverted and you "get called on the carpet" for this? sorry, Eggers. I just don't see that.

that said, if I had to post 5 times a day and answer hundreds of messages from thousands of coworkers (that I don't even really know), I would be damn stressed. it sounds horrible.. and I'm quite social and extroverted. I can't even begin to imagine what kind of an invasion of privacy this would be for an introvert.. ugh.

oh yeah, and there's another contradiction. in the beginning we are told that the campus is always full of people playing various sports and doing all those non-job activities during the day.. yet all the characters we're shown only work and cut their lunches short because they have no time (especially with the social networking requirements - I don't see how they would). so I get a quite natural question: who the hell plays those games? how..?

lots of things in this book don't seem to make sense, it looks like.


message 12: by Peter (new)

Peter Aronson (peteraronson) | 516 comments I had been planning on commenting on the problems with all the enforced social media and participation as well, but I wasn't sure how far into the book this particular topic went, but since Evelina has already broached the subject (thanks!), I feel free to comment.

The Circle is supposed to be a technology company. People generally do not become engineers or programmers because they are raging extroverts (I think I'm qualified to comment on this -- I've been a professional software designer and programmer since 1982). Most are mildly or even strongly introverted. And programming and engineering is deep focus work. You'd think a writer in particular would know the cost of constant interruptions for someone doing that sort of work.

The only charitable interpretation I can come up with is that Eggers meant for all that to be satire or a dystopian future. So maybe it's not meant to be realistic. Certainly that's the view that this Washington Post Review of The Circle (some spoilers) takes.


message 13: by Deborah (new)

Deborah | 983 comments Does it succeed as a satirical work?


message 14: by Peter (new)

Peter Aronson (peteraronson) | 516 comments At least for me, I think I'll have to finish the book before I can answer that.


message 15: by Deborah (new)

Deborah | 983 comments Is classifying it as satire sufficient to justify slapping a literary tag on something?


message 16: by Peter (new)

Peter Aronson (peteraronson) | 516 comments Deborah, that's a fascinating question! My gut response is that no, satire isn't automatically literary any more than any other form of writing (and remembering that the question of what is literature, and what isn't, is highly subjective in the first place). I want a satirical novel to work as a novel. So far, I am finding The Circle violates the rule: "disbelief should be suspended, not hung by the neck until dead."


Evelina | AvalinahsBooks (avalinahsbooks) | 116 comments I don't think he's being satirical. he sounds too damn serious about himself, you know? I think he's going for the Utopia feel. by the way, there's one more reason why I think this isn't satirical. it's not that I'm saying he's a lower level writer, but.. he has that American writer thing, doesn't he? surely you know what I mean. definitely not all American writers do this (thank god), but many of them do. it's the fluffy dialog thing. dialogs like they're on tv - and not JUST tv - I mean on tv like CSI. please tell me you guys know what I'm talking about! but the more new books from America I read, the stronger this issue seems to me... there's a certain level a writer puts his book on when he starts using dialog style like that.. and I dare say, it's not very literary in my opinion..
and I wonder why it's an American writer thing. surely Americans don't actually talk like that..? cause sure as hell no one else in the rest of the world talks anything like it. I would like to see an actual person talk like Annie or some of the other characters..


message 18: by Daniel (new)

Daniel I'm nearing the end of Part I and not sure how whether this section is intended to encompass all of Part I with spoilers, so I will hide comments for those who might not have read this far yet.

(view spoiler)


message 19: by Casceil (new)

Casceil | 1692 comments Mod
I'm 40% of the way into the book. I am finding the scenes where Mae interacts with men she finds attractive just down-right embarrassing. They seem so awkward and adolescent--like Mae is about fourteen years old.


message 20: by Sophia (new)

Sophia Roberts | 1324 comments Deborah wrote: "Is it clear that this book is meant to be satirical at the outset and if so how does that color how we come at the story and how we feel about the characters? " Well, now I know we're talking satire I feel a little more enthusiastic about this book. Not a lot though because it doesn't strike me as particularly well written. And satire is not an excuse for busking it...


message 21: by Casceil (new)

Casceil | 1692 comments Mod
The book is not well-written. I am about 80% of the way through, and I continue to be bothered by how shallow and wishy washy Mae is. I certainly hope she is a satirical look at the 20-something generation. She obviously has stellar time-management skills and is very good with any kind of technological interface, but she seems to be completely lacking in any background in history or humanities, and in any interest in thinking for herself. But there have been enough negative comments about this book that Daniel is hoping some of us will find something good to say about it. So give that some thought as you read.


message 22: by Sophia (new)

Sophia Roberts | 1324 comments Some of it is quite funny. I tittered at "The trolls who had more or less overtaken the internet were driven back into the darkness." And the concept of TruYou is quite clever. I can well imagine that someone will dream this up and that billions will sign up for it.


message 23: by Peter (new)

Peter Aronson (peteraronson) | 516 comments
And the concept of TruYou is quite clever. I can well imagine that someone will dream this up and that billions will sign up for it.
It's been tried. People didn't go for it (see Microsoft Passport).


message 24: by LindaJ^ (new)

LindaJ^ (lindajs) | 2354 comments Ahh Peter, I'm not sure we can write off the concept of TruYou on the basis that Microsoft Passport did not work. I am constantly getting asked if I want to sign on to some site using Facebook (which I never do) or if I want to checkout using my Amazon details. Maybe they don't work the same way but for this untech savvy person, they feel similar. And, the potential audience for such a tool is constantly changing, and the younger generations seem to be born with a mobile device in their hand. Just as the younger generations are rejecting many of the older generations' biases, so to, I think, will they revisit rejected tech attempts!


message 25: by Peter (new)

Peter Aronson (peteraronson) | 516 comments Maybe. But it is also instructive to see how fast the younger crowd moves from social media site to social media site. LiveJournal is now the domain of oldsters and Russians, MySpace is a desert, Facebook is being left for Twitter, Google+ and Tumblr. I don't see any one site or company becoming dominate in such an environment.


message 26: by Deborah (new)

Deborah | 983 comments Does anyone know enough of Alexander Calder to speculate whether Eggars including his work is symbolic or significant?


message 27: by Casceil (new)

Casceil | 1692 comments Mod
When I was in college, we had a couple of Calder pieces on campus, and I thought they wonderful. Before he was an artist, Calder studied mechanical engineering. His artwork includes hanging mobiles or kinetic scupture (stuff that moves around in the wind). I suspect Ty's choice of "Kalden" as a name was some sort of reference to Calder.


message 28: by LindaJ^ (new)

LindaJ^ (lindajs) | 2354 comments Peter wrote: "Maybe. But it is also instructive to see how fast the younger crowd moves from social media site to social media site. LiveJournal is now the domain of oldsters and Russians, MySpace is a desert,..."

I agree. I do not see a pure social media site becoming dominant in the fashion of the Circle. But let's just speculate -- what if Facebook bought e-Bay (including PayPal), Amazon, Google, and Apple?


message 29: by Peter (new)

Peter Aronson (peteraronson) | 516 comments Isn't that rather like a mouse eating up the contents of the big cat house at the zoo? ;) But you'd also have to assume the government had given up even the most cursory antitrust enforcement to let something like that happen in first place. It'd have to be a different world than ours. Not that the multiple, competing set of social media companies we do have aren't a threat to privacy as they are. They just don't make as good comic book villains as The Circle does.


message 30: by Peter (new)

Peter Aronson (peteraronson) | 516 comments A further thought about this: maybe Eggers felt the need to roll all of the social media companies into one because the current situation, where your privacy is nibbled to death by ducks by many different players is serious, but it isn't dramatic. Google, Facebook, PayPal, Twitter, etc. don't make very satisfying villains if you're essentially writing a techno-thriller.


message 31: by Lily (last edited Feb 06, 2014 06:57PM) (new)

Lily (joy1) | 2500 comments Casceil wrote: "When I was in college, we had a couple of Calder pieces on campus, and I thought they wonderful. Before he was an artist, Calder studied mechanical engineering. His artwork includes hanging mobil..."

Calder's work is displayed many places, but I especially associate it with Atlanta and the High Museum. (Actually, the largest collection of his work is apparently at the Whitney in NYC.)

http://www.high.org/~/media/Sites/HMA...

http://www.tripadvisor.com/LocationPh...

The mobile I remember I recall as in the lobby when I was there many years ago now. At the time, comparing the museum with NYC's plethora, it seemed as if Atlanta still felt the aftermath of Sherman's March and the destruction of Southern wealth.

http://www.tripadvisor.com/LocationPh...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alexande...

"Throughout the 1930s, Calder continued to give Cirque Calder performances, but he also worked with choreographer Martha Graham, designing stage sets for her ballets and created a moving stage construction to accompany Eric Satie's Socrate in 1936." [Bold added.]


message 32: by LindaJ^ (new)

LindaJ^ (lindajs) | 2354 comments Peter wrote: "A further thought about this: maybe Eggers felt the need to roll all of the social media companies into one because the current situation, where your privacy is nibbled to death by ducks by many di..."

If I remember correctly, the Circle had bought Facebook and others -- there's a comment at one point about the Facebook information being in the Circle's archives.

And this brings back to mind your prior comment (perhaps on another thread?) about government getting off without criticism. Perhaps its ineffectiveness or unwillingness to take the Circle on (and the ease with which the elected representatives took the pledge) is some sort of condemnation?


message 33: by Peter (new)

Peter Aronson (peteraronson) | 516 comments The thing is, even with current weak antitrust environment, I can't see anything like The Circle being allowed to be created by purchasing all of the social media companies. (And don't get me started about the comic-book means that The Circle used to take down government officials that threatened them. You could get away with that once, maybe twice, but after a certain point it'd be noticed. And the NSA is also responsible for the protection of U.S. government communications and information systems.)

The book is, in its own way, effective. It has had me thinking twice about a lot of topics, which is good. However, it also has an idiot plot -- a plot only works if all the opposition are idiots.

And the reasons why the government isn't doing very well about protecting our privacy include the fact that they're involved in violating it. A book that covered that too would have been a very different book.


message 34: by LindaJ^ (new)

LindaJ^ (lindajs) | 2354 comments Peter, good points -- a book that included government violations would have had to be very different. As I've mentioned in another thread, I think Eggers was focused on bringing awareness to the clueless. Probably a bonus to have the "less than clueless" revisiting and rethinking the issues.


message 35: by Deborah (new)

Deborah | 983 comments If a writer seems to be aiming at the lowest common denominator is there an offensive condescension intrinsic to that effort?


message 36: by Daniel (new)

Daniel Deborah wrote: "If a writer seems to be aiming at the lowest common denominator is there an offensive condescension intrinsic to that effort?"

Perhaps if that effort is being marketed to a different demographic entirely, it could be construed in that way, yes.


message 37: by Lily (last edited Feb 07, 2014 09:41AM) (new)

Lily (joy1) | 2500 comments Deborah wrote: "If a writer seems to be aiming at the lowest common denominator is there an offensive condescension intrinsic to that effort?"

Does what you say fit with Eggers's bio? Did Eggers for some reason become over-zealous and careless?


message 38: by Daniel (new)

Daniel Lily wrote: "Does what you say fit with Egger's bio?"

I think we're forced to do an awful lot of reading between the lines when it comes to bios like that. Who is to say that Eggers isn't filled with compassion for the underpriveledged, and disdain for the ignorant?


message 39: by Deborah (new)

Deborah | 983 comments I don't want to weigh the artist in the context of the art. The work has to stand on its own. I don't really understand the question, Lily. (I feel like I got caught not doing my homework.) I confess ... I didn't really read the bio. I more glanced at it. Can you summarize for us (me?)


message 40: by Deborah (new)

Deborah | 983 comments Also, when I say lowest common deno.in at or, I mean there is something insulting not in the desire to educate, but the assertion that these people so t notice that the plot is thin, the characters thinner and the facts are not factually correct.


message 41: by Deborah (new)

Deborah | 983 comments Ugh. Phone. Sorry.


message 42: by LindaJ^ (new)

LindaJ^ (lindajs) | 2354 comments Deborah wrote: "Also, when I say lowest common deno.in at or, I mean there is something insulting not in the desire to educate, but the assertion that these people so t notice that the plot is thin, the characters..."

I don't think anyone has suggested that those "clueless" about the dangers inherent in the indiscriminate use of social media won't notice that the plot is thin and the characters superficial. And the facts - well, it is a work of fiction ... .
Daniel challenged us to find something good to say about it and I think Peter did that in commenting that the book was "in its own way, effective. It has had me thinking twice about a lot of topics, which is good [, despite its] idiot plot."


message 43: by Deborah (new)

Deborah | 983 comments I think that's a good point, Linda. I really wasn't trying to be as vehement as I came across in text. My point rather was that I don't believe that his intention wasn't grander than the result.


Evelina | AvalinahsBooks (avalinahsbooks) | 116 comments The last sentences in this first chapter, and I've decided I really hate Mae. Isn't it disgusting how she lets Bailey put words into her mouth and still manages to think it's her own thoughts..? I've begun thinking that maybe she indeed represents the typical person of today who submits to everything that he's being told and thinks he's not even being told.. such a sheep, that Mae.


message 45: by Lily (last edited Feb 07, 2014 01:20PM) (new)

Lily (joy1) | 2500 comments Deborah wrote: "I don't want to weigh the artist in the context of the art. The work has to stand on its own. I don't really understand the question, Lily. (I feel like I got caught not doing my homework.) I confe..."

Sorry, Deborah. Have a few minutes now to think -- was juggling a little earlier. Open to continue -- using "spoiler" html only to shorten appearance: (view spoiler)


message 46: by Lily (new)

Lily (joy1) | 2500 comments Evelina wrote: "The last sentences in this first chapter, and I've decided I really hate Mae...."

Evelina -- I'm always fascinated when someone states that they "hate" a character. I wonder if I treat "hate" as a stronger word than it deserves. Certainly you tell us the reasons for your reactions to Mae.


message 47: by Sophia (new)

Sophia Roberts | 1324 comments Does Eggers need Mae to be wholly implausible (and unpleasant!) in order for his outlandish satire to work?


message 48: by Casceil (new)

Casceil | 1692 comments Mod
Apparently?


message 49: by Sophia (last edited Feb 09, 2014 09:27PM) (new)

Sophia Roberts | 1324 comments It would certainly seem so (!) Mind, I don't think she's unpleasant so much as displaying very human characteristics writ very large.


message 50: by Evelina | AvalinahsBooks (last edited Feb 10, 2014 01:14AM) (new)

Evelina | AvalinahsBooks (avalinahsbooks) | 116 comments Lily - why i hate Mae? because she has every bad quality imaginable. perhaps this is because i have finished the book now. but she's just horrible.. while at the beginning (30% of the book maybe?) i felt for her and imagined myself in her shoes, later she proved to be a really disgusting person.. she sells out. she totally sells out. she treats the people close to her so horrible (it gets worse by the end, oh - it gets so much worse). she lies - for no reason. she keeps changing her mind about guys in such ridiculous ways that it's hard to understand a person over 13 years old would even do. her temper is horrible at times, she behaves without a single understandable reason.. back in the parts where she often went kayaking into the sea she felt like a nice, normal girl. someone anyone can relate to. but shortly after that she becomes so twisted - i don't even know what Eggers was thinking - she doesn't seem a single character anymore. she acts all over the place, and i think it's either due to bad writing or some attempt to mock the typical human being at being wishy-washy, but i'm not sure. the way Mae sells out though, with the PartiRank, with everything that she thought in the beginning turning around.. with the way she treats Mercer and her parents.. it's definitely a very hateable character, aside from being quite unrealistic.

i don't think you'll continue liking her when you get to like 80%. it gets ridiculous by then.

oh, and.. i said "the last sentences in this chapter..", but that was like last week - and i don't have the book here now.. i don't remember which part was the ending exactly. so i can't comment on that now, unfortunately. just on the general picture.


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