“My God, Mae thought. It’s heaven.”

The Circle by Dave Eggers

What a profoundly terrifying book. I feared for Mae’s sanity the moment they decided to add more than 2 screens to her work space. To be honest, I found it a little bit unbelievable that there can be so many people that naive about the world The Circle was proposing. But then when I really think about it, how many of us are always on social media now? Reading this book almost made me deactivate Facebook, that’s how scared I was.

Some of the benefits proposed in this technological dystopian novel are actually available now to a degree, and we’re able to maintain these with signing our souls over to the entities offering these services.

For example, as a Canadian living in Australia, I had my entire immigration processed online. I didn’t have to go down to a run down office building to wait in line or do face to face interviews. I’m sure others with more complicated situations than mine would still have to do so, but I did not.

Same thing with the annual income tax reporting in Australia–it’s all online. I don’t have to use an accountant and I don’t have to go to a tax office (we did have to go visit a run down office to speak with the IRS when we were doing taxes in the States).

And both these services were available to me by simply providing a couple of pieces of basic identity information. I didn’t have to install a chip in myself or wear a camera around my neck 24/7.

Eggers seems to have taken the current obsession with social media, with being heard and seen, to the extreme. His work with The Circle reminds me of A Modest Proposal by Jonathan Swift (for those of you too lazy to read about it, it’s a satirical essay about eating offspring from poor families in order to reduce poverty).

Another book I read from Eggers A Hologram for the King. I also enjoyed the social commentary Eggers was hinting at in that novel. Eggers is definitely an author I want to read more of.

“Never did she find anything so difficult as to keep herself from losing her temper when she was suddenly disturbed while absorbed in a book. “

Never did she find anything so difficult as to keep herself from losing her temper when she was suddenly disturbed while absorbed in a book. People who are fond of books know the feeling of irritation which sweeps over them at such a moment. The temptation to be unreasonable and snappish is one not easy to manage.

Frances Hodgson Burnett, A Little Princess

Hodgson Burnett was born in 1849 and published her first novel at age 28.

I don’t very often manage that temptation, as Jamie can testify.

“What would you do if I died?”

What would you do if I died?
If you died I would want to die too.
So you could be with me?
Yes. So I could be with you.
Okay.

Cormac McCarthy, The Road

McCarthy was born in 1933 and published his first novel at age 33.

This is a piece of dialogue between father and son (a young boy) in a post-apocalyptic world where the two try to outlast cannibals, rapists, and disease.

Yet somehow these lines are absolutely relatable for parents in the modern first-world societies, where the most danger we face daily is being stuck in traffic.

“But why, why, why can’t people just say what they mean?”

Graeme Simsion, The Rosie Project

Simsion was born in 1957 (?) and published his first novel at age 56.

Don Tillman is one of my favorite characters in the fiction world. His love story with Rosie is hilarious and sweet. For me, there is so much about autism that I don’t understand, yet it was easy for me to enjoy reading about Don Tillman because Simsion made him so utterly sympathetic, and oddly relatable. Don Tillman is incredibly honest with himself as well as with everyone else, and that is refreshing.

The Rosie Result has been out on the shelves for a couple of months. I can’t wait to start on that.

Some interesting tidbits I picked up while researching for today’s article:

  • Simsion is an IT specialist turned writer.
  • It’s damned hard to find his date of birth on the internet.
  • He’s done a lot of interesting shit.

“He smiled, and his face was like the sun.”

Madeline Miller, The Song of Achilles

Miller was born in 1978. She published her first novel at age 33.

This is a simple and beautiful quote. It conjures an image I’ve stored in my mind for years and years of a single moment. It’s of a golden boy, not much different from the Achilles portrayed in Miller’s work.

This is true artistry, for a novelist to be able to move her readers with a simple line.

“You look cute today.”

My very sweet colleague

I’m breaking the rules a little today. This quote is not from a book, but it was said by my older female colleague. It stood out to me because I’ve never had that type of female support around me.

Growing up Chinese, we were humble. Our mothers did not make positive comments on our appearances. Our mothers did not make positive comments about anything regarding us at all.

So it always stands out to me, when another female says something positive about me directly to my face. It’s something that’s so genuine and so against the grain of what I was taught about female companions (I was taught that we were usually petty and jealous of each other) that a comment like this suspends time, and there is an instant connection between us borne of compassion.

Anyway. I like this simple line that is just said out of the blue. It’s very simple, not elaborate, and I’d like to use it in one of my stories to establish a feeling.

How do you feel when someone says something unexpectedly complimentary?

Do the stars gaze back? Now, that’s a question.

Neil Gaiman, Stardust

Gaiman was born in 1960 and published his first novel at age 30.