Just finished. I’m still reflecting, and I don’t often write reviews of books right after I finish them–gotta let it marinate. This one is certainly still marinating. But, if I don’t force myself to write it now, I don’t know if I’ll care enough to when I’m five days out.
Overall, I like it much better at the end than I liked it at its start. Smile. Maybe with a shade of Meh. Wow, talk about marinating. Just started following Dave Eggers’ publication McSweeney’s on twitter (@mcsweeneys), and now I feel really bad writing anything critical. There goes some of my skepticism about the viability of all that niceness and sensitivity in Mae’s world.
Anyway, I’m a critical bitch in person so I’ll be a critical bitch here too. What I didn’t like about the book basically boiled down to Mae. The beginning read like Twilight or Fifty Shades of Grey–the main character is a faceless male/adult fantasy of what a young woman today is like. Which, unfortunately, puts her in the role of everyperson/woman. Seriously, Dave, that’s not how we think. We’re not all homoerotically drawn to our best friend, no matter how beautiful, blond, and successful she may be; we’re not all insecure and looking for acceptance, uncritically; we’re not all sexed-up (my corollary here is, on the one hand, hooray feminine agency in sexual desire, but on the other hand, my god all those scenes were rapey–if you’ve never had a female rape fantasy, you probably shouldn’t try to represent one); and, we’re not all Ivy-league, chip-on-our-shoulders entitled. I wish she’d had more personality, or at least one physical characteristic besides brown hair (I think??), and I wish her thoughts had been more personal, more interesting, more unique to the self that she is–even if she loses that self later on.
That all said, I can see why Dave (we’re buddies now, since I follow him. I hope he’ll recommend me for a job and let me stay with him when I move to California) would make the choice to make her an everyperson. What I do like about this novel is that is follows a dystopian world/totalitarian regime in development and from the perspective of one who is not resisting the dominating force’s power, but buying into it and then becoming a tool of it. I think this is an important push for a dystopian novel to make. (Way to steal the idea I’ve been working with for three years, Dave!) Reading 1984, Brave New World, Anthem, one wonders, how did everyone buy into this in the first place? I mean, we could tell what happened and why they followed, but it’s interesting to see the actual apocalypse. To see the way that the leaders craft their personas, their values, and the way that those values are disseminated and inculcated so surreptitiously, to see the dissenters (maimed, tortured), to see the appeal of following. Because, when it comes down to it, what is the purpose of privacy? What benefit is there to keeping things private, to lying, to secrets, to so-called “freedom” that this allows? I honestly don’t know. Of course, The Circle could utilize their omnipotence once they have it to dictate to people what to do, but really, will they? That’s not what they’re about. They’ll keep inculcating their values, norms, morals, codes, into the people, so that the people are as free as any of us are now in hegemonic society (we are now and have always been policed, watched, controlled, taught, corrected, disciplined, conformed, made into “good” citizens). So, why not embrace The Circle? Why not complete The Circle?