Review: ‘The Circle’ by Dave Eggers (2013), Part 1

by K.M. Zahrt

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Dave Eggers’ latest novel, The Circle, was released on October 8. The book’s bright-red dust jacket (pictured above) certainly catches the eye, but it’s not nearly as striking as the brilliant book design hiding underneath (pictured below).

Although this book appears to be a joint venture from Knopf/McSweeney’s, it has classic McSweeney’s look and feel. If you’re not familiar with McSweeney’s look and feel, compare this text to the hardcover version of Eggers’ last novel, A Hologram for the King, and I suspect you’ll see similarities in size, shape, design, font, etc. The 6-by-8.5 pages are enclosed by a cover that reaches toward 6.25 by 8.75, so the book feels extra wide. The color scheme and the design seem to point toward the Chinese red knot of luck and prosperity (also pictured below).

IMG_20131104_052235_137 Chinese-Knot-02

The resemblance is too strong to believe that this would be a coincidence, so naturally, as I read the text, I’m inclined to look for themes of luck and prosperity. The Circle–a technology company that can be easily understood as a futuristic Apple if only Apple was constantly pumped full of Red Bull–certainly demonstrates prosperity, but I would be skeptical about how lucky that makes the protagonist, Mae Holland.

Even though Eggers’ A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius invigorated the non-fiction genre, wedging itself into the ever-widening distinction between memoir/creative non-fiction and the foibles of human memory (to use Apple-speak, the 2nd Gen of Capote’s “non-fiction novel” In Cold Blood) and even though Eggers’ What is the What has been his most compelling work yet both in terms of social import as well as reader experience, The Circle may be his best work to date from a strictly literary standpoint. I can almost hear the literature students stampeding off to their graduate seminars, texts in hand, anxiously awaiting an opportunity to discuss the intricacies of this book with their nerdy colleagues and to argue about all its implications for the modern-day human (if only, if only, there were enough literature students to form a stampede!).

As I started this post, I thought I might be able to do the job in two posts, but now I see that three might be necessary. This may very well be the week of The CircleThat’s all for today, literary friends, so pick up a copy and begin reading; we’ll discuss the first half of the book on Wednesday.

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