In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

  • Eyes of the World
  • Alison Gibbons (bio)
The Circle
Dave Eggers
Vintage Books
497 Pages; Print, $15.95

The first day of a new job can be nerve-wracking, but for Mae Holland, the protagonist of Dave Eggers’s novel The Circle, “It’s heaven.” Walking towards her new place of work, “messages of inspiration” bolster her confidence, instructing her to “Dream”, “Participate,” “Find Community,” “Innovate,” “Imagine.” And whilst any one of us might feel excited to start a new professional venture, Mae is embarking on a venture like no other. She has been hired by global media and technology specialists, the Circle:

Though the company was less than six years old, its name and logo—a circle surrounding a knitted grid, with a small c in the center— were already among the best-known in the world. There were more than ten thousand employees on this, the main campus, but the Circle had offices all over the globe, and was hiring hundreds of gifted young minds every week. It had been voted the world’s most admired company four years running.

Like Facebook, the Circle began as the creation of one talented and tech-savvy individual —in this case Tyler Alexander Gospodinov— whose frustration with having many different online accounts motivated him to create a “Unified Operating System” that combined internet services. This was branded TruYou:—“one account, one identity, one password, one payment system, per person”—and became the foundation of the Circle’s tools. Subsequently, the Circle developed into what readers will recognize as an amalgamation of Facebook, Google, Twitter, and PayPal, and as a result eliminates anonymous and antisocial online behavior whilst providing companies with easily mappable commercial data.

The Circle continues Dave Eggers’s novelistic scrutiny of contemporary global society. Whilst his debut A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius (2000) is a witty postmodern fictional autobiography that brought Eggers initial recognition (not least as a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for General Non-Fiction), it also marked the start of a continued fascination with the connections between fiction and reality. His creative non-fictions such as What is the What (2006) and Zeitoun (2009), for instance, present the real stories of immigrants. More recently, The Circle can be seen as one of three contemporary novels by Eggers that explore, through fiction, the facets and fears of the contemporary global world. Your Fathers, Where are They? And the Prophets, Do They Live Forever? (2014) involves a hostage situation motivated by the protagonist’s anger -over the violent police shooting of his friend and the monumental government funding of war, amongst other things. National Book Award nominated A Hologram for a King (2012) details the struggle of a failing salesman to secure an IT contract in Saudi Arabia against the backdrop of the financial crash. The Circle chronicles Mae’s induction and ascent in the Circle corporation whose headquarters or “campus” is located in San Vincenzo—an obvious fictional proxy for the San Francisco Bay Area and Silicon Valley. Such a setting, commercial home to world-leaders in high-tech innovation, becomes the backdrop for Eggers’s speculations about the impact of the growing ubiquity of modern communication technologies for contemporary society.

Opening with Mae’s arrival at the Circle, Eggers describes the company’s campus as having been built on “land that had once been a shipyard, then a drive-in movie theater, then a flea market, then blight” but now is home to “the most influential company in the world.” Such a statement makes evident the shift in American, and by extension global, economic production—from manufacture to service, from material to immaterial goods. But whilst such a shift in the means of production is economic, it also has cultural impact. The power of social media begins to eclipse real-world interactions: endless opinion polls require “smiles” and “frowns” to quickly express attitudes online, products are rated or “zinged” to followers to stimulate purchases, and messages must receive instant responses to avoid causing social offense.

Mae is quickly seduced by the shallow yet instantaneous populous of the Circle’s strong online community and marvels, “Who else...


Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. 11-12
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.