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September 28, 2013 10:56 AM   Subscribe

The New York Times magazine has published an excerpt from Dave Eggers' new book The Circle. It features a protagonist who has just begun work at one of the world's foremost tech companies, and things quickly turn slightly sinister.

The Times also published a Q and A with Eggers about the book.
posted by mai (33 comments total) 22 users marked this as a favorite

 
Oh my goodness, this is wonderful. And a little terrifying. Participation rankings!
posted by mittens at 11:25 AM on September 28, 2013


The sentences, which are dense, are also too complex, like the dude is afraid of a period, or feels like he needs exposition, yet just can't stop to deliver it properly.
posted by Mayor Curley at 11:26 AM on September 28, 2013 [4 favorites]


But the dialog! These are not complex sentences, but some nicely done satire: 'Josiah rolled his eyes. “No, I mean, I know this is a tangent, but my problem with paper is that all communication dies with it. It holds no possibility of continuity. You look at your paper guide, and that’s where it ends. It ends with you. Like you’re the only one who matters."'
posted by mittens at 11:44 AM on September 28, 2013


Eggars has been accused of plagiarizing the story of actual facebook employee Kate Losse. She wrote a similar book.
posted by Peccable at 12:01 PM on September 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


Eggars has been accused of plagiarizing the story of actual facebook employee Kate Losse. She wrote a similar book.
posted by Peccable at 12:01 PM on September 28 [+] [!]



Losse's own article doesn't seem to have any claims of actual plagiarism. She seems angry about how Eggers came up with an idea that sounds like her book - the story of a woman working at a Facebook/Facebook-like company - and assumes (apparently without reading any of Eggers' book - usually people wait to make plagiarism accusations *after* they've read the accused's text?) that he "rewrote" her book (how does she know?) or at least stole her basic idea (even if this were true (and Eggers' book has a near-future dystopian plot anyway), this is not actually plagiarism) ; and that because he is a man (rather than being one of America's most celebrated living authors) , the press hyped his book more than her book?
posted by Bwithh at 12:10 PM on September 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


The excerpt, with its cutesy product names and jealous corporate compounds, reminds me of Margaret Atwood's Oryx and Crake series. Which is to say that Losse's plagiarism claims seem a little overblown, and I can't wait to read the full book.
posted by oinopaponton at 12:15 PM on September 28, 2013


I found the writing a bit clunky in the beginning but once it got into the dialogue I thought it was pretty incisive satire. Part of what is compelling about it is that Mae is somewhat of an enigma. Her bosses want her to put more of her personality online, but it's not clear there's really any personality there to begin with. The social network manufactures preferences.
posted by mai at 12:26 PM on September 28, 2013


I really liked this piece - funny how it fits hand-in-hand with another NY Times article published today. +1 to PartiRank for the OP
posted by antonymous at 12:41 PM on September 28, 2013


Losse's own article doesn't seem to have any claims of actual plagiarism.

She's also been tweeting about it nonstop for weeks. She just read the linked excerpt (today) and says it's a startling appropriation, and that she'll be posting an excerpt from her own book soon for comparison.
posted by EmGeeJay at 12:42 PM on September 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


The idea is not exactly original enough to warrant claims of plagiarism. I mean, it's an interesting idea, but it's something we're all living through to some degree already. It's about the execution, not the idea.
posted by mittens at 12:51 PM on September 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


She's also been tweeting about it nonstop for weeks. She just read the linked excerpt (today) and says it's a startling appropriation, and that she'll be posting an excerpt from her own book soon for comparison.
posted by EmGeeJay at 12:42 PM on September 28 [1 favorite −] Favorite added! [!]


Yeah, I'll be curious to see this. Quick look at Losse's Twitter feed suggests that after reading the excerpt the first main things she's highlighted as jumping out for being too similar are: 1) Eggers describes his female protagonist getting a laptop and a master computer password from IT on her first day ; 2) Female protagonist attends company Friday all hands meeting where there is inspirational rhetoric. Hmmm.

Losse also snarks that Eggers' Zuckerberg sounds nothing like the real thing but I think Eggers has been pretty clear that the company in his book is not meant to be a veiled representation of any real company, Facebook or otherwise.
posted by Bwithh at 1:14 PM on September 28, 2013


Amazon allows you to preview some of Losse's book. I don't know how much/if the content overlaps but her contention that hers is better written is, well, dubious.
posted by bfootdav at 1:40 PM on September 28, 2013


"If you say 'Mae Holland' out loud it sounds like the same phonetic structure as my name," she told The Atlantic Wire. "Just similar enough to echo my name without using the same letters."

It's like this entire mystery has been appropriated from a Nancy Drew novel.
posted by oulipian at 1:49 PM on September 28, 2013 [7 favorites]


ooof... that Atlantic piece is a hack job (I don't meant Silicon Valley hackers)
posted by Bwithh at 2:02 PM on September 28, 2013


I read the Eggers excerpt and I read a chunk of Losse's book that Amazon let me preview. They actually do seem fairly different to me, but they also both seem good. Maybe I'll read both!
posted by escabeche at 2:34 PM on September 28, 2013


Man, I'm not a big Eggers fan (I like McSweeney's, but I couldn't get through more than a few chapters of A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius before giving up - yes, I know, I am an awful horrible human being) , but I feel for him - looks like Losse's allies are trying to whip up a surge of dubious or extremely credulous online outrage in support of her. I just saw this "review" attacking Eggers' book and praising Losse's book as one of the most important books today (review was being circulated on Twitter).... It is a long review and full of vitriol for Eggers' book... yet it is based on not having read the book itself but just preview articles in the press (and even that isn't done well - he complains that Eggers doesn't define the protagonist's job as far as he knows from previews (in fact, the NYT Q&A accompanying this weekend's NYT mag excerpt describes the character's job in Customer Experience in some detail and it's a key plot point).

I hope Eggers isn't forced to finally join Twitter because of this surge.
posted by Bwithh at 2:35 PM on September 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


Wasn't there some story about his making stuff up in A Heartbreaking Work (which I disliked) that put his sister in a very bad light, and him in a good light? I can't quite remember the details.
posted by jeather at 5:43 PM on September 28, 2013


What a boring extract.

I would have preferred an actual article on privacy and/or the lives of tech company employees.
posted by Quilford at 6:17 PM on September 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


Those quotes from Losse honestly make me feel like she has some kind of psychosis, and it appears as though the Atlantic Wire reporter spent all of six minutes writing up that story - after cutting and pasting the description of Eggers's book from Amazon, the reporter notes: "That does, frankly, sound a lot like Losse's book."

What is the Eggers's book description, you might ask? Something unique and specific and narratively original? Paraphrasing: girl joins tech company with hopes and dreams but becomes disillusioned as she learns that it's a crazy, weird, dangerous place. Remove the subject and object from that sentence, and you've just described eighty books that've come out in the last six months and a narrative form that stretches back to Euripides.

The tech journosphere, once again proving its prima facie stupidity.
posted by incessant at 10:06 PM on September 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


The Eggers excerpt is not very convincing - he should have done more research ( he seems proud that he did hardly any)
posted by Bwithh at 10:53 PM on September 28, 2013


I suggest everybody in this thread, most of whom I assume have some interest in Mr. Eggers, stop with this book and read his book Zeitoun. The language is spare and direct and you will be inspired and infuriated. Every empathetic American should read that book. Schools should teach that book. It made me cry on the El and I hate crying on the El.
posted by MarvinTheCat at 12:02 AM on September 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


This is pretty heavy handed satire. in principle I approve the sentiment but it was painfully obvious to read.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 1:01 AM on September 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


I haven't read either book but calling Losse "psychotic" skeeves me out. Eggers is in a much better position to weather criticism, and given he did zero research I'm not willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. Again, haven't read the books so I'll make no definite claims but please keep in mind the power imbalance before calling anybody crazy.
posted by gorbweaver at 6:19 AM on September 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


> Those quotes from Losse honestly make me feel like she has some kind of psychosis

Case in point (from her Twitter feed; I've put the earlier tweet on top):
kate losse ‏@fake_train 43m

I wonder if Eggers hates women and this is his method of rubbing his hatred in women's faces. "I will erase you with your own work."

kate losse ‏@fake_train 42m

Actually that was a rhetorical question, usually guys like this do hate women and this is their way of taking vengeance.
But authors often sound psychotic in such circumstances; they tend to be egotistical and paranoid anyway ("Why do they give the laurels to X, Y, and Z when I'm clearly a far better writer??"), and if they don't have enough self-control to confine their venting to friends and family, this is what you get. I wouldn't take it too seriously, but it doesn't exactly make me want to read her work (which is why authors should confine their venting to friends and family).
posted by languagehat at 8:06 AM on September 29, 2013 [3 favorites]


I haven't read Losse's book either, but I'm sure it will sell a few more copies on Amazon now. Her vitriol is amazing considering the tenuous connection between the two works, and I think she's doing a disservice to the real problem of authorial gender bias in literature. His book isn't out yet and he's some woman-hating idea-thief?

Oh, and I just checked her Twitter and she posted a link to the passages she says are similar. I guess there are some similar concepts, but I don't think they're all that unique anyway - just generic Valley startup stuff. Wisely, she deleted her tweet where she claimed she was a better writer...
posted by antonymous at 8:44 AM on September 29, 2013 [3 favorites]


link to the passages she says are similar

Wow, this is weak.
posted by Bwithh at 10:02 AM on September 29, 2013


I haven't read either book but calling Losse "psychotic" skeeves me out. Eggers is in a much better position to weather criticism, and given he did zero research I'm not willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. Again, haven't read the books so I'll make no definite claims but please keep in mind the power imbalance before calling anybody crazy.
posted by gorbweaver at 6:19 AM on September 29 [1 favorite +] [!]


Losse was making major plagiarism claims before ( as she has admitted) reading Eggers' book or even just the NYT excerpt; at the same time, she accuses Eggers multiple times of being a severe misogynist. The points she has highlighted in the excerpt (on Twitter first and then more later on Medium) are utterly unconvincing but she presents them as slam dunks.
posted by Bwithh at 10:53 AM on September 29, 2013


The Eggers excerpt is not very convincing - he should have done more research ( he seems proud that he did hardly any)
posted by Bwithh at 10:53 PM on September 28 [+] [!]



Just to clarify that I just meant I didn't enjoy the excerpt very much, mainly for not enough realism. This comment is nothing to do with the Losse/Eggers thingy
posted by Bwithh at 10:55 AM on September 29, 2013


(Just to clarify, and while I know that technically someone with a psychosis can be said to be psychotic, I specifically didn't use the word 'psychotic' to describe Losse because its colloquial usage is so negative. Reading Losse's writings about this stuff make me wonder if she's dealing with some sincere mental issues.)
posted by incessant at 11:20 AM on September 29, 2013


I am afraid to write down in my own words my first day at
Google and the all hands the next Friday. Someone may accuse me of plagiarism. That someone would be me, because it would read almost exactly like they way I described my first day and first Friday all hands at a previous startup in 2005 in an email to my mom. For that email I may be accused of time traveling plagiarism, because it reads almost like it was based on any of the two stories in question here.

To be specific, in my first startup I wrote to driebds about: Multitasking CEO and VPs who are working 24/7. First day in a half empty office full of t-shiryrd men with sandals. The only woman an admin. The wall art. The Friday all hands with the CEO and the atmosphere there. The parties mutating from free for all to just insiders. Held in rooms under fancy restaurants. The master password that must never be written down. I am toot tired to go on.
posted by Doroteo Arango II at 7:08 PM on September 29, 2013 [3 favorites]


Actually, both the Eggars and Losse books were written by the horse_ebooks folks. If you put together all the chapter titles they make a poem about arborists eating Vienna sausages.
posted by emjaybee at 9:52 PM on September 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


The excerpt is kind of hit or miss to me, which is atypical for my experience of Eggers. Usually after reading two paragraphs of one of his books I want to postpone all other life activities and responsibilities in order to finish it. This just isn't grabbing me. Maybe the doldrum of some of it is intentional, to convey the banality of modern social media or corporate culture?

Losse's claims, however, are off the deep end. If she wanted to say something about the gender-attention gap in literature, she could have. If she wanted to point out that Eggers (being an established male writer) is getting more attention for his work of fiction about working at a farcical Facebook than Losse (an unestablished female writer) is getting for her autobiographical work about actually working at Facebook, that would be valid. Instead she is accusing him of misogyny and plagiarism. That's messed up.
posted by daveliepmann at 1:48 AM on September 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


> The excerpt [...] just isn't grabbing me.

It covers maybe the first 1/5 of the book. I tried to pick up where it left off & kept running into threads that made no sense so went back & read from the beginning.

The book is a lot more engaging than the excerpt. Little side tracks that don't drive the plot, so were left out, add richness to the story & make the reading more enjoyable.

The story is super creepy. The Eric Schmidt what-me-worry privacy-is-just-an-illusion for-the-betterment-of-all B.S. hinted at in the excerpt just keeps piling on. The credulous protagonist gives it some weight so it doesn't just sound like a tinfoil hat extrapolation of FaceOogPple world domination.
posted by morganw at 10:57 PM on October 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


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