White Fur and The Circle

I was in an outdoor club tennis tournament over the weekend that was fun but took a lot of time. It was hot and windy and yesterday temps hit 90F degrees, which is big for Western Canada; people generally sort of melt here under such conditions, but they seemed to be having fun along the river, floating rafts downstream and throwing balls for dogs.

Meanwhile my husband and Labrador were out sailing and hiking. See Stella at left. She’s a big water dog and likes to show off, leaping into the river at full run. She believes she’s the best swimmer in town, which is pretty hard to argue with since she’s so fanatical about it.

We are going away next week back East for our summer vacation. Usually we don’t go in July, but it just worked out that way. And of course it’s Canada’s 150th anniversary of Confederation on July 1, so it’s a big deal. We will bang pots and pans and watch fireworks and celebrate along the St. Lawrence River and Lake Ontario. From there we can see Upstate New York, but we will be on the other side of the water, sporting our Maple Leaf flags and boating around amid some of the Thousand Islands. I will report on it when I get back, until then I will leave you with two brief reviews of what I finished lately.

Jardine Libaire’s novel “White Fur,” which came out in May, is getting quite a bit of buzz this summer and I was lucky to get a copy from the library. It’s about two 20-year-olds from opposite sides of the tracks who fall for one another amid the glitz and grit of New York City in the 1980s. They meet in New Haven, Conn., where Jamie Hyde is a junior at Yale. He’s beautiful and wealthy, an heir to a family fortune with high expectations. Elise Perez lives next door in a rundown apartment with a roommate who found her sleeping in his car. Half white, half Puerto Rican, Elise is a high school dropout who doesn’t know her father and ran away from her  mother’s life in public housing in Bridgeport.

Nevertheless the attraction between Jamey and Elise is quite instant. And what seems to start as a sexual obsession becomes something greater — as they move to Manhattan together that summer. Yet as their relationship grows, there’s forces — such as Jamie’s intervening family — that threaten to tear them apart and will have consequences for them staying together. You have to stay tuned to the very end to see whether they will survive it.

It’s a story that’s been compared to “Romeo and Juliet” and Bret Easton Ellis’s “Less Than Zero,” and it reminded me a bit of a mash-up of those. Of course, the theme of star-crossed lovers on opposite sides of the tracks has been done many times before, but there’s a freshness to this novel’s episodic-like telling that I found appealing. It’s raw, it’s gritty, it’s poetic at times, and there’s a feel for New York City that brings the story to life. Both protagonists’ views — Elise’s and Jamey’s — get fairly equal weight in the novel as do a bit of their family’s. “White Fur” is not only a love story, but it also focuses a lot on their class distinctions and the divide between rich and poor, which they try to transcend. The different New York City spots they frequent only highlight the melting-pot microcosm of economic society that surrounds them.

There’s not a lot of judgement in the book, other than two people trying to be together from opposite worlds. I thought the author put a lot into its writing and it came together fairly well — except for an episode or twist at the end that seemed to strain believability and that I didn’t care for. Despite that part, I rounded it up to 4 stars on Goodreads, though I don’t think it’s a book for everyone. Just fair warning: it’s rough around the edges, the sex is frequent and graphic and there’s a bit of rough language in it as well. It’s nice though that Elise and Jamey aren’t two misfit drug addicts who don’t know what they’re doing. For the most part, they’re pretty sober and clear about where their hearts come to lie.

Meanwhile, I finished the audiobook of Dave Eggers’s 2013 novel “The Circle,” which I don’t know why I didn’t get to when it came out a few years back, but it is long. And the movie of it, which came out at the end of April with Tom Hanks and Emma Watson, was pretty much obliterated by the critics, with only 15 favorable ratings compared to 83 rotten ones on the site Rotten Tomatoes. Apparently it’s considered one of the biggest movie disappointments so far of 2017, probably because of how topical and good the novel was. People were waiting for it after the book but then the movie didn’t deliver. Ugh. I couldn’t even talk my husband into going.

But I’m glad I went ahead with the audiobook because I found it quite entertaining and I laughed throughout it. It’s a wonderful satire of Silicon Valley culture and social media, even if it is heavy-handed at times about its message. It seems Eggers had quite a bit of fun writing this one, sticking it to the tech giants at every turn.

It’s a story about Mae Holland who can’t believe her luck when she’s hired to work at the Circle, a Bay Area tech company that’s cornered the world market on social media and e-commerce. As she rises through the ranks, she quickly loses sight of her friends, family, and sense of self to meet her work quotas and gain social acceptance, eventually becoming privy to the company’s plans to make the world safer, which include preventing child abductions through microchips, reducing crime through constant surveillance, and eliminating political corruption through transparency via personal cameras. Soon Mae’s encouraged by the company’s founder to participate in the experiment of full disclosure to “Go Clear” and wear a camera so the public can watch and comment on her every move. But when this has consequences on her family and friends, she must decide if she’s doing the right thing, and whom to trust and be loyal to.

It’s a story that’s a little scary to think about if our every computer keystroke is quantified and tracked and there’s little to no privacy, either online or off. Is this more of what we have to look forward to in the future? It’s a grim thought and Eggers isn’t shy in his novel about showing us the downfalls of this kind of dehumanized world. Though some didn’t like the novel because they found it too heavy-handed or simplistic a screed on the tech world. And they thought Mae was too passive and accepting of the Circle’s policies.

For the most part, I found it a fairly effective satire: funny and alarming at the same time. The corporate culture at the Circle’s campus — where social activities after work hours are encouraged and tracked — are particularly laughable in the book. Pretty soon Mae is just about living on-site and it’s a stifling feeling. She’s railed on to share all of her experiences with her thousands of co-workers through inter-office messaging whether it be while out kayaking on the Bay, or visiting with her parents, or about who’s she’s dating. Oh there’s way too much sharing! It’s a social media company run amuck. You’ll want to steer clear of it if you’re ever offered work at such a place.

This was my first Dave Eggers novel, so I was pretty impressed. I thought it was a bit too long (and I’m sure overdone), but I enjoyed it and would read him again in the future. Some of his novels such as “What Is the What” and his memoir I’ve heard are excellent, so I will eventually get to them.

What about you — have you read “The Circle” or any of Dave Eggers’s novels, or have read “White Fur,” and if so, what did you think? Also Happy 4th of July and Canada Day to all who celebrate it. Enjoy.

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22 Responses to White Fur and The Circle

  1. Brian Joseph says:

    The Circle sounds interesting. I did not see the film. It is too bad that its critical failure maybe preventing people from reading the book. The issues raised seem very relevent in our world.

    Stella is cool!

    • Susan Wright says:

      Thanks Brian, Stella is a fun dog. (Just a little spoiled). I think you would like The Circle — there’s a lot of interesting issues in it, which are explored in entertaining ways. Enjoy your week.

  2. I won a copy of White Fur but it never showed up. I’m not sure it’s for me but I am curious about it.

    I hope you have a great holiday!

    • Susan Wright says:

      Hi Kathy, Yeah I’m not too sure you would like White Fur. I’m still sort of processing it myself. I wonder — was there enough story to it — or was it just episodes in these people’s lives? I guess it made me keep reading it.

  3. Carmen says:

    Have fun back East! It sounds like Stella knows how to enjoy herself. 🙂

    White Fur sounds good, as does The Circle. If Edward Snowden is to be believed, our every keystroke and movements online are already monitored in real time, so The Circle is reflecting very much the present. BTW, did you see the Snowden movie? And A Dog’s Purpose? I try not to pay too much attention to rotten tomatoes ratings; I usually go with the comments and ratings on Google to rent/watch a movie, and that system works well for me.

    • Susan Wright says:

      I agree Carmen, much of what is written about in The Circle is already going on. It’s an interesting discussion of issues he presents in the book, though he makes it almost too silly or overblown, like a lampoon job but it is serious. I have not seen those two movies yet but plan to. I guess I use rotten tomatoes but like other opinions as well. Cheers.

  4. Judy Krueger says:

    I have been reading long books too. Sometimes I don’t read a book because of its cover. The title White Fur combined with the odd pinkish/fleshtone cover just drives me in the other direction. But I am glad to have your mostly positive report. I will get to The Circle one of these days. It covers a topic I can’t seem to look away from. Happy Canadian/American holidays to you and yours!

    • Susan Wright says:

      Thanks Judy! We are on our way with travels. I hear you about book covers — surprisingly they can often make or break a book, ha. I’m still processing White Fur a bit and what I thought — but the author gets points for effort I think. Edgy a bit and it kept me going for awhile. The Circle is funny & suffocating. I’m still laughing a bit, though it’s disturbing too. Kudos to Eggers. Happy 4th.

  5. Vivien says:

    Hi Susan – hope you did well at tourney!!! Was it in AB or BC? Have a fabulous holiday in Kingston and enjoy celebrating Canada Day celebrations!!! Give Stella girl a big cuddle for me! take care xoviv

    • Susan Wright says:

      Thanks Vivien! Oh the tourney was just the CTC Club tourney, but I lost to Elena my first match and then won 3 console matches. I am missing the Mount Pleasant tourney this weekend, Oh well. We’ve made it to Kingston and it should be fun. Hope you have a great time there! Like all this humidity for a change 🙂

  6. I hope you enjoy your vacation.

    I have White Fur…and should read it soon. Years ago, I read A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, by Eggers.

    I am curious about The Circle, but that kind of world frightens me, and sadly, I don’t think it is outside the realm of possibility. I should look at it from a humorous viewpoint, right?

    Thanks for sharing…and for visiting my blog.

    • Susan Wright says:

      Hi Laurel, yeah The Circle was quite funny but alarming too. It’s a spoof though some of that is being done now. I’m curious about Eggers memoir; did you like that one? I will curious to hear what you think of White Fur. Hmm. Enjoy your week.

  7. 90 degrees is hot for me, , too, even though I’m officially a FL resident now… hope it wasn’t that warm while you were playing tennis! White Fur is on my wish list. Recently entered a goodreads giveaway and am keeping my gainers crossed. I’ve never read Dave Eggers. I did borrow A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius from the library years ago, but never managed to read it. Enjoy your trip… I’ll be waving at you from upstate New York!

    • Susan Wright says:

      Hi JoAnn, we might make it to Clayton NY. Have you ever been there? My husband says they have a good boat museum there which we need to see. Uh-oh. Been a lot of rain here in Eastern Canada. Hope it clears soon! Enjoy your week.

      • Yes, Susan, the Boat Museum is wonderful! We even went to a wedding reception there a couple of summers ago… the ceremony itself was outdoors on the green at Thousand Islands Park. Earlier this season, the water was dangerously high in Clayton. With all the rain we’ve had (and it’s still raining!), there may still be a problem. I live about 100 miles south of there, closer to Syracuse.

        • Susan Wright says:

          Wow! Thx so much for the info. We will likely check out the Boat Museum if it (ever) stops raining. We are cottaging on Howe Island which you might know. It is wonderful being here (though I wish we could have had our dog here — I was too chicken to fly her.) We are on the St. Lawrence, nice!

  8. Enjoy your vacation! I would think that The Circle has to be overly silly. If it weren’t, it would probably be too close to the truth. I’ll go check if the library has it; I’d like to give it a try. (I’ll pass on White Fur; I don’t think it’s for me.)

    • Susan Wright says:

      Thanks TJ, yeah the Circle is pretty silly but with some truth to it. I’d be curious to hear what you think of it. It is a bit long though. You probably don’t need White Fur, after reading about Fanny Hill, ha. Happy 4th to you.

  9. Hi Susan! It’s been a long while since I visited your page, and I couldn’t stop smiling when I read about your Labrador’s feat. Quite a champ she is! 🙂

    I haven’t read both the books. ‘The Circle’ released here, and I kicked myself for missing it. Maybe, I should try reading the book first.

    And, have a great summer vacation. I look forward to seeing some pictures.

    • Susan Wright says:

      Hi Deepika, great to hear from you! I’ll have to stop by your site to see what you & Boo are up to this summer. Us dog people have to stick together 🙂 I hope to take good photos this week from the island we are on — I’ll post those next week, stay tuned. Cheers!

  10. I plan to see The Circle movie adaptation, even if it was panned. I wouldn’t say that about most films, but I have to give this one a chance–the subject and the cast are just too perfect. I haven’t read the book, mostly because it’s so long and I read quite a few reviews by people who said it was too slow-moving.

    • Susan Wright says:

      Hi Kate, yeah I’m still hoping to see the movie when it’s a rental. I think they might have made it more of a thriller than a satire which apparently didn’t work for viewers, but we will see. I’m still hopeful for it, ha. Cheers.

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