Dave Eggers on Artists in the Digital Age

FOR reasons I half understand, Dave Eggers’ recent novel The Circle was dismissed and ignored in some circles. The book’s not perfect, but works beautifully as a fable about what we’TheCircle-Jacketre willing to give up to live in a digital utopia. The book’s protagonist, Mae, lucks into a job at a Google-like campus in Northern California and gradually sees what the whole thing is built on.

So though most of it takes place in a kind of high-tech gated community, it works as as metaphor about the direction all of post-industrial society is going. Especially artists, musicians, and “content creators.” This is a scene I can’t get out of my head. It comes while Mae, new to The Circle, is given a tour by her officious college friend, Annie, one of the company’s machers.

…in the corner, on a small stage, there was a man, playing a guitar, who looked like an aging singer-songwriter Mae’s parents listened to.

“Is that…?”

“It is,” Annie said, not breaking her stride. “There’s someone every day. Musicians, comedians, writers. That’s Bailey’s passion project, to bring them here to get exposure, especially given how rough it is out there for them.”

“I knew they came sometimes, but you’re saying it’s every day?”

“We book them a year ahead. We have to fight them off.”

The singer-songwriter was singing passionately, his head tilted, hair covering his eyes, his fingers strumming feverishly, but the vast majority of the cafeteria was paying little or no attention.

“I can’t imagine the budget for that,” Mae said.

“Oh god, we don’t pay them. Oh wait, you should meet this guy.”

Anyway, the book is well worth reading. This week, by the way, I’ll be light on the posts, because of deadlines and other stuff. But back at full strength next week.

ALSO: If that’s not enough for you, I should mention that my wife, Sara Scribner, a former music journalist who is now a school librarian runs a blog as well, devoted mostly to young-adult fiction and issues around education and literacy. Here’s a link to Dig Me Out.

She’s also got a fresh interview here with the science-fiction and YA writer Cecil Castellucci.

 

 

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