Circular Thinking

by Louise Erdrich
The Circle

The Circle by Dave Eggers, spooked me enough without the most recent N.S.A. revelations courtesy Edward Snowden. In this Sunday's New York Times a front page story on how the N.S.A. has collected facial recognition data on millions of people, and how behind the ball, or circle, Congress is -- the technology moving as usual light years faster than oversight. To backtrack, Eggers book, out now in paperback, juicily details a society of googlish happy drones thoroughly invested in making the world "transparent". Eggers's narrative follows one eager young woman rescued from a boring ordinary job into the nirvana of the Circle's tech campus. Her epic climb eventually involves betrayal after betrayal and at last a world destiny shaping final episode that involves -- facial recognition technology that could become the perfect tool in the creation of a totalitarian transparent world controlled by The Circle. This novel is an odd combination -- perfect beach read, perfect nightmare, compelling and satisfying. And as I said, spooky.

Other magnificent reads:Every Man Dies Alone by Hans Fallada. Binocular Vision by Edith Pearlman. Joanna Scott's forthcoming novel, De Potter's Grand Tour, is a delicate, enchanting, utterly delicious text, melancholy at the heart and yet slyly funny. Scott is of course a fearlessly intelligent writer, and this book is surely one of her finest. An aching quandary at its center, a question of love and abandonment involving exotic travel -- what more can one ask of the perfect book for summer cabin jaunts?

Wonderfully, in the summer, so many Minnesotans leave behind the electronics that keep us amused indoors while the snow whips viciously or gently drifts down in Hollywood style giant flakes. People's hands seek books. Real books that can survive being dropped in a lake.

How many writers simply never, ever, disappoint their readers? Lorrie Moore may be solitary in that category. This isn't a very intellectual statement, but anyway: Bark, her latest collection of stories, is a Dark Chocolate with Ginger bar. One square? One short story? Impossible. But then I am in love with her characters' astringent wit, dead on observation, self reflection tinged with panic, with their impractical tenderness. My best summer advice is to buy Bark, then work backwards -- do not leave out Birds of America. Just give yourself a break. A beach towel, her books. Or just a couch, a fan, and all that Lorrie Moore has written.