Connection in the age of 1s and 0s
The last two novels I’ve read have similar plot points: The protagonist falls in love with someone within the 1s and 0s, online via e-mail or social media while said protagonist is going through a rough patch in life. Lincoln O’Neill takes a job as an Internet Security Officer on the cusp of the Y2K hype in Rosemary Rowell’s Attachments. He soon realizes that his job mostly involves being Big Brother, reading employees’ email messages, and issuing them warnings for sending personal e-mails, using profanity, or other such infractions. Lincoln can’t stop reading the messages between co-workers, Beth Fremont and Jennifer Scribner-Snyder, who frequently operate outside of accepted e-mail policy. He develops a fondness for their messages and he finds himself falling in love with Beth. He makes the conscious decision not to give them a citation and reasons that he should stop reading their e-mail. He does not stop. That’s where it gets deliciously good. This problem and the mess it creates helps Lincoln push through his rough patch. After a breakup in college, he never quite recovered and has been a perpetual wanderer since then. This novel will make you long for the days of e-mailing your best friend instead of spitting out those choppy text messages. You won’t get enough of reading Beth’s and Jennifer’s correspondences or rooting for Lincoln to make a move…in person! I can’t say more. Spoilers. This is a highly engaging novel with smart and witty dialogue.
In Melanie Gideon’s Wife 22, elementary school drama teacher, Alice Buckle is a married mother of two and not quite happy with many things, that extra 5 pound, that she never recovered from a failed play debut, that her daughter might be anorexic, and her son, gay. Most of all, the spark in her marriage is barely there. In search of something, Alice decides to participate in a “Marriage in the 21st Century” research survey via e-mail. In the interest of anonymity, she is assigned the alias, Wife 22. She begins to receive batches of questions from, Researcher 101, which she answers enthusiastically. As she intimates, who knew that confession could be such a powerful aphrodisiac? The twist in the story had me talking out loud to the book. I knew it just before it was revealed.
There was an e-mail exchange between Researcher 101 and Wife 22 that resonated with me:
Sometimes when I log on to my computer I feel like I’m in a casino sitting in front of a slot machine. I have the same shivery feeling of anticipation—that anything is possible and anything can happen, i.e. press Send.
The rewards are immediate. I hear the machine churning. I hear all the lovely chimes and whooshes and pings. And when the symbols come up “Kate O’Halloran likes your comment”; “Kelly Cho wants to be your friend”; “You have been tagged in a photo”—I am a winner.
What I’m trying to say is thanks for such a quick response.
I understand what you are saying completely, and often feel the same way, although I have to admit it worries me. It seems like we’ve gotten to the point where our experiences, our memories—our entire lives, actually—aren’t real unless we post about them online. I wonder if we might miss the days of being unreachable.
All the best,
The equating of “winning” with the chatter one receives from others on line, the likes, reblogs, friending, etc and the tendency to post our lives on line (often the best parts) as a sort of validation really got me to thinking. Hmm… I highly recommend these two novels. Honestly, I hated for them to end. On to the next book.