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Michael J. Seidlinger

Michael J Seidlinger is the author of The Day We Delay, In Great Company, and The Sky Conducting. When he isn't consumed with language, he's transforming into a graphic artist, musician, and professional boxer.

Blurbs

“I've never read anything like this before: A disembodied voice that comes from the Internet, like Notes from the Underground but even more underground.”

– Noah Cicero, author of Best Behavior

“If a single mouth grabbed up every blog and squeezed them crush-tight in its jaw, then the bursting shrapnel, the blog-ooze running liquid down screens, it would be Michael J. Seidlinger’s In Great Company, an unsympathetic and computerized rant, a book readily swimming in ego.”

– J. A. Tyler, author of A Man of Glass & All the Ways We Have Failed

“Our relationship to the egotistical narrator’s slippery, yet bold monologue steers the refreshingly unique approach to plot through the dark undercurrents of social networking. The masterfully navigated urgency carries us through its wavelets of nuance. The book begins by treating us with ironic disdain, so we are put in an unusual vigilant state of mind yet we agree to slipstream. As with a similar method in hypnosis, it startles us awake inside the trance.”

– Tantra Bensko, author of Lucid Membrane

Reviews

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In Great Company

If you would like a peek into the dreary future of social networking, you should read this book.

11/29/11

We live in a bizarre generation. That is a fact. The awe and confusion that older generations have in the face of our quick-adapting, technologically saturated youth is immeasurable. It is also something well noted; nobody denies the reality that we grow up now immersed in technology or that information is increasing at an insanely exponential rate. Something that is perhaps less seriously mulled over is the effect of this culture on the personalities of today’s youth. The desocializing effect that Facebook and Twitter have, the dichotomy created between online and “IRL,” and the nurturing of the self-absorbed ego that now occupies the center of attention in your own social network are all usually jokes; the kind made about your friend who spends too much time online. But those jokes take on a real value in Michael J. Seidlinger’s new work In Great Company.

In Great Company is a bizarre book. It wavers between being the personal journal of a guy obsessed with his various internet handles  and the battle log of a commander at war, self-indulgent and intent on destroying everyone around him. It is easy to hate the narrator of the text. He, himself, comments on that often. But what he is demonstrating is important and the hatred perhaps comes from a minor degree of self-recognition (and latent self-loathing). Seidlinger has created a character that takes all of the qualities that I suggested earlier (effects of the Internet) and develops them to extreme levels. The disgust provoked by this character, in my case, is really a fear of becoming him.

Early on the narrator professes: “I can only / Quantify moments here, online.” The absorption of the self into an identity on a social network is the only real “event” in the text. Nothing is happening externally. The action is all within the narrator. He speaks to this transformation from human to handle frequently and alludes to an inability to reintegrate into life outside the web with satisfaction: “I am counting / On the unpredictability of the / Digital surf to give me the / Experiences I can no longer get / On my own.” The easily felt repulsion for this character turns into sympathy when you start to look upon him as a social eunuch, removed from the joy of engaging in real-world, fruitful interaction. You can further poke holes in this self-absorbed identity via the errors in the text (mostly, typographical; likely, unintentional), a further reminder that the intimidating voice that speaks is human after all, and like many college-degree bearing students who majored in English or creative writing, he makes typos.

As the text progresses, the confusion between cyber identity and real life intensifies, particularly with the introduction of the “virus.” A trifold interpretation of “virus” as a literal ailment that is contracted and spread, a digital corruption that likewise infects, and as a social disease of cyber obsession (the undoing of the normal functioning personality) makes the narrator’s (and most young readers’) condition very real. The hyper formation of a constructed identity eventually culminates in the loss of identity: “I / Can see my skeletal features, / Looking back at me, when I / Look, I look fearlessly. Go / Ahead, do the same . . . You see the outline of your / Skull?”  This skull-like face graces the cover of the book, a sort of dark, apocalyptic version of that blue, outlined head on Facebook.

The risk of defacement, self-absorption, and losing touch with reality has given way to many of the greatest texts in literature. Noah Cicero related In Great Company to Dostoyevsky’s Notes From the Underground. It also reminds me a bit of Augusto Roa Bastos’ novel I The Supreme. But where these novels demonstrate a certain personality type and condition that are universal, the circumstances surrounding them don’t hit close to home for most contemporary readers. That is why In Great Company is so disconcerting. Its circumstances are those that surround the majority of us in this day and age. Its suggestions are possibilities perhaps too real for people aged thirty or younger.

If you would like a peek into the dreary future of social networking, you should read this book. The warning is that you may come out of it feeling a little “disembodied” or “skeletal.” If you don’t, then you are probably in severe self-denial.

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1 Comment

  1. Jordan Blum said on 12/01/11 at 11:17 am Reply

    The cover of this book reminds me of the film “A Face in the Crowd,” and the description reminds me of the film “Catfish,” which is quite interesting and scary because of what it, like this book, says about the internet (specifically, Facebook). I’m intrigued to read this, so I’ll add it to the pile of 100+ books I need to read ha-ha. Excellent description and quotes, too; I think they’re great examples of what you think stands out in the book.

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