Inspired by @ChrisK
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    I was going to wait until @ChrisK returned to post this, but *insertshruggyhere
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    This is my book.
    Machine Dreams by Jayne Anne Phillips
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    It reminds me so much of Lee Smith. The cadence and tone are very similar and Phillips uses the same matter-of-fact phrasing to deal with things that are far from matter-of-fact as Smith does. If you liked Saving Grace, you'll enjoy Machine Dreams.
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    I'm not going to discuss the plot or any spoilers here in case any of you would like to read it.
    Just send me a note and I'd be happy to ship it off to you.
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    But the novel sparked two ideas that I've thought about for a couple of weeks.
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    1. I think about the "American Narrative" frequently.
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    The idea that Americans are independent and self-sufficient and self-made.
    And the American Dream is to make it on your own, to stoically persevere and conquer all challenges in your path by the sheer force of your will and hard work.
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    That mollycoddling is a sin and the word welfare has such a negative connotation and that needing help is a sign of weakness.
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    That the perception of strength or wealth or fiscal responsibility is more important than truly possessing these things.
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    In my experience
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    The times when America shines the brightest (sorry clichΓ© alert!)
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    Is when we have a common cause, a goal, a purpose that brings us together.
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    When a college cafeteria is standing room only to watch the inauguration of our first black president.
    And there isn't a dry eye in the place.
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    When the governmental response is slow, but the volunteer response is swift and strong to a city in need.
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    And I think a lot about how that narrative has failed us, individually, politically, socially.
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    That we are simultaneously too easily fooled and too distrustful.
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    That our lawmakers and keepers are actors in a grand political theater.
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    And that our best qualities arise in times of true, not manufactured, crisis or opportunity.
    And how we've removed ourselves as much as possible from these situations when we can. We are far more culpable in our current conflicts than those of WWII, and yet they impact us far less. (As a whole, not to negate any family's personal sacrifice.) But the idea of a rubber drive or sugar rations are foreign to us.
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    That we might be better when we have a common goal than when we are left to our own devices.
    And our traditional ideas about work ethic and being an adult don't seem to be working well in the kind of world we have now.
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    I'm not entirely comfortable with that idea or its implications.
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    2. My next thought has to do with ESP. Sort of.
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    In this novel, the male protagonist has a strong connection to machines. He can feel when they are not right. It's almost like a sixth sense he has, more than a talent or a skill, a link to machinery that can't be explained in a traditional, biological way.
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    I think we all know some people like this.
    There are countless musicians, but some people just have an uncanny sense of timing and pitch. There are chefs everywhere, but some people have an incredible palate, an interweaving understanding of smell and taste and texture that is truly special. Athletes, artists, writers: most are talented and hardworking and great, but some are just different and magical in the best way.
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    It's almost like they have a special, extra sense that has developed.
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    And this idea is fascinating to me
    Not in a mind reading sort of way, which I think would be exhausting.
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    And leads me to wonder
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    About aliens
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    Yes, aliens
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    The main reason I feel that we haven't so far been able to make contact with other life forms
    That statistically I feel should be there.
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    Isn't that we speak a different language
    With our soft palates and our tongues in a specific frequency range.
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    But that we have a completely separate reality.
    That the senses that they use to make up their reality are different than ours.
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    Maybe our lifespan is so relatively short or long compared to theirs that we are living our entire lifecycle in the nanoseconds of theirs.
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    Maybe they are so big or small that our galaxy is floating in a bubble in their tea
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    Maybe they can only sense inorganic material and they are living in our houses and sleeping in our beds but there are holes or spaces or replacement materials where our cotton sheets or our carrots or our bodies are.
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    Maybe the electrons in their p-orbitals have spin in odd increments and they are living their lives in the space between our molecules.
    Sorry if this is getting new-agey. It's not meant to be at all.
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    And I'm not saying so much that we are living in The Matrix (a programmed lie designed to hide the truth from us,) but that we are living in a matrix with plenty of space, laid on top of other matrices that rarely touch ours but are sufficient and whole in their own right.
    And I get super excited about the areas around the edges where sometimes I see a glimpse of something touching my reality that is a little bit strange.
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    Also, this book is not about any of these things, really.
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    But to me maybe it is.