Six Degrees of Separation: How To Be Both by Ali Smith


First, apologies for the late post! I forgot it was Six Degrees week, due to #Deweys24HourReadathon!

Second, I’ve never heard of this book! So, with that in mind, here is this month’s Six Degrees of Separation chain!

From Amazon:
How to be both is a novel all about art’s versatility. Borrowing from painting’s fresco technique to make an original literary double-take, it’s a fast-moving genre-bending conversation between forms, times, truths and fictions. There’s a Renaissance artist of the 1460s. There’s the child of a child of the 1960s. Two tales of love and injustice twist into a singular yarn where time gets timeless, structural gets playful, knowing gets mysterious, fictional gets real—and all life’s givens get given a second chance.

Who says stories reach everybody in the same order?
This novel can be read in two ways, and the eBook provides you with both. You can choose which way to read the novel by simply clicking on one of two icons—CAMERA or EYES. The text is exactly the same in both versions; the narratives are just in a different order.

The ebook is produced this way so that readers can randomly have different experiences reading the same text. So, depending on which icon you select, the book will read: EYES, CAMERA, or CAMERA, EYES. (Your friend may be reading it the other way around.) Enjoy the adventure.


I’m not sure I can process that blub, so I’ll go with what I did understand.


#1 Name of the Rose by Umberto Echo


Call it “free association,” this is the first book that popped into my head as I read the blub on How to Be Both. Odd since it is before the Renaissance and before the 1960s. I read this one when it came out and was fascinated. Name of the Rose by Umberto Echo


#2 By the Grand Canal: A Novel byWilliam Riviere




Utter the word “Renaissance” and for whatever reason, I think “Venice.” By the Grand Canal: A Novel by William Riviere. My review is here.

#3 Just Kids by Patti Smith


Although I haven’t read this one, how much more “60’s kid” could you get, right? I did watch, and “enjoy” [not really the word] the Doors movie when it came out and I can remember “Come on Baby Light My Fire,” on the radio. Just Kids by Patti Smith.


#4 Stingray Afternoons by Steve Rushin


I still haven’t read this one, but the cover IS my childhood in the 1960s. Everyone had these bikes. That could be my kindergarten/first grade bud, Jimmy on that bike! Sting-Ray Afternoons by Steve Rushin.


#5 Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders



Who says stories reach everybody in the same order?”  Indeed–I’m still processing this mess of a story! Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders. My review is here.  My Six Degrees post of Lincoln in the Bardo is here.

#6 Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams



Lincoln leads me then to the other over-hyped book I really couldn’t stand–even in the “superb” audio version. Due to the many friends who recommended it whole-heartedly, I suffered through it to the very end. Maybe it was Stephen Fry’s reading? No….. Hitchhiker’s Gudie to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams.


Final Note

This was one of the hardest chains I’ve done! Having not read the book (it is not a requirement for participation) and not really being able to understand all that Amazon wrote about stories in order, etc., I struggled up hill the whole way!


Next Month’s Book



The Dry: A Novel by Jane Harper


Want to participate in Six Degrees of Separation? Read here.

9 thoughts on “Six Degrees of Separation: How To Be Both by Ali Smith

  1. I haven’t read How To Be Both either – it sounds rather odd, I thought, but I enjoyed reading your chain. I loved The Name of the Rose, absolutely fascinating! I borrowed Lincoln in the Bardo from the library but didn’t have the patience to read much of it. Years ago I watched Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, parts of which I loved until it got rather silly – my son loved it though and kept going on about 42 being the answer to life, the universe and everything – strange how useless information like that has stayed in my mind!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Well done, Library of Life! I have not read How To Be Both, but seeing your post reminded me that my brother had told me all about this book a couple years ago. Now I’m intrigued. As for the sting ray bicycle, oh, how I wanted one with a banana seat. Those were such the rage, but I had just gotten a Schwinn regular girl’s bike, so that’s what I rode. I hope you like The Dry – I thought it was excellent!

    Liked by 1 person

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