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Six Degrees of Separation: What You Are Going Through by Sigrid Nunez

Welcome to 6 Degrees of Separation for November 2021

Annabel Smith and Emma Chapman began the 6 Degrees of Separation meme in 2014 (and Books Are My Favourite and Best took over in 2016). So, to the meme. On the first Saturday of every month, a book is chosen as a starting point and linked to six other books to form a chain. Readers and bloggers are invited to join in by creating their own ‘chain’ leading from the selected book.

How the meme works

Books can be linked in obvious ways – for example, books by the same authors, from the same era or genre, or books with similar themes or settings. Or, you may choose to link them in more personal ways: books you read on the same holiday, books given to you by a particular friend, books that remind you of a particular time in your life, or books you read for an online challenge.

A book doesn’t need to be connected to all the other books on the list, only to the ones next to them in the chain. This month’s first book is What Are You Going Through by Sigrid Nunez. Read all about 6 Degrees here on the blog Books Are My Favorite and Best.

The Blurb From Amazon:

In each of the people the woman finds a common need: the urge to talk about themselves and to have an audience to their experiences. The narrator orchestrates this chorus of voices for the most part as a passive listener, until one of them makes an extraordinary request, drawing her into an intense and transformative experience of her own.

I got the book on audio from the library but the first two people were too obnoxious for me so I DNF.

My Chain

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The first book that came to me was Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris–the title included “talk” which is what the obnoxious people in What You Are Going Through did.

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David Sedaris spends time in France in Me Talk Pretty One Day. That brought to mind Every Frenchman Has One.

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Another book set in Paris that deals with a lot of French manners is The Red Notebook.

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Another fun novel that centers around a notebook is The Authenticity Project.

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The Authenticity Project features a septuagenarian who makes new friends. Heading Over the Hill is about a couple of septuagenarians who make new friends and ride a Harley.

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A book with an older guy, who has a notebook, encounters strangers, talks about what he is going through and would probablyh love a motorcycle, is The Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen, 83 1/2 Years Old. That pretty much brings us full circle.

Why not join in next month? You can read all the rules here. It a lot of fun! In December 2021 we will start with Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton.

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Too see past posts of 6 Degree Chains use the search feature or the word cloud in the right sidebar (if you are on a pc).

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6 Degrees of Separation The Lottery by Shirley Jackson

I chose this cover because, although she will probably disagree, it reminds me of photos of my Mom as a girl.  Now, on to The Lottery by Shirley Jackson. I have not read anything by this author so here is the summary from Wikipedia. (Do not tell any of my students that I am citing to Wikipedia, please!) This was one of the most difficult titles to work with in all the time I’ve been doing Six Degrees.

The Lottery” is a short story written by Shirley Jackson, first published in the June 25, 1948, issue of The New Yorker. The story describes a fictional small town which observes an annual rite known as “the lottery”, in which a member of the community is selected by chance. The shocking consequence of being selected in the lottery is revealed only at the end. Readers’ initial negative response surprised both Jackson and The New Yorker; subscriptions were canceled, and much hate mail was received throughout the summer of its first publication, while the Union of South Africa banned the story. The story has been dramatized several times and subjected to much sociological and literary analysis, and has been described as one of the most famous short stories in the history of American literature. [Wikipedia]

My Chain

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Matched was the first book that came to mind–it gave me a similar “vibe” with others deciding the fate of ordinary people. I’m not a dystopian fan, but I did at least skim this one. Matched by Ally Condie.

 

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The terror in this book is palpable. It also has a dystopian feel in places. “Shocking consequence” of the main characters decision ties it to The Lottery, while the dystopian feel ties it to Matched. Tenuous? Hmmmm.  The Driver’s Seat by Muriel Spark.

 

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The odd feel of this book ties it to the previous two books and the “revelation” and its shock value ties it to The Lottery. Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage: A Novel by Haruki Murakami

 

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Consequence of decisions made by others ties this one to The Lottery. It is tied to Colorless Tsukuru… by being, in part, a pilgrimage to and in Japan. Midnight in Broad Daylight by Pamela Rotner Sakmoto.

 

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Living under the decisions of others ties it to The Lottery. That it is a family’s story of tragedy and, spiritual pilgrimage, ties it to the previous book. The racial injustice of apartheid means the family has little control over its own future. Cry The Beloved Country by Alan Paton.

 

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The Servants’ Quarters (a book I had to leave unfinished as it was due at the library and I never got back to it),  is set in South Africa and the events of the story likely shocked the neighbors. So, South Africa ties it to Cry the Beloved Country and shocking events tie it to The Lottery as does a lack of control over life.

Why not join us on the first Saturday in November? Next month (November 6, 2021), we’ll start with Sigrid Nunez’s What Are You Going Through. You can read all of the rules here on the blog Books are My Favourite and Best.

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Six Degrees of Separation: Second Place by Rachel Cusk

 

Six Degrees of Separation: How it Works

Six Degrees of Separation is a monthly meme hosted by Books Are My Favourite and Best.

Books can be linked in obvious ways – for example, books by the same authors, from the same era or genre, or books with similar themes or settings. Or, you may choose to link them in more personal ways: books you read on the same holiday, books given to you by a particular friend, books that remind you of a particular time in your life, or books you read for an online challenge.

A book doesn’t need to be connected to all the other books on the list, only to the ones next to them in the chain.

This Month’s Starting Book

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I’d never heard of this book or its author, so here’s the blurb from Amazon:

A woman invites a famous artist to use her guesthouse in the remote coastal landscape where she lives with her family. Powerfully drawn to his paintings, she believes his vision might penetrate the mystery at the center of her life. But as a long, dry summer sets in, his provocative presence itself becomes an enigma—and disrupts the calm of her secluded household. ….A study of female fate and male privilege, the geometries of human relationships, and the moral questions that animate our lives. It reminds us of art’s capacity to uplift—and to destroy.

 

My Chain

 

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A man with a mystery at the center of his life is Harry Clifton–all the more fascinating because it is a self-made or self-chosen mystery. Only Time Will Tell by Jeffrey Archer. (Scroll down in the linked post for my review).

 

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Another man with a mystery at the center of his life who certainly disrupts a few households over the course of his career is William Monk. That there is also a lot of female fate and male privilege adds interest to this entire series.  The first book in the series is The Face of A Stranger where the first part of the mystery is introduced. (I devoured the first umpteen of these, but I do not usually review series fiction due to spoilers).

 

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An artist of another kind has a mystery at the center of her life that causes visitors to disrupt her household and almost sealing her female fate and more male privilege. Unsettled Ground by Claire Fuller.

 

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A play in which a radio personality’s visit disrupts the calm of the household is The Man Who Came to Dinner. He stayed and stayed and stayed–hence the suggestion that you “don’t want to be the man who came to dinner….”

 

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Some very lovely households got completely destroyed in World War II (and a few in World War I) not by bombs, but by being requisitioned for government use as Army bases, naval hospitals, code-breaking offices and whatever else they needed them to be. Still others were invaded by entire schools, old folks homes, and other entities in need of escape from the Blitz in London and other cities.The privilidge males who traditionally inherit and own these houses, for once, got a taste of female fate, but having to do the bidding of others exactly as the others said! Our Uninvited Guests by Julie Summers.

 

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Finally, the book with an artist (Charles) who is at least a tad mysterious due to being only middle class, lands during the war in a requisitioned estate of the grandest proportions where the household that has been disrupted is so reeking of male privilege and female fate that it would take hundreds of pages to discuss all of the many forms of that privilege. The War has now disrupted the family of Lord Marchmain, but in the bygone days be

wteen the wars, Charles himself disrupted the household by intriguing the mother, wanting to marry the sister after having an affair with the brother. Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh.

 

 

Next Month

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October’s chains will start with….. The Lottery by Shirley Jackson.

Did you do a chain this month? Leave me a link in the comments–I’d love to read your post.

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Six Degrees of Separation: Post Cards From the Edge by Carrie Fisher

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I haven’t read this book, so here’s the summary from Amazon:

When we first meet the extraordinary young actress Suzanne Vale, she’s feeling like “something on the bottom of someone’s shoe, and not even someone interesting.” Suzanne is in the harrowing and hilarious throes of drug rehabilitation, trying to understand what happened to her life and how she managed to land in a “drug hospital.”

Just as Fisher’s first film role—the precocious teenager in Shampoo—echoed her own Beverly Hills upbringing, her first book is set within the world she knows better than anyone else: Hollywood. This stunning literary debut chronicles Suzanne’s vivid, excruciatingly funny experiences inside the clinic and as she comes to terms with life in the outside world. Postcards from the Edge is more than a book about stardom and drugs. It is a revealing look at the dangers—and delights—of all our addictions, from money and success to sex and insecurity
.”

 

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The first book that came to mind combined generations of womanizing, stardom, sex appeal, power, the liquor and movie industries, and drug use., rehab, good and bad family dynamics, egotistical and entitled behavior, and more. Chris Lawford, son of Rat Pack legend Peter Lawford and nephew of President Kennedy, endured virtual abandonment as an infant—the stink of diapers and the noise of a crying baby ruined life for Peter who had to be up early in the morning looking gorgeous, so Chris and his nanny were exiled to live in an apartment not far from his parents’ home. Right. It was kind of downhill from there for him. In spite of this, he developed an amazing ego, ferocious arrogance, and a major-league sense of entitlement. And the obligatory rich-kid-of-my-generation’s drug habit. I threw this book across the room several times, but I collect books on the Kennedy family so I did finish reading it. Moments of Clarity by Christopher Lawford.

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A Hollywood child who had an addicted mother by whom she would likely have preferred to have been abandoned was Christina Crawford. Actress–mother Joan was addicted to her own image of herself, a narcissist. Mommy Dearest.

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The child of a narcissist who now speaks about a very well-connected narcissist is Lady Colin Campbell. While I love her YouTube videos, she really should ditch her ex-husband’s courtesy title. She was divorced from him in the mid-’70s after less than a year of marriage.

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Someone else who had a husband’s courtesy title was Lady Browning, aka Daphne Du Mauire whose husband, General Sir Frederick Browning was nicknamed “Boy” and was part of the Royal household. Interestingly, one of her daughters married a man who became a General and the other married the son of one of the most famous generals–Field Marshall Montgomery.

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General, later Secretary of State Colin Powell, had an eccentric hobby and relaxation technique. The  General who, like  Prince William, was a Geography major, rose through the ranks of the ROTC and did not attend West Point. He calmed himself and relaxed by working on old Volvo cars in his garage.

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Ova preferred Saabs, but his best friend was a Volvo man. He wasn’t a general but, the author is named Frederik. And, if I remember correctly, Ova did do his national service. Ova was “addicted” to trying to commit suicide out of loneliness after his wife passed away. A Man Called Ova by Fredrik Backman.

Why not join in next month? The first Saturday of the first full week of the month. You can read all the rules here.

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Six Degrees of Separation: Eats, Shoots & Leaves by Lynne Truss

Thanks as always to Books Are My Favorite and Best for  hosting Six Degrees of Separation each month! You can read the rules here.

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This month we are starting our chains with Eats, Shoots & Leaves by Lynne Truss. I have not read this book, so here is the Amazon blurb:

In Eats, Shoots & Leaves, former editor Lynne Truss, gravely concerned about our current grammatical state, boldly defends proper punctuation. She proclaims, in her delightfully urbane, witty, and very English way, that it is time to look at our commas and semicolons and see them as the wonderful and necessary things they are. Using examples from literature, history, neighborhood signage, and her own imagination, Truss shows how meaning is shaped by commas and apostrophes, and the hilarious consequences of punctuation gone awry.

My Chain

My brain was taxed by too many emails, too many committee meetings on Zoom and the like so I’ve gone the obvious route this month.

My Chain

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The first book that came to mind explains much about why punctuation and even real prose has taken a huge hit–texting. This is a very fun book, by the way. Texts From Jane Eyre by Mallory Ortbeg.

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A sweet, but not cloying or precious, book that uses texting and other disasterous forms of communication in substandard English is Akin by Emma Donoghue. Yes the premise is a bit crazy, but just go with it. Pictures, emojis, abbreviations–all of texting and social media posting works in this book. Akin: A Novel by Emma Donoghue.

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Another book that came to mind also addresses why we cannot use standard English, its grammar or its punctuation anymore: We are overwhelmed by e-mail and the subsequent “active hive mind” approach to our work day. This one is well worth reading. A World Without Email by Cal Newport.

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A book that uses a lot of email in the story is the funny Girls of Riyadh by Rajaa Alsanea.

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Another force trying to destroy the English language is the Academe. This book is so funny (if you work in academia, that is) I had to be sure I didn’t take a drink while listening to it. Whether it is debating the most inclusive language [which I am in no way against–I’m merely against ever attending another meeting on that subject and most other subjects ever again], or whether whatever in vogue cannon is x-enough, or if x-group has “agency” –it is all in the book, all the daily absurdities of academia’s endless committee meetings. Dear Committee Members by Julie Schumacher.

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I tossed a coin whether the use of “AF” or “AS” or F— or BadAss would win. The constant use of profanity is another thing our society needs to back away from. Yes, I’m old. Yes, I used to think it was ‘just a word’ (or phrase). I’ve lived a while. I’ve seen the coarsening effects. It’s up there with men’s genitalia being displayed in boxers or briefs above the waistband of their pants and facial tatoos. (Yes, I am, as a matter of fact, judging.) I picked this book because it epitomizes the problem. This books, is of course, to be taken as humor (and I get the humor–I was a Mom of a kid who barely slept). But it’s too much.  Go the F@@k to Sleep by Adam Mansbach.

Next month, August, we start our chains with Postcards From the Edge by Carrie Fisher.

Did you participate in Six Degrees this month? Leave me a link to your post in the comments.

Does this look like fun to you? It is! Join in next month! Here are the rules.

 

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Six Degrees of Separation: Bass Rock: A Novel by Evie Wyld

It is the first Saturday, so it is time for 6 Degrees of Separation, hosted by Books Are My Favourite and Best!

How the meme works

Books can be linked in obvious ways – for example, books by the same authors, from the same era or genre, or books with similar themes or settings. Or, you may choose to link them in more personal ways: books you read on the same holiday, books given to you by a particular friend, books that remind you of a particular time in your life, or books you read for an online challenge.

A book doesn’t need to be connected to all the other books on the list, only to the ones next to them in the chain.

This month’s starting book is The Bass Rock: A Novel by Evie Wyld which I have not read. According to Amazon:

WINNER OF THE STELLA PRIZE

The lives of three women weave together across centuries in this dazzling new novel.

 
Sarah, accused of being a witch, is fleeing for her life. 
Ruth, in the aftermath of World War II, is navigating a new marriage and the strange waters of the local community. 
Six decades later, Viv, still mourning the death of her father, is cataloging Ruth’s belongings in Ruth’s now-empty house.  
As each woman’s story unfolds, it becomes increasingly clear that their choices are circumscribed, in ways big and small, by the men who seek to control them. But in sisterhood there is also the possibility of survival and a new way of life. Intricately crafted and compulsively readable, The Bass Rock burns bright with love and fury—a devastating indictment of violence against women and an empowering portrait of their resilience through the ages.

I don’t really plan to read the book, but no matter! Here is my chain.

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The first book that popped into mind was Outlander--that massive time-traveling, sex-whether-consensual-or-not-everywhere book that elicits either love or hate, but not many are lukewarm about it. Sarah’s story–fleeing for her life and being thought a witch just seemed to fit with the time-travel part of the story in Outlander. The men aren’t all that great in this book, and the NY Times review points out the men aren’t great in The Bass Rock, either.

All those Castles of Scotland and Sarah fleeing for her life reminded me of another band of women and children fleeing for their lives–away from the depravity of the Red Army at the close of World War II in Eastern Germany. The Women in the Castle: A Novel by Jessica Shattuck.

Ruth’s story brought to mind Wartime Sisters by Lynda Cohen Loigman–a book I didn’t bother to finish a few months back. It wasn’t terrible, just met too many of my historical fiction pet peeves.

Another book about sisters in World War II (and one that is 1000% better) is The Nightingale: A Novel by Kristin Hannah.

Viv’s story brought me to Mum & Dad by Joanna Trollope. Although the parents are both alive in this one, the book leaped into my mind crashing with Outlander.

Viv’s story as well as Mum & Dad brought me to another story of family and caring, Hill Women by Cassie Chambers–the sole nonfiction title in the chain.

July’s 6 Degrees Starting Book

Next month (July 3, 2021), we’ll start with a nonfiction modern classic, Eats, Shoots & Leaves by Lynne Truss.

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Six Degrees of Separation: Beezus and Ramona by Beverly Cleary.

Here’s the brief version of how this meme works:

“Books can be linked in obvious ways – for example, books by the same authors, from the same era or genre, or books with similar themes or settings. Or, you may choose to link them in more personal ways: books you read on the same holiday, books given to you by a particular friend, books that remind you of a particular time in your life, or books you read for an online challenge.

A book doesn’t need to be connected to all the other books on the list, only to the ones next to them in the chain.” You can read all the rules here.

I have a confession to make. Even though Beezus and Ramona was published in 1955, and I started school approximately a decade later, I have no memory of anything to do with Beverly Cleary until my own children were in school in the 2000s! I have not read this book.  Her Henry Huggins book I THOUGHT I had read, but further investigation reveals I was remembering Homer Price. The closest I’ve come to Cleary is my daughter’s obsession with Junie B Jones.

Here is the blurb from Amazon:

“Having a little sister like four-year-old Ramona isn’t always easy for Beezus Quimby. With a wild imagination, disregard for order, and an appetite for chaos, Ramona makes it hard for Beezus to be the responsible older sister she knows she ought to be…especially when Ramona threatens to ruin Beezus’s birthday party. Will Beezus find the patience to handle her little sister before Ramona turns her big day into a complete disaster?” [Amazon]

My Chain

A birthday and a sisters–this is how Judy Leigh’s fun new book starts

My review tells the fun story. This is a wonderful light read by the way! Who doesn’t want to live in Spain and Mexico and find romance at beyond 40?

Molly and Nell learning a little about Mexican culture while Chasing the Sun. Another great read that features a little of Mexican Culture is the amazing Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel. This really is a magical book. It is short and sweet–if you haven’t read it, get it!

Tita, in Like Water for Chocolate, loves to cook. Another who loves to cook is Emoni Santiago–teen mother and chef-to-be in the incredible With the Fire on High. Everything Elizabeth Acebedo writes is incredible. Do not be mislead by the stupid YA label–this is a great book. Do not miss out on this wonderful author–I truly believe she is a voice of her generation.

What a poignant coming-of-age novella! The sweet little boy is in love with the odd lady who sells sandwiches. Growing up is so hard, isn’t it? Miss Ice Sandwich by Mieko Kawakami.

Single moms (I was one) have a lot of struggles. Sons of single moms look for warmth and love where they can–even in the sandwich department of their local supermarket.

A boy in love with “Miss Ice Sandwich” leads to a family of ice cream makers who move from Italy to the Netherlands. The Ice Cream Makers: A Novel by Ernest van der Kwast.

Another book about family in the Netherlands that includes food is The Dinner by Herman Koch. I look forward to Koch’s books because of this one. My review was lost in a crash of my old blog, but trust me and read it.

I couldn’t go full-circle and back to a book with sisters and a birthday, but it was still a fun chain, right?

June’s Starting Book

Next Month the starting book is The Bass Rock by Evie Wyld.

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6 Degrees of Separation: Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart

6DegSep

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This month we start off with Shuggie Bain: A Novel by Douglas Stuart. The story of a boy, Hugh, aka “Shuggie Bain”and his single mother, and his siblings living in a crappy public housing project in Thatcher-era (Reagan era) Glasgow. I haven’t read it yet, but probably will. It won the Booker Prize and other awards.

 

 

 

The first book that popped into my mind was Trainspotting, set in Edinburgh, not Glasgow or elsewhere in Scotland. I watched the movie and read the book when they came out. It was horrific. Trainspotting by Irvine Welsh.

 

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Thank you Amazon,  for invading my thoughts while getting a cover shot of Trainspotting. The next book, which does go very well, was a comparison in the review–Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt–the book that made a school teacher a legend in his own time. Another story of a God-forsaken childhood in a hell-hole home in dire poverty–this time in Dublin.

 

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“Roll up! Roll up! For the magical misery tour!” Honestly, what a depressing chain! The Glass Castle, across the ocean in various American locations, features a family so horribly dysfunctional it is amazing anyone could create anything by a felony record after growing up in it. From cutting the green stuff off the ham to even worse, how this family existed is beyond me. It was impossible to put down though when I read it right after it came out. The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls.

 

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Heading to the local abattoir with a bucket in order to feed your children boiled blood is about as poor as a human can get without starving to death. Yet Mark Mathabane eventually comes to the attention of tennis great Stan Smith and comes out of his dire poverty with a scholarship to college. For those who do not know, “Ka–f-r” is the South African “N—–” word. Kaffir Boy by Mark Mathabane.

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Having run out of true-life wretchedness, I’ll turn to the fictional kind. Set in the racist Chicago of the 1930’s–the era of lynchings and FDR refusing to sponsor a lynching bill so he could re-elected, Native Son tells of  how a young man ruins his life in a moment’s panic. Native Son by Richard Wright.

 

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Few have had a childhood and adolescence as scarring as Maya Angelou’s. Raped as a child in an era when there was no help, she descends into prostitution, but, as we know, eventually found her way and her voice and became an American treasure. I  did not so much read her entire autobiography series as inhaling it, feast on it, mourn with it, and tear my clothes for it, then give thanks at the redemption that was hers in the end. The Ghana years book, All God’s Children Need Traveling Shoes was the best–I read it when Africa still resonated powerfully within me after living in Malawi. I loved her poem at Clinton’s Inauguration, too. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou.

A Bonus Book

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I couldn’t include Native Son and not include Nickel Boys. Although not mired in misery at the start of the book, Elwood lands in the ultimate misery–a Florida Reform School in the Jim Crow years. This novel, while based somewhat on a real reform school is a compelling, if horrific read. Not horrific as in Auschwitz, or Pol Pot, or the Armenian Genocide,  or the Trail of Tears, but bad enough to horrify. The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead.

Want to join in next month? Here are all the rules

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Six Degrees of Separation: Phosphorescence by Julia Baird

Here’s the brief version of how this meme works:

“Books can be linked in obvious ways – for example, books by the same authors, from the same era or genre, or books with similar themes or settings. Or, you may choose to link them in more personal ways: books you read on the same holiday, books given to you by a particular friend, books that remind you of a particular time in your life, or books you read for an online challenge.

A book doesn’t need to be connected to all the other books on the list, only to the ones next to them in the chain.” You can read all the rules here.

This month we start with Phosphorescence. I haven’t read this book so here’s an excerpt from the Amazon blurb to set the scene:

“After surviving a difficult heartbreak and battle with cancer, acclaimed author and columnist Julia Baird began thinking deeply about how we, as people, persevere through the most challenging circumstances. She started to wonder, when we are overwhelmed by illness, loss or pain, or a tragedy outside our control: How can we keep putting one foot in front of the other?”

My Chain

The first book that came instantly to mind was Wintering: The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times by Katherine May which deals with what we do during our “winters.” Through her own story and those of others, May helps us see how we weather such times.

Another book that deals beautifully with the worst of times is The Sound of A Wild Snail Eating by Elizabeth Tova Bailey. If I ever must endure something like Bailey endured, I’d want this book to return to–and a snail for a roommate.

The words “illness” and “cancer” bring this book to mind–I still haven’t read it but it has been on my TBR since it was published. (Plus, the crustacean on the cover with its hard shell, visually ties it to the snail carrying his own house on the cover above). A “biography of cancer” hmmmm. Emperor of Maladies by Siddhartha Muherjee.

The shells tie in this book Elizabeth Philpot and Mary Anning who hunt fossils. The story reflects the gender-related issues in being taken seriously in the natural science community since both are spinsters. By being unmarriaed both have the freedom to pursue their science, but at a cost to themselves socially and more. Remarkable Creatures by Tracy Chevalier.

Say the word “Emperor” and I think of Japan. Say the word “freedom” and the last thing I’d think of is the Japanese royal women. If born royal, they give up their status when they marry. If they marry a royal, their enitre life depends on producing a male heir. Poor Empress Masko, today’s Empress, “failed” having only a daughter. Even her mother-in-law, portrayed in this story, was locked into a gilded cage of a life. One of the best royal novels ever is The Commoner about the courtship of the now-retired Emperor and Empress. I could not put it down.

“One of the books I named as must read for 2009 on my blog. Excellent. This book took me out of my world of Nowhereville, Ohio, and dropped me secretly behind the walls of Imperial Palace in Japan. The characters came totally alive for me. All my years of reading about the British and various German royal families did help me understand some details but did nothing to prepare me for the emotion this book generated for me. The soul-stifling gilded cage that the palace truly was and is for these people actually made me hurt for them. Never mind the opulence, or the wall-to-wall servants, nor even the total serenity of the grounds around them. The life they are forced into by birth or marriage TAKES their lives, crushes them, but forces them to keep on keeping on. This book makes you relish freedom to the nth degree.” (review is from my old blog)

Another word for Emperor is “Kaiser.” After his wife and consort Augusta died of breast cancer (tying it to Emperor of Maladies), the Kaiser remarried. The marriage upset many for his bride was much younger and quite controversial. This book is a fictionalized story of the Kaiser in exile–a difficult time ndeed. No status outside his own home, no pomp, no ceremony, no world attention. Today he’d get an Oprah interview to bleat on and on about his supposed victimhood. The Exception (aka The Kaiser’s Last Kiss) by Alan Judd.

From a difficult time with cancer to a difficult time with a mystery illness to cancer to creatures with shells to a loss of freedom by marriage to a loss of freedom in exile. Not sure. Is this really full circle?

Next month 

Next month we start with Booker Prize winning Shuggie Bain: A Novel by Douglas Stuart.

Uncategorized

6 Degrees of Separation: Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume

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Six Degrees of Separation is a monthly book meme. Thanks to Books Are My Favorite and Best for hosting. Click HERE to read the rules.

I’ve never read this book, though it’s been around since I was eight years old.

New kid Margaret makes friends, “[b]ut none of them can believe Margaret doesn’t have religion, and that she isn’t going to the Y or the Jewish Community Center. What they don’t know is Margaret has her own very special relationship with God. She can talk to God about everything—family, friends, even Moose Freed, her secret crush.”

“Are You There God” brought to mind a Severe Mercy–one of the first Christian Classics I read. Admittedly at the time I read it because a) a friend paid to send it to me in Malawi, b) I had nothing else to read, and c) it associated him with Wabash College in the bio and friend went there. I ended up not able to put it down. Who wouldn’t want C.S. Lewis in their circle of friends? Sheldon and Davy [wife] are searchers too–they search for Faith, to define faith and to live with three in their marriage (God, of course, being the third).  A Severe Mercy by Sheldon Vanauken.

A Severe Mercy brought up C.S. Lewis which immediately brought this book to mind. In the movie, Shadowlands (which I love), Joy Davidman has only one son whereas in real life she had two. This is the memoir of the younger son. who spent the most time in the home of his famous step-father. Lenten Lands: My Childhood With Joy Davidman and C.S. Lewis by Douglas Gresham.

Another younger person influenced by the love and emotional care of an older man, a mature Christian, was Maria von Wedeymeyer–the much younger fiance of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. You can read about Deitrich and Maria here in my post about them. Love Letters From Cell 92 is the correspondence that comprised nearly all there was to their “engagement” since Deitrich was arrested by the Nazis at about the same time. Love Letters From Cell 92

Letters from Cell 92 brought to mind another letter during a time of massive injustice–Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Letters from a Birmingham Jail.

Writing and jail brought me to Writing my Wrongs: Life, Death, and Redemption in an American Prison by Shaka Senghor, a book I devoured in about one sitting, but found my emotion to be too raw to write a review. He reformed himself through reading, writing, thinking, meditating while in solitary confinement.

All these prison memories brought to mind my elementary school love, “affair” with Johnny Cash who recorded at least two of his best albums at San Quinton and Folsom Prison and had as a chart-topper the song Folsom Prison Blues. He was given pride of place in the PBS Ken Burn’s documentary on Country Music last year. He had a brief cameo on one of my posts this week, having grown up in clone-community of Arthurdale (See this post). Johnny Cash was also quite a Gospel singer and all but two of these books dealt with the Christian faith. The Man in Black is not really a Christian book, but his gospel music puts it on the borderline. Not quite full-circle with this chain, but if I re-arranged them they could be.