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6 Degrees of Separation: Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart

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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.

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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.

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6 Degrees of Separation: Turn of the Screw by Henry James

Six Degrees of Separation is a monthly book meme hosted by Books Are My Best and Favorite. A chain of 6 books is linked somehow–whether to all books or only to the one before it. A common book is given each month with which to start the chain.

This month’s starting book is Turn of the Screw by Henry James.

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I have not read this one–though I’ve owned a Scholastic copy since the 1970s–it was published with Daisy Miller, which I have read. Here is part of the Amazon blurb:

[O]ne of Henry James’s most unusual novellas. In The Turn of the Screw, a governess is haunted by ghosts from her young charges past; Virginia Woolf said of this masterpiece of psychological ambiguity and suggestion, We are afraid of something unnamed, of something, perhaps, in ourselves…Henry James…can still make us afraid of the dark.

My Chain

 

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While not a governess, and no ghosts are involved, the first book that sprang to mind was The Prime of Miss Jane Brodie by the marvelous Muriel Spark. I love this book!

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An eccentric teacher in Edinburgh brought to mind Monarch of the Glen–about the eccentric household at Glenbogle Castle (not to be confused with the TV version–which was wonderful, but different) has not only eccentrics but also probably ghosts. I admit I haven’t read it yet. It’s been on my TBR since the 1990s.  Monarch of the Glen by Compton McKenzie.

 

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Another castle with eccentrics and very, very likely ghosts, is that of Count Dracula in Transylvania. Amazing how like the cartoon versions this book was!  Dracula by Bram Stoker.

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Transylvania always makes me think of “Transy” –Transylvania University in Kentucky. There are some spooky places back in hollers of Eastern Kentucky.  While they certainly didn’t live in castles, the “Blues” of the region could have been mistaken for ghosts. This book, from which is was alleged that JoJo Moyes plagiarized, tells their story. The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michelle Richardson. (She should have got the movie deal.)

 

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Another scary place that featured an eccentric but gifted teacher was Yamacraw Island, South Carolina. No castles here, but lots of local folklore that probably included ghosts. Author Pat Conroy taught at a one-room school on the island after attending the Citadel—the Military College of South Carolina. The movie version, Conrack, starred Angelina Joile’s Dad Jon Voight. I love this book–I love most of Pat Conroy’s books, but this one is really special because it is true. The Water is Wide by Pat Conroy. [FYI-The Story of English talks about the language of the coastal islands–very interesting,]

 

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Another creepy place, with a ghost-like girl and probably an older English dialect, are the swamps and marshlands of the North Carolina coast. Kya Clark’s ethereal world of silent water and creepy trees is perfect for anyone missing a haunted castle but does not want to freeze to death. At least Kay’s world is warm and humid–not cold and damp. Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens.

 

So we’ve gone from a creepy governess on a creepy country estate with creepy kids haunted by a former governess to a creepy marshland in 1950’s North Carolina all in 6 books.

Next Month

November 7, 2020, is a wild card – start with the book you’ve ended a previous chain with, and continue from there (for those playing for the first time, start with the last book you finished reading).

 

 

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6 Degrees of Separation: Rodham by Curtis Sittenfeld

Six Degrees of Separation is a monthly book meme hosted by Books Are My Best and Favorite. A chain of 6 books is linked somehow–whether to all books or only to the one before it. A common book is given each month with which to start the chain.

My Chain

The obvious first link is the author’s previous First Lady novel, An American Wife, which I loved. It is the fictionalized story of POTUS #43 and his school librarian wife.

My second link is to another fictionalized first lady, this time the poster girl of the breed, Jaqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis in The Editor: A Novel by Steven Rowley.

The Editor led me to Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott which is not a book I’ve ever reviewed but one that is renown for it’s advice to writers on editing. It’s the book that says to write a lot of “shitty first drafts.”

Bird by Bird, led me to super bird woman Phoebe Snetsinger who made birding into an obsessive quest for the ultimate Life List of birds seen and observed: Life List: One Woman’s Quest for the World’s Most Amazing Birds.

Phoebe and her fellow birders were often friends as well as birders or even competitors. That reminded me of a little book I ran across, but have not read, that coincidentally is tied to Jackie Kennedy by virtue of its author being her step-father, novelist Hugh D. Achincloss: Love Without Wings: Some Friendships in Literature and Politics, which I have added to my TBR. “Hugh-D” knew everyone so it should be interesting.

Birds and editors and political elites all led me to H is for Hawk by Helen MacDonald. T.H. White, the other subject of the book, wrote about King Arthur and the political intrigue in his court at Camelot that involved friends and even lovers.. Jack and Jackie Kennedy ruled over the modern Camelot–at least according to the press of the day. The musical Camelot was a favorite of the President’s.

So we went from a First Lady who didn’t become a first lady in the novel to a First Lady who did become First Lady in the novel to a First Lady with a post-White House career as an editor to an editor on writing who titled her book Bird By Bird to a biography of a birder to a book of letters without wings to, finally, a book with birds, and a writer whose subject was political elites and their intrigues.

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6 Degrees of Separation: How To Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy

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Six Degrees of Separation is a monthly book meme hosted by blogger Books Are My Favourite and Best. A book is given and you develop a chain of 6 books that must relate at least to the one before it. It’s fun.

This month’s book is a really different choice–a personal help book on our attention and what we do with it! How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy.

Here’s a bit of the blurb from Amazon to help orient you:

In a world where addictive technology is designed to buy and sell our attention, and our value is determined by our 24/7 data productivity, it can seem impossible to escape. But in this inspiring field guide to dropping out of the attention economy, artist and critic Jenny Odell shows us how we can still win back our lives. …Odell sees our attention as the most precious—and overdrawn—resource we have. And we must actively and continuously choose how we use it. We might not spend it on things that capitalism has deemed important … but once we can start paying a new kind of attention, she writes, we can undertake bolder forms of political action, reimagine humankind’s role in the environment, and arrive at more meaningful understandings of happiness and progress….Far from the simple anti-technology screed, or the back-to-nature meditation we read so often, How to do Nothing is an action plan for thinking outside of capitalist narratives of efficiency and techno-determinism. Provocative, timely, and utterly persuasive, this book will change how you see your place in our world.

Comment from me:

Reading the blurb left me feeling like I had to become one of those much-younger women who scream in the face of police officers or who protest wearing rubber v–i-as on their heads. Not, of course, that there’s anything wrong with that (o.k., depending on your political leanings there could be A LOT wrong with that!).

 

My Chain

#1

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The Authenticity Project sounded like it was titled by the same folks who wrote that blurb for How to Do Nothing. I liked the book and it was, of course, about where to place your attention socially. Lonely? Leave the house–that sort of thing, but in the fun setting of a novel.

 

#2

You could almost say the Accidental Tourist is the opposite of the Authenticity Project in spirit. Macon writes books for travelers who hate to travel and want an experience as much like being at home as possible. Macon’s guides show them how to focus their attention to avoid the stress and discomfort of travel. This is my favorite Anne Tyler book and a favorite movie I’ve watched too many times.

 

#3

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Luckless Andrew Less decides he must take his attention off his misery at learning his ex is getting married. To do this he takes a writing assignment that involves going around the world. Lots of lessons await him, as you can imagine. Less by Andrew Sean Greer.

#4

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Poor Ove! His beloved wife is dead and he is trying to end his life. Thankfully, his neighbors need him. They force his attention off his misery and on to their problems! A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

 

#5

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“Just a widow” was how most of the women would describe themselves. Through writing dirty memoirs or dirty stories and sharing them, these women take the attention off their societal invisibility and become empowered! The start to work for change in their community. All from comparing anatomical parts to sweet potatoes! Erotic Stories For Punjabi Widows by Balli Kaur Jaswal

#6

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Invisible Women: Data Bias in a World Designed For Me by Caroline Criado Perez helps get the world’s attention onto more than men and male-ordered tasks. The author shows how, time-and-again, women are ignored in things like planning transportation systems or housing developments and always to the detriment of the project. When women are consulted, change happens because attention gets focused on the people who do the caring jobs. Men don’t do those for the most part. Women are the ones who do the errands, the weekly shopping, the checking on great-grandmothers, the helping out new Moms, the helping with the classroom pizza party, and usually do so with children or elderly in tow and usually in an organized manner that men do not even know exist.

This is the only non-fiction title, but it brings us close to full circle. While this isn’t a self-help book it is a “help” book (for society), gets attention refocused, and can bring political change. I am reading this at work with two co-workers. We are slow, but when we are done I will review it. It’s well worth reading, especially if you’ve ever tried to use a bad public transportation system like that in Indianapolis!

 

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Join in the fun on the first Saturday in September when our starting book will be: Rodham by Curtis Sittenfeld.

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6 Degrees of Separation: What I Loved by Siri Hustvedt

Six Degrees of Separation is a monthly book meme hosted by Books Are My Best and Favorite. A chain of 6 books is linked somehow–whether to all books or only to the one before it. A common book is given each month with which to start the chain.

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The month flew by! Now for the long 4th of July holiday–the only one that isn’t a Monday holiday law holiday. We get to have it on Friday.  Six Degrees this month features a book I’d never heard of, so I investigated it, bought it, and even started reading it. So far, so good, but I’m nowhere near finished. I’ll just use what I can from what I’ve read to develop my chain. It is What I Loved by Siri Hustvedt.

Here’s part of the blurb from Amazon:

Siri Hustvedt’s What I Loved begins in New York in 1975, when art historian Leo Hertzberg discovers an extraordinary painting by an unknown artist in a SoHo gallery. He buys the work; tracks down the artist, Bill Wechsler; and the two men embark on a life-long friendship…. follows the evolution of the growing involvement between his family and Bill’s-an intricate constellation of attachments that includes the two men; their wives…and their children….The families live in the same building in New York, share a house in Vermont during the summer.

 

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For some reason, it was that part of the blurb about a summer house that took me, to another creative couple, and a scene from the movie Reds. Trust me it makes sense. Another “artist” and his wife and their friends. In a way, they were a muse to each other–in a way. Too tenuous a link? Maybe when I finish reading What I Love I’ll have my answer? Ten Days That Shook The World by John Reed [Louise Bryant was his wife]. (See the film clip at the bottom for part of the scene that inspired me.) I recall staying awake all night, unable to put this book down. I don’t honestly recall what or if it actually recounted of Reed & Bryant’s relationship though–I read it in 1983.

 

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That Reds scene, somehow, led me to Heartburn by Nora Ephron, which I watched on an excruciating date when it came out. Rachel is a cookbook writer, but her husband, Mark, is now having an affair while she is hugely pregnant. Scumbag. This reminded me of a scene from a Woody Allen movie that I watched on another excruciating date with the same guy, but I won’t name the title because I loathe Woody Allen.

 

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That naturally led me to one of the ultimate scumbag husbands, whose wives were each, in turn, a sort of muse to him–Ernest Hemingway. The Paris Wife [Which then brought to mind a scene from the movie Islands in the Stream, which was based on Hemingway, but that scene isn’t in this book] and it’s “Sister-Wife-book” Love and Ruin. (I’m counting these as one book). (My review is here for Love and Ruin).

 

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In Love and Ruin, Hem runs off to Cuba to escape the world. He lets one wife do up the house for the next wife to live in. Nice guy, but running away from the world led me to Helen and Scott Nearing who gave up on Capitalism, but not the U.S.A. and ran into the woods to live The Good Life, which reminded me of a scene in the movie The Way We Were but definitely wasn’t in this book! My review is here.

 

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This brought me to another New England marriage, but one that epitomized capitalism. One was an actor who owned a grocery store, the other a writer whose memoirs were regarded as “fiction” by her family. She is revered by her readers though. Madeleine L’Engle’s Two-Part Invention has now been added to her Crosswicks Journals, which are my favorite of all her books, no matter what her children said about them.

So, we have now gone full-circle, back to artists, marriage, and family.

 

 

 

 

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Six Degrees of Separation: From Normal People by Sally Rooney to a Pearl S. Buck masterpiece

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Six Degrees of Separation is a monthly book meme hosted by Books Are My Best and Favorite. A chain of 6 books is linked somehow–whether to all books or only to the one before it. A common book is given each month with which to start the chain.

This month’s book is Normal People by Sally Rooney. Here is the blurb from Amazon:

Connell and Marianne grew up in the same small town, but the similarities end there. At school, Connell is popular and well-liked, while Marianne is a loner. But when the two strike up a conversation—awkward but electrifying—something life-changing begins.

A year later, they’re both studying at Trinity College in Dublin. Marianne has found her feet in a new social world while Connell hangs at the sidelines, shy and uncertain. Throughout their years at university, Marianne and Connell circle one another, straying toward other people and possibilities but always magnetically, irresistibly drawn back together. And as she veers into self-destruction and he begins to search for meaning elsewhere, each must confront how far they are willing to go to save the other.

My Thoughts On This Book

For the record, I threw this one back–violently. “Can I cum in your mouth,” isn’t edifying literature worthy of “Novel of the Decade” hype and a t.v. show. I won’t be watching the show either. I can watch losers grope each other in line at Walmart.

 

My Chain

 

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Back in high school, books with what I today call “ick moments” were rare. After all, we’d just elected Southern Baptist, teetotaler Jimmy Carter to the presidency.  Wifey is the first book I ever got my hands on that made me want to quit reading due to ick moments.  She was married! Since I was in high school and the book was passed around till it fell open to those parts of the story, I finished it. Where would I have sat at lunch if I hadn’t? Wifey by Judy Blume.

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Another book insanely over-hyped with and chock-full of ick moments that made me barf into my throat was Wild by Cheryl Strayed. I made it only as far as the gushing over how wonderful heroin was. Yeah. This sucker hit the wall so hard it left a dent when I threw it.

 

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Another book of a  woman (and two men) on an adventure that also had a funny not-so-ick moment describing one man’s purple you-know-what, is Euphoria by Lily King. I already knew a lot about Margaret Meade and Gregory Bateman so the book wasn’t a revelation, but at least I enjoyed it way more than Wild.

 

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If the trio in Euphoria traveled metaphorically back in time doing their anthropological fieldwork, Claire Randall finds a cure for dreary post-war Britain through actual time travel and talk about ick moments, but unlike Normal People, it has an actual story. I do not recommend the audio for rush hour driving entertainment. I’m so sorry Mr. Orkin Man! I nearly hit an exterminator’s truck when one scene got going! Outlander by Diana Gabbon.

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Another wife who went thru a lot, but only in her own time, and enjoyed her own not-icky-ick-moments was Mr. Emerson’s Wife. She didn’t go in for time travel but her life was an adventure of a sort. I loved this book, and love this author!

 

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Pearl S. Buck is best remembered for her books set in China, but this one is set at home in Pennsylvania. Ruth some social adventuring in her life by marrying William, an upper-class painter and enduring his whims. She was one of those rare women who can give and not receive without being precious about it. This book has the most beautifully written scenes of intimacy ever. I read this book in 2013 and it instantly became one of my lifetime favorites. Portrait of a Marriage by Pearl S. Buck. Read my old review here.

 

So this month’s chain has gone from the ick moment of two people I couldn’t care less about to the beautiful intimacy of two people I will love for the rest of my life.

 

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Next month’s book is What I Loved: A Novel by Siri Hustvedt, a book and an author I’ve never heard a word about, but just bought for Kindle for  $1.99. Would you like to join in next month? Here are the rules for Six Degrees of Separation!

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Six Degrees of Separation: The Road by Cormac McCarthy

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Six Degrees of Separation is a monthly book meme hosted by Books Are My Best and Favorite. A chain of 6 books is linked somehow–whether to all books or only to the one before it. A common book is given each month with which to start the chain.

This month’s book is The Road by Cormac McCarthy. Here is the blurb from Amazon:

The searing, post-apocalyptic novel about a father and son’s fight to survive.

A father and his son walk alone through burned America. Nothing moves in the ravaged landscape save the ash on the wind. It is cold enough to crack stones, and when the snow falls it is gray. The sky is dark. Their destination is the coast, although they don’t know what, if anything, awaits them there. They have nothing; just a pistol to defend themselves against the lawless bands that stalk the road, the clothes they are wearing, a cart of scavenged food—and each other.

My Thoughts

I haven’t the slightest interest in reading this one. Post-Apocalyptic is like sci-fi, fantasy, and dystopian. That is–not acceptable to my brain!  So, I’m going by the blurb this time and not even planning to eventually read the book.

My Chain

 

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Going with the theme of supposedly post-apocalyptic life, my first choice is If the South Had Won the War by MacKinley Cantor. To the many people stuck in the south at the end of the war, they might as well have been in a post-apocalyptic society. I’m sure many fantasized for years to come on the What ifs of the war. What if the south HAD won being chief among those fantasies that helped them get thru the first years of reconstruction. My family all fought for the North, but this is an interesting little book regardless.

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How awful is this cover?? Not many times have been worse than the aftermath of the Bolshevik Revolution–, especially for the bourgeoise (though of course Stalin’s engineered famine in Ukraine comes immediately to mind). The Civil War raged, the local “Soviets” took away property, all who could, fled into exile. Dr. Zhivago tells of the “post-apocalyptic” word of Zhivago and Lara and the rest. This is a life-long favorite book of mine. Dr. Zhivago by Boris Pasternak.

 

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Is there any greater post-apocalyptic world than the Nazi Death Camps? Night By Elie Wiesel

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Immediate post-war Berlin was close to a post-apocalyptic society. This famous diary shows what life was like during that time.  A Woman in Berlin.

 

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North Korea is true post-apocalyptical world all its own. No sort of freedom exists there except for those in the ruling family. Click on the linked title to read more Nothing To Envy

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I have not yet read this one, but Chernobyl the place truly IS post-apocalyptical. From the horrors of the tumors and other physical manifestations of the disaster in the people of the area to the stark reality of the abandoned apartments, shops, and workplaces. This is the real thing. Midnight in Chernobyl by Adam Higginbotham

 

So this month, all of my choices hinged on being a nightmare-ish and post-apocalyptical for those living in that time and place. A novella, a novella, and four works of nonfiction.

 

Would you like to join in next month? Here are the rules for Six Degrees of Separation!

Uncategorized

6 Degrees of Separation

 

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Isolation has pretty much robbed me of the ability to tell one day from another–and that’s even with work-from-home. So, I’m nearly a week late with #6Degrees of Separation! This month we start with the book Stasiland: Stories From Behind the Berlin Wall by Anna Funder. I even borrowed the book from the library to read or skim and STILL forgot! So, I’ll wing it. Pull in what I learned in college about East Germany, the Stasi, the USSR and the KGB, and even crazy Envir Hoxha in Albania.

 

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The first book that came to mind was Picnic at the Iron Curtain: A Memoir by Susan Viets.  The author was fortunate to be there when the Wall came down and to stick around and see the Ukraine Orange Revolution and all that came in between. This one shows the “before” and “after” of revolution.

 

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Another book that came quickly to mind discussed similar experiences–life in a state that was friends with told Soviet Union and it’s Eastern Block of nations–Cuba. One of Cuba’s first blogger-reporters, Yoani Sachez tried to educate the world of the 2010s about the reality of the Cuban “dream.” Havana Real by Yoani Sanchez is a collection of blog posts on the insanity of life in Cuba today (circa 2011). She wants change–and isn’t afraid to work for it.

 

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This led me to another story of island life–albeit British diplomat life in Trinidad in the 70. They now live with the politics of a post-colonial country struggling with home-grown aggressors. Go native? Go home? The usual struggles. The White Woman on the Green Bicycle by Monique Roffey.

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Author Alexandra Fuller grew up to see the world of her childhood given away.  Born to British parents who became Rhodesian settlers and who fought to keep Rhodesia for the elite–the white Rhodesians like themselves who had invested their lives and their life savings, she found later she didn’t belong anywhere–much like defectors from the USSR who craved artistic freedom, but found it came with a capitalist market and people who weren’t starved for the truth about their experience. This book links both countries that have undergone radical change and a former Eastern Block country–Hungary. Travel Light, Move Fast by Alexandra Fuller.

 

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Another continent and more strife in a land formerly the playground of a tiny elite–the top brass of the USSR Communist Party. This novel wonderfully illustrates the changes between Stalin’s time (the Grandmother’s time) and today’s Russia of impossibly rich oligarchs and henchmen. A Terrible Country: A Novel by Keith Gessen.

 

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My final book brings us back to Germany, albeit Germany of today, flooded with immigrants–mostly from Africa. This novel tells their stories. The changes in Germany from the repressive regime surrounding the city of Berlin, the inclusion or rejection of the new cultures brought in by illegal immigrants from countries German’s don’t understand–it’s all here. It brings us full-circle. Travelers: A Novel by Helon Habila.

 

Do you enjoy participating in book events like #6 Degrees of Separation? Read the rules HERE and post with us next month. Six Degrees is hosted by Books Are My Favorite and Best and it is a lot of fun to create a chain of books each month.