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!

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!

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.

Six Degrees of Separation: Wolfe Island by Lucy Treloar

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6 Degrees of Separation is a book meme hosted by Books Are My Favorite and Best on the first Saturday of each month. Here’s how it 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.

 

#6Degrees

The Story

Kitty Hawke, the last inhabitant of a dying island sinking into the wind-lashed Chesapeake Bay, has resigned herself to annihilation…

Until one night her granddaughter blows ashore in the midst of a storm, desperate, begging for sanctuary. For years, Kitty has kept herself to herself – with only the company of her wolfdog, Girl – unconcerned by the world outside, or perhaps avoiding its worst excesses. But blood cannot be turned away in times like these. And when trouble comes following her granddaughter, no one is more surprised than Kitty to find she will fight to save her as fiercely as her name suggests…

A richly imagined and mythic parable of home and kin that cements Lucy Treloar’s place as one of our most acclaimed novelists.

My Thoughts

This has already jangled some pet peeve nerves. “Kitty Hawke”? Seriously?? Stupid names put me off almost instantly. And Aussie writing a story set in Chesapapeke Baby Has she lived there? I couldn’t find anything that said she had. Is her husband/partner from there? Ditto. Hmmmmm

 

My Chain

I skipped the obvious pull towards Wright Brothers’ books and toward wolf books. Nothing wrong with the Wright Brothers of wolves.

 

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I hated this book, but the Buddhist nun character sounded as out-there as Ms. Hawk in the Wolfe Island book, only weirder. Her great-granddaughter seeks a sort of sanctuary from the bullying at school. A Hello Kitty lunchbox full of mementos pulls another character back to the past. This book is odd, but it was the first that “clicked” in my thinking of a chain. A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki.

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Another odd unusual person made eccentric and isolated by her circumstances apparently, [I haven’t yet read it] is the main character in the Persephone book Miss Ranskill Comes Home by Barbara Euphan Todd. The war-time Britain to which she returns after living so isolated is about as intelligible as HitchHiker’s Guide to the Galaxy would have been. (I’m hoping to buy this one soon for reading in the next Peresphone Read-Athon).

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Poor Miss Raskin being washed overboard, combined with the grandchild & great-grandchild seeking sanctuary in the other books brought  The Light Between Oceans: A Novel by M.L. Stedman to mind. It features a reclusive couple who insist upon sanctuary for a baby who washed up from a shipwreck seemingly in answer to their prayers for a child. The put the ethical issues of keeping the child into a special mental compartment and go on with life. The child is safe, loved, and “theirs.” Another isolated couple had their prayers for a child answered differently–with a Snow Child, but that story didn’t really fit here as well. I’m including it just in case anyone has missed it. It’s lovely and wonderful.

 

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Next to mind was The Old Man and The Sea by Ernest Hemingway. It was read aloud to us by my 6th-grade teacher. I remember thinking how utterly alone this poor guy was–possibly my first “mature” thought about a book. That loneliness has always echoed through Hemingway’s writing for me. Here is a lonely man, alone against a fish. No sanctuary for him–not in his mind or soul, until he gets that fish.

 

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Next to mind was a book about taking to the sea to seek sanctuary. A Hope More Powerful Than the Sea is one young woman’s powerful refugee story, taking her from Syria to Europe the hardest way possible. There were many times when young Doaa would have been safer alone. (These two books came to mind with this one–all 3 are on the same crisis).

 

Escaping the wolves of communism and finding sanctuary 90 miles away is the theme of two books about the same family, as well as the theme of the forthcoming book in the series, by Chanel Cleeton. The first book, Next Year in Havana tells the story of the family’s prepared to leave–the coming to power of Castro, the loss of the father’s companies, the involvement of a daughter with a freedom fighter, etc. The second book, When We Left Cuba, tells of their new life in Miami, and the continued work of one to liberate Cuba. The new book, coming in June is The Last Train to Key West. So, those political wolves being on an island, we could re-christen Cuba as Lobo (Masculine Wolf) Island, bringing us full circle.

 

Bonus:

Kitty Hawk–idiotic name. Here’s the best Wright Brother’s book I’ve read:

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The Wright Brothers by the ever-wonderful David McCullogh. It all took flight at Kitty Hawk. My recommended book for the must-read book of 2016.

 

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One of the best nature books on wolves by Canada’s fabulous Farey Mowatt, Never Cry Wolf.

 

To participate in 6 Degrees of Separation each month go to the Rules and then on the first Saturday of the month post your link in this list.

Six Degrees of Separation: Fleishman Is in Trouble by Taffy Brodesser-Akner

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#6degrees

This month’s starting book is

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I haven’t read this one, so here is part of the Amazon blurb:

“Toby Fleishman thought he knew what to expect when he and his wife of almost fifteen years separated: weekends and every other holiday with the kids, some residual bitterness, the occasional moment of tension in their co-parenting negotiations. He could not have predicted that one day, in the middle of his summer of sexual emancipation, Rachel would just drop their two children off at his place and simply not return. He had been working so hard to find equilibrium in his single life. The winds of his optimism, long dormant, had finally begun to pick up. Now this.

My Chain

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The first book that came to mind was one of a husband’s treachery. The wife is always the last to know, right? Just deserts await. Revenge of the Middle-Aged Woman by Elizabeth Buchan.  Link to my review.

 

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Of course, there are even worse Dad’s out there. After all, Tara lived to tell her story. I chose Educated to tell how badly a Dad’s craziness can impact the family making everyone wish for a divorce. Educated by Tara Westover [I did not review this book because I never finished reading it. It didn’t shock me–I’ve studied religious cults who do even worse].

 

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Combining father [figure] and education and [imagined] abuse brought me next to the Headmaster’s Wife by Thomas Christopher Greene. Link to my review.

 

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Next to mind came Fathermothergod: My Journey out of Christian Science by Lucia Greenhouse. A father and husband who leaves his wife to die before her children inch by inch in the name of faith.

 

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I truly HATE this new cover, by the way

My fifth book came to mind from both the first book and the fourth. Here is a wife from a failed marriage who must step-up and help her ex-husband when ALS strikes. Every Note Played by Lisa Genova. Link to my review.

 

 

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Alice wakes up to find herself 10 years older than she remembers being. She had been 29, happily married and expecting her first child. Now she’s 39, has three kids, and her marriage is falling apart. How did she get here?  What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty. Link to my review.

 

 

You can read the rules for 6 Degrees of Separation here. Why not join in next month?

Six Degrees of Separation: Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

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I’m Lisa and I’m an Alice-hater. There, I’ve said it. Weight of the world off my shoulders. So, that makes this month’s chain of 6 Degrees of Separation books just a bit more interesting, wouldn’t you say? bwahahaha!

 

Brief history lesson before we start

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Prince Leopold, the youngest and hemophiliac son of Queen Victoria, named his daughter “Alice” for Alice Liddell who inspired Alice’s Adventures–she was the daughter of Lewis Carroll’s friend, you see. If I remember correctly, Princess Alice was the longest-lived of Queen Victoria’s grandchildren and one of the longest-lived British royals. Her brother was the Nazi Uncle no one wants to remember today, Charles Edward. She was known for going to her winter home by banana boat! Her husband was the most forgettable Governor-General in Canada’s history, though her relatives (her mother’s family) included the Dutch Royal Family, whom Alice took in at Rideau Hall in Canada when they initially fled the Nazis after the invasion of the Netherlands. Her memoirs are interesting, but sadly reflect the racism and phobias of their time (no mention is made of her father’s hemophilia). There. I’ve redeemed my dislike of this month’s book by educating everyone! [And, that sums up my interest in Alice’s Adventures and most things Lewis Carroll.]

I expect my chain will be about as odd as tiresome little Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland were to me.

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My Chain

  1. The Beatles Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds period

True, these are movies and albums, not books, but they ARE what first comes to my mind when I hear of the dreaded Alice. Both the song Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds and I Am the Walrus make me think they come straight from the dreaded Alice.

2. Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test by Tom Wolf

 

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My brain next brought up drinking the Kool-Aid, albeit not in Guyana with Jim Jones. Instead, I thought of the original Kool-Aid–Tom Wolfe’s book telling the tale of a grown-up adventure made psychedelic by using the drug LSD. Put that in your pipe and smoke it, bratty little Alice! (I have only read excerpts from this book.)

Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test by Tom Wolf

 

3. On The Road by Jack Kerouac

 

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Yes, I know, this is not THE version of the book. But the cover was the coolest.

That groovy trip in the Patridge-family bus’s even cooler cousin-bus brought to mind THE road trip that inspired nearly all trippin’ road trips–On The Road by Jack Kerouac. I think Lewis Carroll would have liked this book. (I’ve only read excerpts). They didn’t even have Dorritos back then and nobody said “Dude….” so he has to be a great storyteller. It has since earned a reputation as one of the original pieces of radical or “Beat” literature. Beat that, hair-band girl Alice.

You can listen to it here so maybe I’ll finish it eventually.

4.  The Universe of Peter Max by Peter Max

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All of this groovy stuff, road trips, LSD, make love not war, brought to mind Peter Max’s bright works could be pulled straight from ever-loathed Aliceland. This is the best-looking book of his art I could find. (I have not seen it).

The Universe of Peter Max by Peter Max

5. A Thurber Carnival by James Thurber

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Whiplash, right? You are lost now, I’m sure. The Beatles, beatniks, drugs, psychedelic road trips–ok. But James Thurber? What? Well folks, according to ever-reliable Wikipedia, Thurber’s phenomenal creativity may have owed something to a syndrome that caused hallucinations! So, no off-brand mushrooms or strange green plants or funky kool-aid and Doritos needed for him to be creative and imagine worlds icky-Alice couldn’t even fathom! tapocketapocketa-pocketa-pocketa-pocketa at you Alice!

 

6. Tommy a Rock Opera and Me: Elton John by Elton John

 

What could be more vivid than Elton in the early 70s? Vivid imagination? Check. Vivid Scenes created [albeit in music]? Check. Vivid clothing and glasses? Check. Vivid personality? Double-check. Like the Beatles albums and films I started with, Tommy brings me to detestable Alice every time. And who could be more vivid a personality than Elton, at least now that Liberace is dead? I haven’t yet read Me, his new memoir, aside from the parts the Daily Mail serialized, but it is well-know that Elton’s creativity was long enhanced by drugs. His imagination, though, has proved it can still churn out amazing song-stories even when he is still in full Rehab Grad mode.

Bringing this trip full circle

What’s more, Elton John is friends with today’s Royal Family–he was the singer at Prince Andrew’s 21st birthday party and then, of course, and at Diana’s funeral.  Well, it so happens the Queen is old Prince Leopold’s great-great-niece (Prince Philip is his gr-gr-nephew, but thru a different sibling of Leo’s–there were nine children in Victoria’s family) AND Leopold’s daughter, is not only some version of cousin but is Queen Elizabeth’s great-aunt-by-marriage because she married Queen Mary’s brother, Algy (Prince Alexander George of Teck).

So, there. Back where we started with Prince Leopold naming his daughter for the Alice who inspired it all.

Me: Elton John by Elton John

 

Bonus

Kaleidescope Designs and kalediescopes

 

If I had real money, I’d collect kaleidoscopes! They remind me of ever-annoying Alice in a good way! Maybe Disney put kaleidoscope images in the cartoon? (I saw it in the 1960s and allowed it home from the library ONCE for my kids, so don’t really remember much) I actually own the model kaleidoscope shown here. It’s beautiful. It kept my son happy for nearly an hour! A record until video games.

A final note:

Disney’s dreadful Alice brought us memorable cartoon figures including the Chesire Cat. Disney’s Chesire Cat always brings to mind Theodore Roosevelt. See what you think:

 

See? No questions please on the source of my creativity or boost to same! I’m not into any of that, thanks.

 

Want to join the fun? Go read the rules at Books are My Favorite and Best. Next month’s chains will start with

 

 

 

Six Degrees of Separation: Three Women by Lisa Taddeo

This month’s Six Degrees of Separation chain begins with the new bestseller, Three Women, which I have not read. It is hyperbolically described as the “deepest nonfiction portrait of desire ever written” (Amazon).  I haven’t read it and have no plans to do so.

The book is nonfiction, a collection of essays on the sexual dysfuction, sexual satisifaction, whatever, of three women–the first two in the never-positively mentinoed states of Indiana and North Dakota–a bored housewife in a dead marriage, a 17 year-old high school student who wants her English teacher. The woman in cool Northeast blue state land, naturally, has the most ‘out-there’ sex life (I won’t bore you with the ick-factor of it). Ok, then…..

My Chain

This first brought to mind one of the two classics to emerge from my college town–actually it is a multiple volume report, but I’m showing only one volume and counting all the volumes as one title.

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I DID read parts of these reports way back when in college. My Mom lived in the town at the time it came out so that made it more interesting. Plus my parents had given us the 70’s take on it--Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex But Were Afraid to Ask, so lets say I had a lot to sort out. TMI? Well, it sure was for me at 13!! But Kinsey, whose Institue is located on the campus of my alma mater, Indiana University, interviewed countless people about their intimate lives. It was titillating reading, but not great literature.

This made me segue to the other big book that came out the year Kinsey’s first volume appeared. It was also from my college town and was written by my great-uncle’s (artist Edwin Fulwider) best friend, Ross Lockridge. I have read it and found it disturbing, often boring, at times incoherent. Sadly, the author’s depression caught up with him and the poor man took his own life. Raintree County, by Ross Lockridge, is my second book.

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After that little detour, my mind went back to the Three Women. What did they have in common? Not much except all could get pregnant.

That led me to the current bestseller (that I also have not read) The Farm: A Novel, by Joanne Ramos, in which women live at a surrogate mother “farm” (I’m sure there’s more to it than that!). I really like the cover, for what that’s worth. [It also brought to mind an extra book, A River of Stars, set initially in a home for Chinese mothers birthing anchor babies in the USA).

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The Farm made me think of a book that’s been on my TBR for too long, Never Let Me Go by Kazu Ishiguro. The word “dystopian” is used to describe this book about clones raised for the organs, so that’s likely why I keep putting it off. Dystopian and I are not great friends.

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All this breeding made me think of another sort “breed”–In This House of Brede by Rumor Godden, a book I have read and loved.

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Finally, all those nuns brought to mind the DH Lawrence book, Women in Love, for the title only. I’ve read it and enjoyed it and it was the first movie I saw in college saw that sort of ties it to the first two titles as well.

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You can read all of this month’s chains at Books Are My Favorite and Best.

November’s Chains start with Alice in Wonderland–a book I happen to dislike.

 

6 Degrees of Separation: A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles

A Gentleman in Moscow should be exactly the book for me, but….it put me to sleep. There, I’ve admitted it. It’s good to come clean with secrets like this, isn’t it? So, this month’s chain of books somehow connected to it will involve a lot of free association or be based on the part of the book I made it through. Fair warning, now let us begin.

The Chain

Gorky Park by  Martin Cruz Smith

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First up is Gorky Park by Martin Cruz Smith, a novel I read when it came out. I was the pursing my degree in political science and Russian/East European studies back in the early 1980s, so it was very timely. Friends and I joked about the washing machine that could only handle multiple pairs of underpants. Gorky Park itself isn’t far from the Hotel Metropol where the Gentleman in Moscow takes place.

The Girl From the Metropol Hotel: Growing Up in Communist Russia by Ludmilla Petrushevskay

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This one was supposedly at the Metropol, only most of it wasn’t. My review. I wasn’t overly impressed with this–perhaps because of all the stories of Soviet life I’ve read.

The Red Daughter by John Burham Schwartz

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Who but Stalin’s daughter could be more interesting than the Metropol itself? [Ok, I needed a clever statement, right?] Unfortunately my time ran out before I finished reading this one. I hope to finish it another time, but I am afraid all of the authors books pale for me in comparison to The Commoner. After All, Loving Frank, a book I can’t recommend often enough,  about Frank Lloyd Right, is tied to this one by the Taliesin chapters. [The extra books are just extra–not really in the chain.]

Mothers and Daughters: Elana Bonner

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A family whose life was stood on end by Stalin and subsequent Soviet governments was that of dissident Andrei Sakharov. I studied all the great dissidents in college, and found their personal stories very compelling. But Sakharov and Bonner married later in life, so this is mostly her childhood story. She began in great Communist privilidge only to have it all taken away.

The Russians by Hendrik Smith [original version]

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Back in the 70s as Detente had us all a-buzz, few Westerners had visited the USSR, let alone lived there. Unless, that is, they were diplomats or journalists. Smith was a journalist. He made this scary place a lot more human. This is another book I read in college.

An American Family in Moscow by Leona and Jerrold Schecter

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Before the Smiths, the Schecters were in Moscow in 1968 with their large family–a family that recevied two apartments they were so large with 5 children! Their kids atteneded Soviet Schools–an amazing idea at the time. From this book I decided the USSR was not as fearson as we imagined–to have an item dry-cleaned you first had to remove all the buttons! How fearsome could such a place be? I devoured this book in college, though it was already a bit dated. Many years later they all returned and filmed their reunions with school teachers and the like. This book is fairly hard to find now at reasonable prices, which is a shame.

That’s my chain–really more topical this time, than “connections,” but…..

Why not join in next month? Go to Booksaremyfavoriteandbest for the rules. The starting book will be Three Women by Lisa Taddeo.

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Six Degrees of Separation: Murmur by Will Eaves

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Just like last month, June’s 6 Degrees chain starts with a book I’ve not read! Murmur has an intriquing cover. The story does sound very interesting–a novel based on a real person. Here is the blurb from Amazon:

 

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In Murmur, a hallucinatory masterwork, Will Eaves invites us into the brilliant mind of Alec Pryor, a character inspired by Alan Turing. Turing, father of artificial intelligence and pioneer of radical new techniques to break the Nazi Enigma cipher during World War II, was later persecuted by the British state for “gross indecency with another male” and forced to undergo chemical castration. Set during the devastating period before Turing’s suicide, Murmur evokes an extraordinary life, the beauty and sorrows of love, and the nature of consciousness.

So, like last month, my chain will likely involve free association.

The Chain

 

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My review from my old blog:

Unlike most books on breaking the code that focus, well, on BREAKING THE CODE, which to my mind is boring, this is very enjoyable telling of LIFE at Bletchley Park. What it was LIKE to be a goose who never cackled. Fascinating. And, lots of photos to connect names and faces. Olivia Newton John’s father was one of them–imagine! Bletchley People: Churchill’s Geese That Never Cackled by Marion Hill.

 

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Author William Stevenson invented the work of James Bond. Well, sort of. He was a World War II British “spy master.” So Alan Turning, the man who inspired Murmur, worked for him, as did James Bond’s creator, author Ian Fleming–among others. David Niven played him in the 70’s t.v. mini-series version which prompted me to watch the series (I’m still a big Niven fan) and then to read the book long, long ago. A Man Called Intrepid by William Stevenson.

 

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Noel Coward, whom I “adore” (one couldn’t say one loves him, one must adore him), was not only one of the cleverist lyricists every, but a brilliant playwright and a spy. He was also homosexual. He was one of my first love affairs with gay men. (Elton John being the first. I was 12 when I discovered Elton, about 16 when I found Noel). He was also a good friend of Ian Fleming’s, and of David Niven. I still have this marvelous book on him, though I’ve long since sold off the books of his diaries and plays–those were a teenage obsession. Noel Coward and His Friends.

 

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The next book that came to mind was H is for Hawk due to T.H. White’s personal life. The Hawk parts of this book mesmerized me. Poor White though. What a sad story. But white taught at Stowe, which David Niven attended.

My review is here.

 

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The hawk part of H is For Hawk reminded me that James Bond was named for the author of the book, Birds of the West Indies. Ian Fleming chose the name for it’s ordinariness. After all, a spy should blend in. You can read more about the book, it’s author and the 007 connection here atThe Smithsonian’s Bond, James Bond: the Birds, the Books, the Bond.

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Noel Coward and Ian Fleming loved loved their paradisal homes in Jamacia–where Fleming came to know the Birds of the West Indies–both the book and the actual birds themselves. Another Englishman who knew a thing of two about foreign affairs (but seemed to forget everything he knew in the Suez Crisis) was long-time British Foreign Secretary, later Prime Minister, Anthony Eden, who recuperated from his botched operation and the stress of Suez at Fleming’s Goldeneye estate in Jamacia. He was a long-time friend of Noel Coward, too. But since all his biographies are dull as dirt, I’m giving you the memoirs of his second, much younger wife, Clarissa Churchill (Winston’s niece) who hobnobbed with lots of literary types and probably spied on people coming to speak to her husband at Number 10. You can read more about one Britian’s youngest Prime Minister’s wives in my post: Cross-Generation Romance at 10 Downing about Anthony and Clarissa Eden.

 

6 Degrees of Separation is hosted by Books are my Favourite and Best. Why not join in and do a post next month? The chain starts with Where the Wild Things Are.

Six Degrees of Separation: Tales of the City by Armistead Maupin

 

This month’s Six Degree’s of Separation features a book and author I’ve never encountered before! So, I had to start at Amazon and read the blurb:

“The first novel in the beloved Tales of the City series, Armistead Maupin’s best-selling San Francisco saga, soon to return to television as a Netflix original series once again starring Laura Linney and Olympia Dukakis.

For almost four decades Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City has blazed its own trail through popular culture—from a groundbreaking newspaper serial to a classic novel, to a television event that entranced millions around the world. The first of nine novels about the denizens of the mythic apartment house at 28 Barbary Lane, Tales is both a sparkling comedy of manners and an indelible portrait of an era that changed forever the way we live.”

San Francisco? Olympia Dukakis and Laura Linney–well I’ve at least heard of these!

My Chain:

 

44 Scotland Street by Alexander McCall Smith

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The first book to come to mind is another set in a great city about the “denizens of the mythic apartment house” this time in Edinburgh at, you guessed it, 44 Scotland Street. I am devoted to this series–especially to Bertie, the boy forever 7 and forever stuck wearing crushed strawberry dungarees, forever the project of his Melanie Kline-worshipping mother. I love his poor, patient father Stuart, too. And dear Cyril with his gold tooth. And Big Lou and all the others. I look forward to each new installment. I listen to them happily on my long commute to and from work. 44 Scotland Street [series] by Alexander McCall Smith.

 

Chestnut Street by Maeve Binchy

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Another great city, Dublin, and another address. This time they are houses, but the same idea. Meave Binchy’s neighborhood of Chestnut Street is full of all sorts of characters with intersecting lives, secrets, sorrows and hidden passions. Chestnut Street by Maeve Binchy.

 

The Avenue by R.F.Delderfield

 

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In high school in the 1970s I fell in love with this author. Big, sprawling family sagas I could spend all my out-of-school time with. My mom read them, too.  Today his books would be chopped up into many volumes–a shame, but big books have all but gone away in favor of series. This two volume series tells of the families in this neighborhood between the wars. Like all of his books, it is excellent. The Avenue [series] by R.F. Delderfield.

 

Girls of Slender Means by Muriel Spark

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I honestly haven’t read this one yet, but it fits the chain so well. The lives of the women in a “ladies’ hostel” in post-war London. Sounds very intriguing! Plus, few tell a story as well as Muriel Spark–she can turn creepy, too! I have requrested it from the library so I’ll be reviewing it soon.  The Girls of Slender Means by Muriel Spark.

 

Notting Hell by Rachel Johnson

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Yes, the upper and lower classes have a lot in common. Notting Hill, in London, is one of the world’s most fashionable neighborhoods, but in this version it is riven with the strife of  fights over planning permits for 6-story basements and the swapping of wives, Yummy-Mummies fighting over au pairs and one-upping each other on whose sprog is best at whatever. Notting Hell goes on into a series that includes Shire Hell and Fresh Hell. Notting Hell by Rachel Johnson. (For the record I gave up on Shire Hell.)

 

The Address and The Dollhouse both by Fiona Davis

 

 

Both of these novels are on my To Read list. What wouldn’t be fascinating aboutthe residents of New York’s famed Dakota apartments or of it’s fabled ladies hotel, the Barbizon? I hope to get to these soon. The Address and The Dollhouse both by Fiona Davis.

 

Why not read the rules above and play along next month? You can read all the chains each month on the first Saturday at Books Are My Favorite and Best.