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Six degrees of separation, FROM The girl with the dragon tattoo TO The natural way of things

January 7, 2017

Stieg Larsson, The girl with the dragon tattooOk, I admit it, I’m hooked on this meme, not only because it’s a fun intellectual challenge to find links between books, but also because it gives me an opportunity to revisit books I’ve read, which helps keep them fresh in my mind. For those who haven’t caught up with this meme, it’s the Six Degrees of Separation monthly “meme”  and it’s currently hosted by Kate (booksaremyfavouriteandbest). Each month, she nominates a book, and then we who play create a chain of seven books, linking one from the other as the spirit moves. Unfortunately, like last month, I haven’t read the starting book, Stieg Larsson’s The girl with the dragon tattoo but I promise I’ve read all the books in my chain!

The bee hut, by Dorothy Porter

Now, you might expect me to link Larsson’s The girl with the dragon tattoo to another crime/mystery novel or, perhaps, to another novel by a Swedish author or one set in Sweden, but I’m not going down these paths. This novel, as you may know, was published posthumously – and this is the tack I’m going to take. It has led me straight to Australian poet Dorothy Porter’s collection, The bee hut (my review), which was published after she died from breast cancer. This is one of those books that I don’t need to be reminded of, because its ending is so powerfully generous. She wrote, just two and a half weeks before her death, the following lines: Something in me/despite everything/can’t believe my luck. Now that’s inspiring!

Izzeldin Abuelaish, I shall not hateGenerosity of spirit – a willingness to view the world positively – is something I prize. If we were all only a little more generous to each other, surely the world would be a better place, or am I naive? Anyhow, one of the most generous books I’ve read since starting this blog was Izzeldin Abuelaish’s memoir I shall not hate (my review). If anyone had a reason to hate, it’s he – he lost three daughters and a niece in an attack on Gaza by the Israeli Defence Forces  – and yet he chose the “path of light” over that of “darkness” because he believes in “co-existence, not endless cycles of revenge and retribution”. If he can do it, surely the rest of us can?

Albert Camus, The plagueNow Izzeldin Abulaish also happens to be a medical doctor, which reminds me of a fictional doctor, Rieux in Albert Camus’ The plague (my review), who, albeit in a different circumstances, evinces generosity of spirit or selflessness. This is a book I’ve read a few times, and will very likely read again, because it’s about people being prepared to take a stand, people who put themselves at risk. Rieux himself talks of people who, by “refusing to bow down to pestilences [whether these be natural or man-made, like, say, Nazism], strive their utmost to be healers.”

Pierre Lemaitre, The great swindleAnd now, to get off this generosity/selflessness bandwagon, albeit it’s a worthy topic to discuss, I’m going to do the more obvious thing and link via the author’s nationality. I haven’t read a lot of French authors on this blog, but one I did read one fairly recently, Pierre Lemaitre’s The great swindle (my review). Its story of France in the aftermath of the First World War is a powerful one, but one of the issues that my reading group discussed when doing this book was its translation. Some felt it was a bit uneven. I didn’t feel that – I felt the author intended an unevenness or jerkiness – but I am always a little bothered about reading translations because there’s a mediator between me and the text.

Sawako Ariyoshi, The doctor's wifeHowever, this doesn’t stop me reading translations because they are the only way, given I’m not fluent in multiple languages, that I can read works from non-English writers. Hence, my next link is to another translated work, Sawako Ariyoshi’s The doctor’s wife (my review), which is historical fiction about the Japanese doctor, Hanaoka Seishū (1760-1835) who is purported to be the first to use general anaesthesia to perform surgery. However, as the book’s title suggests, the Ariyoshi’s main concern is not him, but the women in his life, his wife and controlling mother. She explores the competition that occurs between these two women who play a secondary role in the life of the important man.

Charlotte Wood, The natural way of thingsA recent book which explores the secondary role of women to men is Charlotte Wood’s The natural way of things (my review). It’s a very different book, which takes as its starting point the way women’s sexuality is used against them in the support if not furtherance of male power. But it does have a subtext, that we also see in Ariyoshi, to do with ways in which women can be their own worst enemy.

And so, quite unintentionally as I just followed my nose, I see that I have come almost full circle from a novel set in Sweden which reflects misogynistic behaviour to an Australian novel which confronts such behaviour head on! In between we’ve travelled to Australia, the Middle East, France and Japan, and explored, in some at least, the best in human behaviour! Such is the reader’s lot.

Where would The girl with the dragon tattoo take you – your first step at least?

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40 Comments leave one →
  1. January 7, 2017 9:17 am

    What an interesting idea for reading. Had a look at the meme creator’s blog and will follow with interest. Might participate further on. Fun

    • January 7, 2017 4:12 pm

      Do Pam, it’s great fun. I’d enjoy seeing what you did.

      • January 7, 2017 6:30 pm

        Do you pick your own first book or do you have to follow the one picked by Kate?

        • January 7, 2017 7:41 pm

          You follow the one picked by Kate, Pam. She announces it at the end of her post on the current one. I’m in Thredbo at present, so haven’t done any blog visiting. Just walking, eating, and checking my own blog, but have some time tonight so hope to see what she has chosen for the next one.

    • January 9, 2017 8:25 pm

      Please join us Pam! It’s really very flexible and the links require very little justification.

  2. NeilAtKallaroo permalink
    January 7, 2017 10:02 am

    I have read the story, but my first link is from the title. When I thimk of dragons, I think of the wonderful illustration of the Jaberwocky in “Alice in Wonderland”. So I guess Alice is my first link. Shall cogitate on further links.

    • NeilAtKallaroo permalink
      January 7, 2017 10:16 am

      I won’t give the reason for the link, since I don’t want to spoil your pleasure, but next is “The rule of names” by Ursula Le Guin. A short story (10 pages) I just downloadedon’t for free. But I first read it probably 30 years ago, and the vignette (spoiler alert) of the fisherman grabbing the school marm, and “rowing like a demon” has stayed with me all those years. Have a read, you won’t regret it.

      • January 7, 2017 4:16 pm

        Haha Neil, I love the link on names from Alice. Will add this Le Guinea to the out of control TBR.

    • January 7, 2017 4:14 pm

      Ah that’s a great idea Neil. I love how many different paths people can take.

    • NeilAtKallaroo permalink
      January 7, 2017 9:20 pm

      And if we are messing about in boats (which the fisherman was definitely not doing), have to go for Arthur Ransome’s “Swallows and Amazons”. I love this book, even though I am also envious of the characters. Hm. What more can I say?

    • NeilAtKallaroo permalink
      January 7, 2017 10:35 pm

      Swallows leads to Oscar Wilde’s “The Happy Prince”. Which leads directly to Saint-Exupéry’s “The Little Prince”. Not quite Camus, but close.

      • January 8, 2017 1:39 pm

        Yes, nice ones Neil… Not quite, as you say, but they have a certain je ne said quoi, n’est-ce pas!?

        • NeilAtKallaroo permalink
          January 8, 2017 2:41 pm

          Mais oui!

    • NeilAtKallaroo permalink
      January 8, 2017 2:40 pm

      I have had “The Little Prince” on my TBR list for 40+ years. Inspired by this thread, I have now read it. Wahoo! Not sure it was worth waiting for, but the illustrations are whimsical. Another book with whimsical illustrations is “Finn Family Moomintroll” (Tovey Jansson). Which brings us back, geographically, close to where we started.

  3. January 7, 2017 10:20 am

    Interesting as always, Sue! I’ll have to get on with mine, I’m stumped at the moment…

    • January 7, 2017 4:20 pm

      You’re probably aiming to be more erudite than I Lisa! I love this meme because I find, like Jenny Ackland, that I can just sit down and punch it out in half an hour, which is about the only post I can do that quickly. Most of my posts take hours.

      • January 7, 2017 4:23 pm

        Well, you do so much research!

        • January 7, 2017 4:29 pm

          For some posts yes, but even my straight reviews usually take me a few hours. (I could probably read another book in the time it takes!) And even then I end up with typos that I have to fix after publication. Infuriating!

  4. Meg permalink
    January 7, 2017 11:34 am

    Like Neil, my first thought was to a dragon. It was Puff the Magic Dragon. I remember buying the book with the CD for my grandsons. Jackie the little boy rode on the dragon’s tail. Then I thought of Jackie French who writes for young children, and her series about a Wombat.. Another series of tales about wombats for children was written by Ruth Park: The Muddleheaded Wombat. Ruth Park automatically connects me to Darcy Niland, another Australian writer. He wrote one of my favourite books The Shiralee, about a man and his daughter on the road. I then detour to Cormac McCarthy’s book The Road, about a man and his son on the road. So from one side of the world to another I finish of course with The Other Side of the World by Stephanie Bishop, another Australian author. I do like having fun with this exercise.

    • January 7, 2017 4:22 pm

      And I love that you always join in Meg. I love how you segued from The Shiralee to The Road in particular.

  5. January 7, 2017 3:27 pm

    Wow WG, this is impressive! I wouldn’t even try to attempt thinking what The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo will take me. But what a mind-bending, thinking out of the box kinda exercise this is. Soon we’ll need all such kind of mental exercises to keep our mind sharp and tuned. And hey, how about staring one on movies? 🙂

    • January 7, 2017 4:26 pm

      I think that’s why I like it Arti, the mind bending opportunity – and the fact that you can’t be wrong.

      A movie one? Great idea, but I think you’d have to start it. I’m thinking of doing a 2016 movie round up post for fun this month, though I may run out of energy.

  6. January 7, 2017 4:28 pm

    Any chain that has Camus in it has got to be a winner 😉

  7. January 7, 2017 5:16 pm

    Fascinating to see how different minds work when I compare yours and Lisa’s post on this! Looks like a fun game to play!

    • January 7, 2017 7:36 pm

      I haven’t seen Lisa’s yet, Annette. Am in Thredbo now so I will be a bit slow visiting blogs. I scheduled mine a little while ago to p St today which is the meme’s day. But I will try to get around those I know who do this meme because it’s a fun one to do.

  8. January 8, 2017 2:57 pm

    Inspiring Sue. I had a go at this 6 degrees some time ago and enjoyed the experience. I’m supposed to be busy with so many other things but I simply can’t resist. I read and enjoyed ‘The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’ so I’ll lock myself in my study for a while and see where I end up 🙂

    • January 8, 2017 4:58 pm

      Good for you Karenlee! It’s a hard to resist challenge I’ve found. I should get notification when you’ve done it as I follow your blog.

  9. buriedinprint permalink
    January 9, 2017 12:38 am

    What great fun. On first instinct, I think it would take me to Naomi Novik’s Temeraire series, which I’m just about to begin rereading (with an eye to finishing the laer books in the series, which has, since, completed). Even if you think you don’t like dragons, Temeraire is irresistible (and he strikes me as cat-like, though I wouldn’t say so in his hearing). If I think about it for a moment more, I wander, instead, to a collection of stories by Heather Birrell, in which the opening story has a girl in it with fiery spirit like Lisbeth Salander. Maybe that’s part of the appeal of the challenge, that regardless of your mood you can find a way to wander. (Also, I found The Doctor’s Wife such a strangely powerful story. I still think back to those characters.)

    • January 9, 2017 7:16 am

      Thanks Buried, and thanks for offering your links. That is fun of the chsllenge for me, just seeing where the mind will wander. I bet it would wander very different places on different days.

      Love that you also like The doctors wife so much.

  10. January 9, 2017 8:35 pm

    Firstly, thank you Sue – your chain this month has generated lots of interesting discussion.

    Secondly, love your last links. The subtext of women being their own enemies in TNWOT is fascinating – I heard Wood speak about the book and she said that while it would have been easy to make the women band together and be chummy, it’s not realistic. Plus, the fact that each woman was judgmental added that layer of complexity to the story that moved it from ‘interesting’ to ‘exceptional’.

    • January 9, 2017 9:28 pm

      Thanks Kate, I did enjoy making those links.

      That’s interesting re what Wood said. Thanks for sharing it. Makes perfect sense to me. A lot of people criticised, for example, the handbags in the ending but I thought that was totally realistic. Most people don’t see the truth I think but believe what they want to believe – which is understandable, I think, unfortunately!

      • January 9, 2017 10:57 pm

        Same – I thought the ending was genius. And what was really remarkable about the book was that it was written in such a way that you, the reader, also strayed into judging and comparing the women. I don’t know how Wood pulled it off but truly an amazing, memorable book.

        • January 10, 2017 1:48 pm

          Yes, I agree Kate… A really complex book that requires the reader to think. It’s not all laid out for you.

  11. January 10, 2017 4:52 am

    Fun as always! I would have gone with the tattoo angle and picked Dorothy Parker’s Elbow: Tattoo’s on Writers, Writers on Tattoos. A fun book I read a long time ago! From there I could go any number of places…

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