Six degrees of separation, FROM Fates and furies TO The Buddha of suburbia
You probably all know the Six Degrees of Separation monthly “meme” by now, but here’s the info for those of you who haven’t caught up with it yet. It’s currently hosted by Kate (booksaremyfavouriteandbest). Each month, she nominates a book, from which “players” create a chain of six more books, linking one from the other as the spirit moves. Unfortunately, for the third time in a row, I haven’t read the starting book, Lauren Groffs’s Fates and furies, but …
Daughter Gums has, so I asked her choose my first link. Her first suggestions were books I haven’t read – and that’s no good because my commitment is to having read all the books I choose for the chain. So then, after some to-ing and fro-ing, she came up with a book I lent her, Ariella Van Luyn’s Treading air (my review). There’s a problem, however, because the best linking point apparently relates to a “reveal” part way through Fates and furies, so I can’t use that. The other link is that both books, writes Daughter Gums, “track a couple’s relationship history from early on (particularly when the woman was quite young) through to the demise (in different forms, though …), both track the relationship through up and down …”. I liked this suggestion not only because it enabled me to highlight a debut Aussie author, but because it lets me link to …
One of my favourite Aussie authors, Thea Astley. Treading air is set in Brisbane and Townsville, and Thea Astley was born in Brisbane, moving to Townsville for a teaching job in her early twenties. Her first novel, Girl with a monkey, is set there, but I’m linking to The multiple effects of rainshadow (my review) which explores the longterm effects of a tragic event which occurred in 1930 on Palm Island, just north of Townsville. This island was where the Australian government “sent” problematic (from the “white” point of view) indigenous Australians, but the tragedy was enacted by the “crazed” white superintendent. It did, however, involve indigenous people in the ensuing “resolution” of the superintendent’s actions, and resulted in a surprisingly just court decision.
My next link is probably obvious, Chloe Hooper’s The tall man (my mini-review), which is about another tragedy on Palm Island. Hooper’s book, though, is a true crime non-fiction work. It chronicles the 2004 death in custody of an indigenous man, Cameron Doomadgee, and the subsequent riot and ongoing unrest concerning the official response through criminal courts, appeals and coronial investigations. Here, though, is not the place to unravel, if we could, the truth of this situation, but Hooper’s book is an excellent read both for her coverage of the subject and as an example of a genre which we, in Australia, see as being championed by Helen Garner.
And now, you probably think that I’ll link to Helen Garner, but that would be poor form I think because, having linked to two books by white (non-indigenous) writers exploring black-white relations in some way, I should (and would like) to link to an indigenous author. So, I’m going to go back, back, way before 1930, to the early nineteenth century settlement by the British of Western Australian – that is, to Kim Scott’s wonderful That deadman dance (my review). In it Scott tells the story of first contact from the local people’s, the Noongar’s, point of view. His thesis, supported, apparently, by historical evidence, is that the Noongar were willing to work with the newcomers, but of course they were the losers in the end.
I’m going stay with this idea of contact, and link to another indigenous author’s book, Marie Munkara’s Every secret thing (my review). This book, which is more a collection of interconnected stories than a novel, is set in northern Australia and explores the relationship between indigenous people (the “bush mob”) and white people (the “mission mob”). The “bush mob” think they can keep the upper hand, or, at least, maintain their pride and independence. This is a very funny book, but its humour has serious bite. In the end, of course, it’s not the “bush mob” who have the power.
And now, partly because I really should include at least one non-Australian book, I’m going to link to another comic-satire, Hanif Kureishi’s The Buddha of suburbia (my review). It’s a more than appropriate link, in fact, because not only does it have over-the-top humour, like Munkara’s book, it is, also, partly about “other”, in this case about immigrants trying to make their way in England. As narrator Karim says, “to the English we were always wogs and nigs and Pakis and the rest of it”. However, unlike Munkara’s “bush mob”, Karim and his friends do manage to make some self-determining way in the world they find themselves in.
And so, this time I’ve linked mostly on content, with a nod along the way to setting and style. Not knowing Fates and furies, I can’t say whether we’ve ended up anywhere near where we started. Can anyone enlighten me?
And, if not, there’s always my usual question for this meme: where would Fate and furies take you – your first step at least?