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Six degrees of separation, FROM Shopgirl TO The natural order of things

June 3, 2017

Steve Martin, ShopgirlHere we are again at the first Saturday of the month – and you know what that means don’t you! Yep, the Six Degrees of Separation meme. As most of you know, it’s currently hosted by Kate (booksaremyfavouriteandbest). This means she has the power – though she will take requests – to nominate the book from which we create a chain of six more books, linking one from the other on whatever basis we can justify. After the excitement of having a book last month that I’d read, this month is back to situation normal – one I haven’t! It’s Steve Martin’s Shopgirl. As always, I have read all the books I select for my chain.

Steve Toltz, A fraction of the wholeThe obvious link would be Madeleine St John’s Women in black as it’s all about shopgirls, but I used it recently so have come up with a more fun link! The first thing I thought when I saw this month’s choice was that we currently seem to have many authors named Steve or Stephen in Australia. There’s Steven Carroll, the New-Zealand-born-but-now-Australian-resident Stephen Daisley, Stephen Orr, and Steve Toltz. I’m choosing Steve Toltz since he’s known as Steve (like Steve Martin) and because I’ve reviewed his book, A fraction of the whole. I think that’s a good enough reason.

Alex Miller, LovesongAnother interesting thing about Toltz’s A fraction of the whole, besides the fact that I enjoyed it, is that it won the inaugural NSW Premier’s Literary Awards People’s Choice Award in 2009. Two years later, in 2011, Alex Miller won it with his beautiful novel Lovesong (my review). So, my first link was on first names, and my second one is on an award won by both books, but my next is on style, specifically narrative technique.

Debra Adelaide, The women's pagesLovesong is a metafictional work about a novelist writing the story of other characters in the book. I enjoy novels which play with the idea of fiction, which remind us that we are reading fiction not reality, which draw attention to the art of storytelling. As Miller’s novelist Ken says, “I had her story now, but it is one thing to have a story and another to write it.” Another metafictional novel teasing us about the art of storytelling is Debra Adelaide’s The women’s pages (my review). Here is Adelaide’s novelist-character, Dove:

What, Dove wondered, had she done? Or had she done it? Maybe it had happened exactly like this and she was merely recording the facts.

Valeria Luiselli, Faces in the crowdMy next link – Mexican writer Valeria Luiselli’s tricksy Faces in the crowd (my review) – continues the metafictional theme. In this novel we see our writer-character trying to make something interesting out of her life, and her husband, looking over her shoulders, is not very happy:

Why have you banished me from the novel? What? You wrote that I’d gone to Philadelphia. Why? So something happens.

But this is just one of the layers in this complex little (but big) novella.

Mario Vargas Llosa, The feast of the goatI’ve probably done the metafiction thing enough for this round, so let’s move on to something else – translated fiction. I don’t read as much translated fiction as I’d like, but I have read some and am going to link to another translated work by another Latin American writer, Mario Vargas Llosa’s The feast of the goat (my review) If Luiselli is about exploring the meaning of, value of, boundaries of, fiction, Vargas Llosa is all about using fiction to tell a very serious story set during the end of Trujillo’s dictatorship in the Dominican Republic.

Antonio Lobo Antunes, The natural order of thingsMy final book is another translated work but that’s not the reason I’ve chosen to link it. My reason is that it’s another story which explores a political event, in this case Portugal’s Carnation Revolution. The book is António Lobo Antunes’ The natural order of things (my review). This one, however, is less overtly political than Vargas Llosa’s book, being about how people cope when the world around them is anything but “natural”.

Last month I said that next time we’d need to travel more widely than just England and Australia – and we sure have. This is also my first #6degrees meme which has more male writers than female, and an equal number of non-Australian books to Australian. What’s come over me!

Have you read Shopgirl? And whether or not you have, what would you link to? 

34 Comments leave one →
  1. June 3, 2017 10:26 am

    No I haven’t read Shopgirl and it’s unlikely I will. Too many celebrities writing books these days.

    • June 3, 2017 10:58 am

      No, it’s not on my priority list. I don’t know much about it, but there are enough books I do know why I want to read that I can’t imagine reading this one.

      • June 3, 2017 3:10 pm

        I worked with someone who read it and loved it, but we didn’t have similar tastes in books.

        • June 3, 2017 3:54 pm

          It can be disappointing to meet another book lover and find your tastes don’t converge at all. All you can do is appreciate their enthusiasm but you can’t proceed into any discussion.

  2. Theresa Smith Writes permalink
    June 3, 2017 11:55 am

    What a great concept, the 6 degrees link. I imagine the choices in links from person to person would vary greatly and make for some interesting discoveries.

    • June 3, 2017 2:43 pm

      They do, Theresa, immensely. If you go to Kate’s post in a day or so you may see links to a few of them and will see just how far and wide we all wander. Join in if you like.

  3. June 3, 2017 11:58 am

    Starting with Shop Girl, which I saw on the shelves but never read, I’ll play. I’ll assume Steve Martin’s book is about a woman who works in a shop – ta-da – which brings me to …

    1. Zola’s “The Ladies Paradise” which features a poor young shopgirl in Paris circa 1883. The Ladies Paradise is Book #11 of the Rougon-Macquart series.

    2. Then on to Kate Chopin’s short stories about youngish women in difficult roles requiring a feminist approach and using a rather naturalist style (especially “The Awakening,” 1899 and “Desire’s Baby,” 1893) ala Zola. Chopin was influenced by Zola and she was of French ancestry on her mother’s side. Several connections there.

    3. Then I’ll go to Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan Quartet – a wonderful feminist journey in 4 volumes making for a thematic connection.

    4. Of course that will spin me into The Alexandria Quartet by Lawrence Durrell simply because it consists of 4 volumes (again) but takes place in Egypt. Women are heavily involved. But the main connection I’m interested in is the number of volumes.

    5. And finally – Durrell’s books take place in Egypt which reminds me of The Cairo Trilogy by Naguib Mahfouz. Oddly enough – it’s another multivolume novel with social change and women’s issues at the fore.

    6. And now I have to end up with Proust’s In Search of Lost Time because it’s a multivolume French novel with a lot of women in it. lol!

    • June 3, 2017 2:46 pm

      Haha, Bekah, I love your commitment to multivolume works! I’ve not read the complete set of any of those, except The Alexandria Quartet. I tend to get bored with too many books on the same characters. I”m clearly fickle that way.

  4. Meg permalink
    June 3, 2017 2:32 pm

    Oh, you are deep thinker, Sue! I read Shopgirl years ago and I did enjoy the book. I too immediately thought of The Women in Black by Madeleine St John. Then onto Come in Spinner by Florence James and Dymphna Cusak. I went a bit darker with Carol by Patricia Highsmith, and followed the road trip with On the Road by Jack Kerouac. This road lead me to Cloudstreet by Tim Winton and finally to The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan. Again, another fun exercise.

    • June 3, 2017 2:48 pm

      Thanks Meg once again for playing. Nothing wrong with your thinking there! I don’t know Carol at all – but I haven’t read Patricia Highsmith.

  5. June 3, 2017 7:35 pm

    I haven’t read Shopgirl either and can’t say I want to. Your chain has such interesting books – none of which I’ve read and I have to admit that I’ve never heard of them either.

    • June 3, 2017 7:53 pm

      Darn it Margaret – and this lot came from all around the world! Haha. Seriously though, I understand. They are probably mostly a bit obscure – but are really interesting books.

  6. NeilAtKallaroo permalink
    June 3, 2017 7:38 pm

    Just finished Shopgirl. It was sort of light and fluffy, but offered some fairly profound insights into the protagonists. It felt a bit like Family Skeleton, though with the author offering the insights directly, rather than through an intermediary. A good offering for a gloomy Saturday afternoon.

    Speaking of Family Skeleton, I’ve selected it as the book club book, for July. I must skim through it before the meeting, to make sure I have the critical facts right (such as the name of the heroine – I’m hopeless with names).

    Still thinking of my six degrees, will post when I have them.

    • June 3, 2017 8:00 pm

      Thanks Neil – you took one for the team! I suspected it had something going for it. He’s not a silly man.

      How great that you’ve chosen Family skeleton for your bookclub. I hope they enjoy it, and that you have a good discussion. Do tell us how it went.

    • NeilAtKallaroo permalink
      June 13, 2017 2:02 pm

      I’ve finished A Fraction of the Whole. A bit wild and woolly. While Shopgirl is a quarter the book, I enjoyed it more. Perhaps a case of preferring sweets over mains!

      • June 13, 2017 4:10 pm

        Yes, it is wild and woolly – that does seem to be his thing. You may not, then, want to try Quicksand! Then again you might, who am I to know?

        Sounds like Shopgirl does have some things going for it.

  7. June 3, 2017 9:18 pm

    I adored Steve Toltz’s book too but hadn’t realised he won awards with it.

    I failed to include one single Aussie in my list this time – which I feel quite guilty about!

    • June 3, 2017 9:41 pm

      SO you should Brona, haha. I’m glad you liked Toltz too. I’ll come see your links.

  8. June 3, 2017 9:28 pm

    You’ve inspired me – I’ve had my first go at #6Degrees. It was much harder than I thought but still lots of fun. I suspect tomorrow I’ll have lots of different ideas.
    http://52-sundays.blogspot.com.au/2017/06/six-degrees-of-separation-where-will.html

    • June 3, 2017 9:44 pm

      Saw your Tweet Kathryn and have had a look at your post. If you found it hard, it didn’t show! I’m glad you found it fun.

      If you’ve looked at Kate’s post you’ll know the next book is Picnic at Hanging Rock! A good one to get the juices going.

  9. June 3, 2017 10:56 pm

    I love participating in 6h degree because I learn a lot about authors from down under! Great selection. Thank you.

    • June 4, 2017 12:32 pm

      Yes, it’s good fun isn’t it – and I do like showcasing our writers, because not many people outside our shores do hear of them.

    • June 4, 2017 12:33 pm

      Do you have a blog we can visit? Your name doesn’t seem to link to an active blog? Maybe it’s somewhere else?

      • June 4, 2017 9:26 pm

        Good Morning, yes I posted on Kate’s blog our Muse & Views Bookclub (www.bookclub9.blogspot.ca) six degrees of Separation meme

  10. June 4, 2017 12:03 am

    I hope I didn’t steal that Women in Black link from you 😉

    I’ve had A Fraction of the Whole sitting on my shelf since it was published… don’t know why I haven’t got to it but your review (especially mention of satire) will make me push it up the list.

    • June 4, 2017 9:07 am

      Oh no I thought it was a hoot Kate, and you did credit my brilliance so it’s all good. 😇 A fraction of the whole is a wild read. You really just have to go with it.

  11. June 4, 2017 2:35 am

    The fabulous sense of reading adventure has come over you. I love this blog post and the newew authors it introduced me to. It would be nice to read your review on Shopgirl.

  12. NeilAtKallaroo permalink
    June 13, 2017 1:59 pm

    We start at Shopgirl, where a pair of gloves is part of the action (more of that later), and move to Recipe for Kisses by Michelle Major, where the heroine is a shop girl (well, she owns the shop, but she also sells items). This is a bit chick lit, but we get a monthly freebie from Samsung, and who am I to refuse a free ebook? Most importantly, after the required misunderstandings, the heroine and hero get their act together – I’m a bit of a softie!

    Another story where the heroine and hero get their act together is The French Lieutenant’s Woman, by John Fowles. Or do they? Who knows!

    A book set in roughly the same era (what’s 50 years among friends?) is His Magesty’s Dragon, by Naomi Novik, the first of the Temeraire series. Set in the Napoleonic Wars, with dragons providing the air force. Yes, we are definitely into fantasy here, though there is plenty of detail about what you would feed a dragon (if they existed).

    And so to my favourite dragon story, Dragonflight, by Anne McCaffrey. Alas, I have discarded my paper copy of this, so I don’t know when I acquired it, but must be close to 60 years ago. One of my all time favorites.

    Which moves us on to my all time most favourite book, The Scientific American Book of Mathematical Puzzles & Diversions, by Martin Gardner. This I ran into more than 60 years ago, and it electrified me! Definitely not a novel, but definitely novel.

    Putting mathematics and abstract thought back into a story, I finish with The Glass Bead Game, by Gunter Grasse. I read this a long time ago, but I vaguely recall that before you made a move in this most aesthetic of games you put on gloves. Voila! And if you don’t, who’s fussed with another bit of fake news?

    • June 13, 2017 4:08 pm

      Haha, Neil, very clever from beginning to end. I can see that your love of fantasy has enabled you to take the odd flight of fancy, but it works and that’s what matters.

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