Last month I changed my Six Degrees titling practice to not including the end book. Most commenters preferred that approach, so I’m sticking with it for the moment, with apologies to those who demurred! And now, before I get stuck into this month’s choices, the formalities. Six Degrees of Separation is a meme currently run by Kate (booksaremyfavouriteandbest). For information about how the meme works, please click the link on her blog-name. It’s a fun meme.
This month’s book, as often happens, is one I haven’t read, Bret Easton Ellis’s Less than zero. It’s set in 1980s Los Angeles, and the GoodReads summary calls it “a raw, powerful portrait of a lost generation who have experienced sex, drugs, and disaffection at too early an age, in a world shaped by casual nihilism, passivity, and too much money– a place devoid of feeling or hope.” Plenty there for connections, but that’s not the way I’m going to go. However, before we set off, I’ll reiterate that, as always, I’ve read all the books in my chain, though some before I started this blog.
So, the obvious link for this book would be to go with a title with a number in it – and that’s what I’ve decided to do, except I decided to challenge myself further and find six books I’ve read that have numbers in the title, starting with one, then two and on through to six. And I did it. First cab off the rank is Jessica Anderson’s ONE of the wattle birds (my review). Anderson was a well-regarded Australian author whose best-known book is the Miles Franklin Award winning Tirra Lirra by the river. One of the wattle birds was her last novel.
For two, I have Irma Gold’s short story collection TWO steps forward (my review). I loved the title of this because it suggests that phrase “two steps forward, one step back” which is pretty much how life often goes, isn’t it? The thing about short story collections is that it’s often hard to remember the stories years down the track, but in this collection there’s one in particular that has always stuck in my mind, “Refuge” about an empathetic woman working in a refugee detention centre. She cares deeply for the detainees but she’s powerless to change anything. It’s a story that’s still (if not more) relevant today – but then all the stories are, because they are about ordinary people and the things that happen to them, such as divorce, terminal illness, miscarriage, homelessness.
The next book is also still relevant today, though it’s nearly twenty years old. It’s one, though, that I haven’t forgotten. I’m talking THREE dollars by Elliott Perlman, which has also been adapted to film. It’s an excruciating book about when bad things happen to good people, about what happens when you stand up for what you think is right. You can end up with nothing but three dollars, that’s what. Elliott Perlman is not a prolific writer, but when he writes it’s usually powerful.
Now, number four is the odd one of the group because although I’ve read it – my reading database says so – my memories of it are vague. I read it when I was actively involved in a few online bookgroups. The book is The rule of FOUR by Ian Caldwell and Dustin Thomason. You know how GoodReads displays the ratings/reviews by your “friends” at the top of the list of reviews for a book? Well, for this book they were all from some of my internet bookgroup pals. Their ratings are 4, 2, 2, 1 and 1. This probably tells you why I don’t remember much about it.
It’s a different story for number five, however. The book is Nocturnes: FIVE stories about music and nightfall (my review) by this year’s Nobel Prize for Literature winner, Kazuo Ishiguro. I’m a big Ishiguro fan, having read all but two of his books, and I enjoyed this collection. It’s identifiably Ishiguro, not only because it deals with subjects he likes, such as music, but also for the style. The stories all have narrators who are either unreliable or in some other way not completely across what is going on, and they have an overall tone “of things not being quite right, of potential not being quite achieved, of people still looking for an elusive something but not necessarily knowing quite what that is.”
And so we come to the end, and it is, surprisingly, another short story collection, Tegan Bennett Daylight’s Stella Prize shortlisted SIX bedrooms (my review). However, unlike Nocturnes, the “six” doesn’t relate to the number of stories in the book, but to the title story about a six-bedroom share house.
And I’ll leave it there. This has been an odd one to write up. I’m not sure that I like the way I decided to go. It was fun searching for books to meet my sequential numbers challenge, but it’s more fun looking for ideas to link on. Back to normal next month!
Meanwhile, have you read Less than zero? And whether or not you have, what would you link to?