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Six degrees of separation, FROM It TO …

December 2, 2017

And so we come to December and the last Six Degrees of Separation for the year. For newbies to blogging – because the rest of you surely know by now – this is a meme currently hosted by Kate (booksaremyfavouriteandbest). For information about how the meme works, please click the link on her blog-name. It’s fascinating to see the wild and wonderful paths different bloggers go, all starting with the same book – which, this month is a book I haven’t read (as is more common than not), Stephen King’s It. As always though, I have read all the books I link to.

Stephen King, ItThe reason I haven’t read It is that I’m not a big fan of horror, either to read or see in movies, and It is, I understand, horror. I have enjoyed some movie adaptations of King’s novellas, like The Shawshank Redemption, Stand by me, and Apt pupil, but the horror stories? Not so much. So, how to link a book that I have not only not read but is a genre I don’t like? Well, I’ve chosen something superficial …

Ian McEwan, NutshellOne-word-titles! How original, eh?! There are many possibilities here, but I’m going to choose one I read this year, Ian McEwan’s Nutshell (my review). It’s one of those books that some people love and some hate, mostly because of its narrator. Some people just don’t like a foetus as a narrator! Can’t understand it myself. After all, fiction is supposed to be about the imagination. Seriously, though, I do understand the uncertainty about such a device, but I thought McEwan pulled it off …

Courtney Collins, The burialAs did too, I felt, Courtney Collins with her dead baby narrator in The burial (my review). If you think a foetus is a little bizarre, a dead baby speaking from the grave may be a step too far for you, but again, I thought Collins carried it off to present a fascinating historical fiction work about an Australian female bushranger. I haven’t heard anything more about Collins since, but I do hope she’s working on another book.

Hannah Kent, Burial Rites bookcover

Anyhow, my next link is the obvious one. It’s on the word “burial” in the title and is, of course, Hannah Kent’s Burial rites (my review) Not only does it have “burial” in the title, but it is also a work of historical fiction, albeit one set in remote 19th century Iceland, not early 20th century outback Australia. Kent’s book, however, was not the first book set in Iceland that I’ve read. That honour goes to my next linked book …

Halldor Laxness, Independent peopleHalldór Laxness’ spare, mesmerising Independent people. Unfortunately, I read this book a few years before I started blogging, so I don’t have a review to link to. One day I might fish out my reading notes and try to concoct a review, just to have it recorded on my blog. But, I probably won’t – because I fear the result would be too superficial. I really need to have a book fresh in my mind to write my reviews.

Patrick White, Happy ValleyNow, the thing about Laxness, besides being Icelandic, is that he won the Nobel Prize for Literature, in 1955. He is, apparently, Iceland’s only Nobel Laureate. Aussies may see where this is going – it’s to Patrick White, who is not quite our only Nobel Laureate, but he is our only Nobel Laureate in Literature. The Nobel Prize goes, as you know, to a body of work, so I’m doing the logical thing and have chosen the novel that got him going, his debut novel, Happy Valley (my review).

Louise Mack, The world is roundI’m going to stick with this idea of debut novel for my last link – and choose another older debut novel, Louise Mack’s The world is round (my review). While White’s book was first published in 1939, the year he turned 27, Mack’s book was published in 1896 when she was 26. Mack may not have gone on to have the stellar literary career that White did, but she’s part of our early literary tradition and I don’t want her forgotten!

So, this month we’ve travelled the globe a bit, from America to England to Australia to Iceland and back to Australia! We’ve visited remote cold places and remote hot places. And we’ve met some unusual narrators. I’ve had fun – and I hope you have too.

And now, to end, have you read It? And whether or not you have, what would you link to? 

45 Comments leave one →
  1. December 2, 2017 10:12 am

    I’d completely forgotten your review of Louise Mack. Next time we discuss women writers Gen 2, I’d better remember to include her. (You don’t count Coetzee as ‘our’ Nobel Laureate yet?).

    • December 2, 2017 10:18 am

      How could you Bill have forgotten one of my reviews! Shame on you. As for Coetzee, no, I really can’t. He was awarded the Nobel Prize around the time he moved to Australia, no long after Disgrace came out I think, so I really see its being for his South African body of work. I think it would be cheeky to claim his as “our” Laureate, don’t you think?

      • December 2, 2017 10:31 am

        Yes I know, I should have kept that to myself, but I had to go all the way to the end to see if I commented (interesting that Phelan thinks Mack got ahead of herself). I agree about Coetzee’s Nobel but I think his later novels are part of Aust.Lit – as DH Lawrence’s Kangaroo and The Boy in the Bush are (IMO).

        • December 2, 2017 12:14 pm

          Yes Bill I’m very happy also to adopt the later part of his career. I’d go so far as to call him an South African Australian author whereas Kangaroo I’d happily accept as Aussie lit but not the author.

  2. December 2, 2017 12:06 pm

    I certainly have read IT and it is indeed horror. But very, very good! No idea what I would have linked it to…

  3. December 2, 2017 1:44 pm

    Hmm, #musing (as so many of us are, ha ha) about citizenship… The question I’m pondering is: when we refer to ‘our’ Nobel Laureates (or cricketers, or bankers or anything else), are we referring to whether or when we eventually admit those not born here as undisputed Australians or whether we are referring to where their identity/career as a cricketer or banker or anything else was established? Because Coetzee has been here for a long time now, and I would count him as an Australian from the time he elected to take up citizenship. That IMO makes him an Australian with a Nobel, just as I would see an Aussie who landed here with a PhD from Oxford and became a citizen as an Australian PhD. The fact that Coetzee was awarded his gong for his writing somewhere else doesn’t alter his Australianness. #Just saying…
    Whatever about that… here’s mine, and thanks for the reminder!
    https://anzlitlovers.com/2017/12/02/six-degrees-of-separation-from-stephen-kings-it-to/

    • December 2, 2017 2:04 pm

      Good questions Lisa. In terms of arts, I do tend to take these things mostly on where their identity/career was established. I’m happy to call Coetzee an Australian with a Nobel, and since he is an Australian citizen now, I guess he’s technically an Australian Laureate, but I would never say he was our second Nobel Prize in Literature because he wasn’t Australian when he got it. It’s a fine point but I think it’s cheeky for us to take “credit” for him (which is what calling him our second Nobel Laureate in Literature is doing) since “we” didn’t nurture him and/or we didn’t provide the background on which his writing was awarded the prize. It’s all theoretical of course, but that’s my rule of thumb!

      (BTW, yes, Coetzee has been here for a while now, but he was 62 when he moved here, and 66 when he became a citizen. That’s a bit different from coming here in his childhood or his twenties?)

      In the end, I’d prefer not to talk nationalism at all – and am sorry I made the point about White! It was just a neat link to Laxness – I should have just called them both their country’s first Nobel Laureates in Literature which would have been correct and uncontroversial!! Haha.

      • December 2, 2017 5:02 pm

        *chuckle* Well put, nationalism is getting trickier and trickier to compartmentalise and I say that’s a good thing.

    • December 2, 2017 2:06 pm

      I’m happy to regard anyone who chooses to make their home here as an Australian. And anyone who was brought up here as exclusively Australian (should not have to fear deportation as is presently the case). However, probably SA’s Nobel and our JM Coetzee

      • December 2, 2017 2:51 pm

        Haha Bill … yes, that sounds fair to me!

      • December 2, 2017 5:04 pm

        I have an inclusive view of it too – but then, I would, wouldn’t I, with my *chuckle* three citizenships!

        • December 2, 2017 5:43 pm

          Just as well you don’t want to be prime minister then (or have I said this before?)

        • December 2, 2017 5:48 pm

          O pshaw! A mere prime ministership? World domination would be much more fun…

    • December 2, 2017 2:08 pm

      The pronouns ‘we’ and ‘our’ are such weasel words. I try never to use them unless can clarify the group to which I am referring. They can be a ploy to suggest that the reader or listener is of a mind with the writer. And – so often the writer is at odds with the alleged beliefs and actions of the ‘we’ – making the pronoun an utter nonsense.

      • December 2, 2017 2:50 pm

        Great point Carmel. I might have to rethink my use of “we” and “our” in my reviews now, as I think I do bandy them about a bit. Sometimes I do it a little tongue-in-cheek, but I don’t think anyone else is aware that that’s how I feel – so perhaps best not to do it.

      • December 2, 2017 5:05 pm

        Yup, we need to resurrect the impersonal pronoun ‘one’…

        • December 2, 2017 5:45 pm

          And yet, it’s so – impersonal! And, despite what Carmel said can be almost the opposite – ie instead of assuming agreement it can come across as a cop out?

        • December 2, 2017 5:47 pm

          Oh, I like ‘one’. I would use it much more except that these days it seems to have acquired a pompous connotation rather than its original inclusive ‘anybody’ kind of meaning.

        • December 2, 2017 9:27 pm

          I used to use “one”, but more I suppose to avoid the perpendicular pronoun (!). It does have its value I agree, but these days it just sounds too formal, which I guess then translates into sounding pompous.

        • December 3, 2017 11:46 am

          I like it when I’m trying to avoid saying ‘you’ when not wanting to assume that ‘you’ (as in ‘you personally’) have a particular PoV. For example, ‘if you can’t stand our current PM, then you’ll be looking forward to the next election’. Using ‘you’ might look as if I’m assuming that you have certain political opinions. If I could use ‘one’ instead, that would show that I mean ‘anyone who can’t stand him’ – but whereas that would have sounded perfectly ok 20 years ago, now it doesn’t. It was such a *useful* pronoun because of its impersonality.

        • December 3, 2017 4:18 pm

          Yes, you’re right. I used to like using “one” that way too. I often stumble over “you” in the context you describe here, I um and ah, and then use it if I can’t think of another way of writing the sentence.

  4. December 2, 2017 2:04 pm

    This was such an enjoyable Six Degrees. I love the way you do it. (Sad thing about the recent reprint of Happy Valley is the low production values that render it so unpleasant to hold and to read. This is of course a problem with many cheap modern classics. Somebody gave me a new Penguin DH Lawrence which was so hideousI had to put in the rubbish bin.)

    • December 2, 2017 2:47 pm

      Thanks Carmel. I really enjoy this meme – it’s a fun challenge and it enables me to remember loved books. I take your point about the cheap modern classics, though I don’t find Text’s Classics as unpleasant to hold and read as some. My version of Happy Valley was their hardback – not beautiful paper, but it opened well and the print was nicely spaced!

  5. December 2, 2017 2:34 pm

    WG, now that we have travelled around the world, would you stamp my passport too please? 😊

    When I saw ‘IT’, I held my breath and thought how your blog would unfold, because I had a hunch that you might have not read the book and that you might not enjoy it too. I love how you linked it with one-word titles. Besides ‘IT’, I haven’t read any of these books. As always, you are guilty of feeding my already obese TBR. ❤

    Thank you for the post, WG. I will slowly work my way through the other books.

    • December 2, 2017 2:53 pm

      Obese TBR. Love it Deepika! And I love that you were intrigued about where I might go. All I can say with this meme is that there’s always a way out of a sticky hole!

  6. Meg permalink
    December 2, 2017 6:12 pm

    I have read some of Stephen King Books and his characters always get me in. I was going to keep my connections to him only because I think he is a great story teller. However, I only followed with Salem’s Lot then went to other great story tellers. Geraldine Brooks – People of the Book; J M Coetzee (happy to call him an Australian by citizenship!) – The childhood of Jesus; John Ajvide Lindqvist – Let the Right One; Tim Winton – The Boy Behind the Curtain; and finishing on Kate Jennings – Snake. Kate Jennings.

    • December 2, 2017 6:23 pm

      Thanks again for playing along Meg. I haven’t heard of or, obviously, read Let the right one.

  7. Meg permalink
    December 2, 2017 6:52 pm

    Let the Right One In, is set in Sweden, vampirish(is that a word?), but a good one about relationships. I am not into vampire stories!!! It was made into a film but I haven’t seen it.

  8. December 3, 2017 4:15 am

    Interesting connections, WG. I’m with you re. the horror genre, books or movies. As to one word titles, check this one out by Richard Ford, Wildlife It is being adapted into film with Carey Mulligan and Jake Gyllenhaal, directed by Paul Dano. I’m looking forward to this one cause the book is good.

  9. December 3, 2017 11:43 pm

    It’s funny that you started with one-word titles because although there’s lots, I rarely come across them in my own reading and always notice it when I do. Like you, I though Nutshell was very clever – not sure I could cope with The Burial though…

    • December 4, 2017 8:32 am

      Thanks Kate. You should try The burial though and see for yourself. BTW Jane Austen has 2 single word titles in only 6 novels, Emma and Persuasion (though we understand Persuasion was chosen not by her, but posthumously)

  10. December 4, 2017 1:25 am

    I haven’t read It or any of the books you’ve mentioned – but I do want to read Nutshell! And an interesting discussion in the comments about ‘our’ and the use of ‘we’ etc! It seems to me that nationality can be such a fluid thing!

    • December 4, 2017 8:33 am

      Nutshell is worth reading Margaret. And yes, I think you’re right about nationality.

  11. December 5, 2017 11:07 am

    Reblogged this on Tasmanian Bibliophile @Large and commented:
    I’ve read five of these books (‘It’; ‘The Burial’;’Burial Rites’; ‘Independent People’; and ‘Happy Valley’). I like the way Whispering Gums links one to the other, and I’m keen to read the Ian McEwan book (I’ve read others by him, but not this one) and to find Louise Mack. I’d not heard of Louise Mack. Have you read (any/all/some of) these books?

  12. December 6, 2017 10:43 am

    Clever way to get around the issue of a starting book that’s in a genre you don’t like. I’ve not read Nitshell because the last few books by McEwan have been disappointing.

    As for the question of nationality, I find this a really tricky question when I try to read. Ore books from my own country. Do I count only writers born in Wales or can I include the, if they have lived here for many years ? I’ve tended to be inclusive if they fall in the latter category but it’s evident they take an interest in Welsh culture etc even of they dont actually write about it.

    • December 6, 2017 11:03 am

      Thanks Karen. And yes, I prefer to go the inclusive route with these sorts of things – well, with most things really!

  13. buriedinprint permalink
    December 6, 2017 10:55 am

    I enjoyed following your connections. I bought It when it first came out, but I got stuck in it and haven’t yet gotten back to it (yes, that means it’s been stuck since the ’80s – well, it happens, doesn’t it?) yet. *coughs* Anyway. King’s characterization and solid plotting and sense of place have won me over many times. I also echo the recommendation of Let the Right One In above! As for where I’d’ve gone with the list, I’m not sure, but Unless is the title that comes to mind, another vague and between kind of word, although Carol Shields next to Stephen King seems a bit odd!

    • December 6, 2017 11:01 am

      Haha Buried, yes, those two together does sound a bit odd but that’s what Six Degrees is all about. And yes, I have books in by shelves, unread, from the 1980s (if not before!)

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