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Six degrees of separation, FROM Lincoln in the Bardo TO …

February 3, 2018

The Six Degrees of Separation meme, currently hosted by Kate (booksaremyfavouriteandbest), is, I’m starting to realise, an effective marker of passing time – and I’m not sure I like it. This passing of time I mean, not the Six Degrees meme, which I enjoy! If, perchance, you are not familiar with this meme, please click the link on Kate’s blog-name – you’ll get all the gen you need there. Meanwhile, this month’s book is one that I bought with a Christmas gift voucher, but I haven’t read it yet. It’s George Saunders’ Booker Prize-winning Lincoln in the Bardo.  As always though, I’ve read all the linked books, albeit some before this blog.

George Saunders, Lincoln in the BardoNow, the reason I bought Lincoln in the Bardo is not so much because it won the Booker, but because one of our ex-reading group members (ex because she retired to the coast, not because we expelled her I might add!) recommended it. She said it was challenging to start with but a great read. However, when I put it forward as an option for this year’s schedule, it was not chosen. I still plan to read it – but when?

Ali Cobby Eckermann, Ruby MoonlightAnother book that I recommended for this year’s schedule and that was not chosen was Ali Cobby Eckermann’s verse novel Ruby Moonlight (my review). I don’t usually recommend a book I’ve read, as I like to use my reading group to read a new book for me, but I would like us to read more indigenous authors, and this one, a work of historical fiction in verse, is particularly interesting. In the end we chose Claire G Coleman’s Terra Nullius which suits me just fine as it’s one I’m keen to read.

Geoff Page, The scarringI’ve enjoyed quite a few verse novels during my reading life to date, but the first one I reviewed here was local Canberra author Geoff Page’s The scarring (my review). It’s a gut-wrenching story about war, love and loneliness, revenge and male power. And it’s one of those books that I haven’t forgotten.

Talking about firsts on this blog, and first verse (ha, that rhymes!) in particular, the first verse collection I reviewed here was A.B. (Banjo) Paterson’s now classic collection The man from Snowy River and other verses (my review). Interestingly, Paterson differentiated between verse and poetry, which he saw as a higher form. He wrote verse he said.

Jane Austen's Mr Darcy, illustration by CE Brock

Mr Darcy, illus by CE Brock (Public Domain, courtesy Wikipedia)

Like many of us I’m sure, I was introduced to reading by my parents. I remember as a very young child carting a pile of picture books into my dad in the mornings (as he was an early riser), but the first author I remember him sharing with us was the aforementioned Banjo Paterson. It perhaps won’t surprise regular readers here that the first author I remember my mum sharing with me was Jane Austen. And the first book of hers she shared – read aloud in fact – was, of course, Pride and prejudice. I haven’t done a full review of it here – I hardly dare – but I did write a post about it to commemorate its 200th anniversary.

Ayn Rand, The fountainheadNow, the thing about Pride and prejudice, according to the Independent, is that it’s never been out of print. Another book that I’ve read, though long before I started this blog, that hasn’t been out of print – according to the The Irish Times is Ayn Rand’s The fountainhead. It’s one of those books I’m glad I’ve read though I can’t claim to love it as I do Pride and prejudice!

Patrick White, Happy ValleyMost authors, of course, would be thrilled to know that their books have never been out of print, but not all. One such is Patrick White who didn’t want his first novel, Happy Valley (my review), to be republished. Fortunately for us, Text Publishing disagreed with him – after his death, anyhow – and published it as part of their wonderful Text Classics series. I’m so glad I got the opportunity to read it! Not only is it an interesting read, but it’s an accessible introduction to his themes and style.

So, this month we’ve not travelled far, culturally speaking anyhow, having only been to the USA, England and Australia. Historically, though, we’ve been a bit more diverse, including visiting Regency England and colonial Australia. We’ve spent time on farms and in cities, and we’ve met some moral men and not so moral ones. I wonder whom we’ll meet next month and where they’ll be! I can’t wait to see the starting book Kate has chosen for us.

And now, have you read Lincoln in the Bardo? And whether or not you have, what would you link to? 

58 Comments leave one →
  1. February 3, 2018 11:07 am

    Wow! A connection between Jane Austen and Ayn Rand! I never would have come up with that one! I have heard so many good things abut Lincoln in the Bardo and the audiobook is supposed to be amazing. I borrowed it from the library because Bookman wanted to listen to it too and it was a rough start and Bookman is easily distracted and quickly lost interest and well, back to the library it went because I couldn’t renew it and there was not enough time to listen when Bookman wasn’t around. I will try again sometime, just not sure when that will be!

    • February 3, 2018 11:37 am

      What a shame. I understand it is a tricky start. I wondered if it would be better to read?

      • February 7, 2018 4:40 am

        Maybe read first and then listened to since the audio is a performance rather than a straight up reading.

        • February 7, 2018 8:04 am

          Thanks Joe the heads up Stefanie. That’s interesting. You do have to be aware of that difference with audio “books” I’ve discovered.

  2. February 3, 2018 11:15 am

    Your post made me realize that, although my dad was an avid reader, I don’t remember him ever reading to me. My mother, on the other hand, who never read anything beyond women’s magazines, read (children’s) books to me from the time I was thirteen months old and vying for lap space with my newborn baby brother. It was thanks to her that I read fluently by the time I started school. Odd, that.

    And odd the trains of thought that a wander through connecting books can set off. Thanks, Sue!

    • February 3, 2018 1:05 pm

      How interesting Debbie. Sounds like a role the thing perhapd. Mum’s read to kids? Anyhow I’m glad I brought up this recollection for you.

  3. February 3, 2018 11:52 am

    Wow Jane Austen & Ayn Rand – that’s not a combo you see every day!

    • February 3, 2018 1:06 pm

      Haha Brona. Amazing what this meme does, isn’t it.

    • February 3, 2018 2:20 pm

      Hi Brona … I wrote this comment on your blog but it refused to publish. Hope you see it here: “Love this chain, Brona, particularly your link from Pascoe to Tharoor (whom I’ve never heard of.) I also, like you, love books with strong senses of place and love that you chose The shark net and Pastures of the blue crane. (I think we discussed this one recently didn’t we – and the miniseries with Jeanie Drynan and Harold Hopkins.)”

  4. February 3, 2018 12:37 pm

    I loved your chain this month, particularly all the added snippets of information about various books. You reminded me, too, of my parents reading to me, and my father reciting Banjo Patterson poems (oops verse!). I heard Ali Cobby Eckermann on the radio some time ago, and was very impressed with her poetry, so maybe I need to add her book to my ever-growing TBR pile.

    My chain: https://www.melindatognini.com.au/6-degrees-of-separation-from-lincoln-in-the-bardo-to/

    • February 3, 2018 1:09 pm

      Thanks Melinda. I’m thrilled that my chain is bringing up these memories, and that you grew up with Paterson too. I’ve read three books by Eckermann now. She’s great. I’ll come check out your chain this arvo.

  5. Meg permalink
    February 3, 2018 2:20 pm

    Hi Sue, you certainly spread your choices. I gave up on Lincoln in the Bardon, but will try again. Though I did the 6 connections. First one, Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell; 2nd – The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame; 3rd – Anne of Windy Willows L M Montgomery, 4th – Eucalyptus by Murray Bail; 5th – Tales from the Gum Tree by May Gibbs and finally To the Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben (on my TBR list).

    • February 3, 2018 3:15 pm

      Love your chain Meg, and can see the links clearly. Well done.

      Why do you think you will try Lincoln again? (I remember your agreeing with Lisa, I think, about giving up on it.) I usually decide do this if I think that it was just a matter of timing – though often I actually don’t get around to trying again! In other words, the decision can be academic!

      • Meg permalink
        February 3, 2018 4:30 pm

        I have to try again, I hear so many positive reports. And as you say the timing of reading a complex novel can influence your ability to ingest. I have to do some house and dog sitting in Hobart in June/July (so cold), and that is when I will try to read it. I hate to think I missed out on a good read!!

        • February 3, 2018 4:38 pm

          Good reason Meg… And that sounds like a perfect time to give it a go. I’m not sure when my time we will be!

  6. February 3, 2018 4:17 pm

    Back when people cared about Paterson (and Lawson) and we all learnt to recite it at school there were lots of complaints about it not being real poetry, but as you point out, no one knew that better than the balladists themselves. They were a great form of story telling when we still had (and needed) an oral tradition.

    • February 3, 2018 4:34 pm

      Exactly, Bill … They were storytellers. And those of us who read or heard them will never forget them. And we know their strengths and limitations too don’t we.

    • February 3, 2018 7:35 pm

      Whole-heartedly agree. I have fond memories of my dad reading both Paterson and Lawson to me (he had two large volumes of collected works) – so much so that at age 4, my ‘party-trick’ was to recite Mulga Bill’s Bicycle (I still remember most of it 40+ years later).

      • February 3, 2018 7:42 pm

        I gave a marvellous large format Mulga Bills Bicycle to a grandchild, a few years ago.

        • February 3, 2018 8:19 pm

          Is that the one illustrated by Kilmeny or Deborah Niland?

        • February 3, 2018 8:21 pm

          Sorry, I don’t record the presents I give (leading to more double ups than I’m aware of probably) let alone the details.

        • February 3, 2018 8:32 pm

          A shame! I keep a spreadsheet. It’s very useful at times! It also helps when I buy gifts in advance (as I often do – easy to buy things when you see them than on command!). I write them in there, and can check when gift time comes around whether I already have a gift or not. Of course, all this record keeping takes time!

      • February 3, 2018 8:16 pm

        Oh good for you Kate. My sister’s was to read High Explosive. I can still, almost, read it in her childish voice – I think she was around 6, though, not 4

        • February 3, 2018 10:14 pm

          My copy of Mulga Bill is the Kilmeny & Niland one. I still have it (somewhere!).

        • February 3, 2018 10:29 pm

          For some reason I never bought it, but with a grandchild on the way, I feel now might be the time, Kate.

    • February 3, 2018 10:12 pm

      I just came across this quote I’d marked in Biff Ward’s ‘In My Mother’s Hands’ (she talking about her father, historian Russel Ward) and thought it a good one to share given the convo –

      “We’d been past Toganmain, so there on the edge of the One Tree Plain, it felt as though we’d arrived inside the ballads Dad loved so much. Inside history.”

      • February 3, 2018 10:27 pm

        That’s a great book, Kate, but I hadn’t remembered that. Thanks for sharing it.

  7. February 3, 2018 4:22 pm

    ‘Lincoln in the Bardo’ is languishing in my Kindle for a while. Somewhat like you, I too bought the book not because of the Booker tag, but a story I liked in ‘Tenth of December’. I am not the one for difficult starts, as a volume of A S Byatt by the name of ‘Possession’ would testify in person were to get near my bookshelves. I have been staying shuttered up in my house of late. It’s time I touched one of those teleports…

    • February 3, 2018 4:36 pm

      Haha umashankar… Hard starts are a challenge, I agree. I might have the answer for you in tomorrow’s post! Have I tantalised you now?

      • February 3, 2018 4:40 pm

        Absolutely not. Sometimes I read a book just to check the hoopla about it.

        • February 3, 2018 5:01 pm

          Yes, I understand that, though my time is so tight the hoopla has to be compelling.

        • February 3, 2018 5:16 pm

          And therein lies the paradox. As they say, no two persons read the same book (or hoopla). As for time, I wish Mr Wells had granted me access to his machine.

        • February 3, 2018 6:27 pm

          Oh, me too, me too!

  8. February 3, 2018 7:37 pm

    I’m curious – does your book group set their reading for a year I advance?

    I have Terra Nullius in my reading stack as well (I’m going to have a stab at what might be on the Stella longlist).

    • February 3, 2018 8:12 pm

      We do it 6-monthly Kate, so in November we choose Jan to June, and then in May we do July to Nov. December is party month! We learnt a long time ago that there was no point trying to do a book on party day!

      We are doing Terra nullius in March. I’m thinking it will be longlisted, at least, if not shortlisted, for the Stella. Clearly you are thinking so too.

      • February 3, 2018 11:06 pm

        Yes, I think it will be there – it’s topical! I’ll put together a post with my predictions this week – will be interesting to see how many I get right (probably not many) although I reckon the winner will be Sarah Krasnostein for The Trauma Cleaner.

  9. February 3, 2018 7:38 pm

    And I forgot to say this is the second chain I’ve read that includes Ayn Rand… what’s going on?!

    • February 3, 2018 8:13 pm

      Oh, whose was that Kate? I’d love to see how they did it. I’ve read four or five so far but I’m sure I’d have noticed Ayn Rand in one if I’d read it!

      • ian darling permalink
        February 3, 2018 8:22 pm

        Haven’t tried Lincoln In the Bardo yet. I remember reading Gore Vidal’s big novel about Lincoln and it was fascinating although I seem to remember that most of the people in it all seemed to speak in think in a very Vidalish way!

        Jane Austen and Ayn Rand…. ?

        • February 3, 2018 8:41 pm

          You know Ian, I’ve never read Vidal. That’s a terrible admission isn’t it.

          As for Austen and Rand. I did enjoy doing that!

  10. ian darling permalink
    February 3, 2018 8:47 pm

    I’m glad to hear it!

  11. February 3, 2018 10:07 pm

    i decided Lincoln in the Bardo was not for me when I heard that it has something like 100+ characters. I have a hard time keeping track of who is who when books have extensive character lists. Ann Ryand I must get to (confession time here that I have never read her…..)

    • February 3, 2018 10:25 pm

      Don’t tell me that! No-one told me it was 100+ characters, Karen. Now I’m really scared … I read another blogger the other day talking about drawing character maps. I have done that occasionally but a character map of 100 sounds a bit daunting.

      I don’t think you HAVE to read Ayn Rand. All of us have books we will never get to. I think we should choose those we don’t read wisely!!

  12. February 3, 2018 11:04 pm

    Well, the only one from your list that I’ve read is Pride and Prejudice. My Mom read to me and, in fact, taught me to read. Quite a gift for me as I’ve always been a more than avid reader. Strangely enough, neither of my parents were readers themselves. Enjoyed your post!

    • February 4, 2018 8:57 am

      Thanks Kay, lovely to hear from you. How interesting that your mum taught you to read but wasn’t a reader herself. I guess she saw that you need to be able to read but wasn’t perhaps thinking of the sort of reading we do.

  13. February 4, 2018 2:00 am

    The Six Degrees of Separation meme is really neat. Several Book Bloggers that I know participate in it from time to time. I like the way that you have connected books based upon your personal experiences as opposed to elements of plot.

    I also am glad that I read The Fountainhead but I agree, it is no Pride and Prejudice!

    • February 4, 2018 8:40 am

      Thanks Brian. It’s fun mixing up the connecttions. I do plot occasionally but for me it would be a bit boring to do that all the time. I enjoy letting my brain wander widely.

  14. February 4, 2018 4:41 am

    Here’s my 6th degree of separation, from reading your post… Your Mom read you P & P? What a wonderful childhood experience! I only remember the three little pigs from stories told by my Mom. There’s definitely a cultural factor in this. When I was growing up in HK, Moms didn’t read to their young, Dads didn’t read (books) at all. None that I knew about. Believe it or not, Chinese parents (older generation) don’t read to their children. But, my Mom encouraged me to read and bought me classic literature in translation for children. When I went into 7th grade in HK, i was introduced to Somerset Maugham by a classmate. She secretly read his short stories during class. Unlike other Chinese mothers, my Mom read a lot, even all the way to her 80’s, loved Agatha Christie and Dick Francis. Now at 98, he doesn’t read anymore. Ayn Rand? when I was in high school, I ‘discovered’ her and devoured her shorter works like “The Anthem”. Reading, my beloved activity. But O so bound by culture and family background. Thanks for stirring up some ripples in my heart, WG. 🙂

    • February 4, 2018 8:54 am

      Thanks Arti, that’s really interesting about culture and reading to children. I wonder how Chinese immigrants find it here (what they think) where schools actively encourage parents to read to kids. It’s seen as very important to children’s development in our Western culture!

      I’ve never read Ayn Rand’s short works.

      You’re mum’s 98? My dad will be 98 in May. He doesn’t really read any more either except bits if the paper, and emails on his iPad! My mum’s 89 in the middle of the year and she’s still reading.

      • February 4, 2018 9:09 am

        Wow amazing that your dad still reads even just the papers, and your mom still reading. Unfortunately my mom has dementia and her eye sight is not good.
        As for immigrants children in school, here we encourage parents to read to them in their own language but that’s just wishful thinking. First is the habit of reading to children is not a norm, second is if they read in their own language their children will likely not understand. Even reading so much like we do, blogging, book clubs, Goodreads reviews etc. is a very Western “lifestyle” I’m afraid.

        • February 4, 2018 9:37 am

          Thanks Arti. I hadn’t really realised that about reading like we do being Western. I’m sorry about your Mum. Dad’s fairly frail but there’s no dementia. He scares us with his memory, he doesn’t miss a beat. It’s better than mine and Mums. “Don’t forget” he’ll say, “that we have to XXX on the way home”.

      • February 4, 2018 9:14 am

        And your dad uses the iPad, wonderful!

  15. buriedinprint permalink
    February 6, 2018 2:26 am

    Don’t worry about the cast of characters for the Saunders novel, if you do decide to give it a try; it is the chorus of voices which is more important and those you are meant to remember are simple to track (providing you read it in a committed fashion, it’s not a novel with which to dabble). You gave me the idea to search our public library system for those Text Publishing editions and I was able to find a few of them. I am just reading one of them now, and was admiring the list in the back, but I hadn’t thought of searching for them by series in the library until I saw your mention of Patrick White’s debut. My problem is that so many of them look good, although one way of winnowing is that many of these editions are marked “reference only” in our system and I don’t relish the thought of sitting in a study carrell to read a 400-page novel!

    • February 6, 2018 7:59 am

      Thanks for that advice Buried. I’ll follow it. I don’t tend to dabble in books but instead comm T to one and read it till the end, so that shouldnt be a problem,

      How great that some of our Text Classics books are in your library but how weird that some are marked reference. I wonder if it is because they are paperback so they are trying to protect them a bit?

  16. February 6, 2018 5:33 am

    You really went in a different direction than I did and surprisingly I ended on The Rosie Project. Here is my 6-Degrees Post

    • February 6, 2018 8:01 am

      Well Anne, Rosie is a delightful place to end, I reckon. I’ll come check yours out.

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