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Six degrees of separation, FROM Fight Club TO …

February 2, 2019

Kate has chosen a doozy for this month’s Six Degrees of Separation meme (about which you can find more if you click on her blog name: booksaremyfavouriteandbest). Meanwhile, assuming you have done that or that you already understand the meme, I’m getting on with the show.

Chuck Palahniuk, Fight ClubLike last month, we are starting with a book that I haven’t read but have seen. I’m glad I saw it but I don’t necessarily want to read it or more of the author’s books. The book is, as you’ll have seen from the post’s title, Chuck Palahniuk’s Fight Club. It’s an example of transgressive fiction of which I’ve read a little, but that’s not where I’m going with my first link. (Neither, you’ll be surprised to know, will I be linking this month to she who needs no introduction!)

Margaret Merrilees, Big rough stonesThere were so many ways I thought of linking from Fight Club, including a sneaky one to my Jane, in fact. (If you must know it was on the idea of cult fiction!) But, in the end, I decided to go with the idea of rules. Anyone who knows Fight Club knows that the club had rules. Well, rules also came up in a recent book I read, Margaret Merrilees’ Big rough stones (my review), when the collective of women running a women’s shelter discuss how to respond to a misdemeanour by Ro, the protagonist.

Barbara Hanrahan, The scent of eucalyptusNow, Big rough stones is a women-centric novel set primarily in Adelaide. Another women-centric novel set in that city is Barbara Hanrahan’s The scent of eucalyptus (my review). Her women, though, form a very different sort of “collective” – they are her mother, grandmother and aunt – and her (autobiographical) novel is about her growing up, rather than about her adult life.

Shaun Tan, Eric coverHowever, Hanrahan did, in fact, have a very interesting adult life because she was an artist (printmaker, in particular) as well as a novelist. She died too young, of cancer, at the age of 52. Another artist who also writes is Shaun Tan. Unfortunately, I have not written much by him here, but I have posted on Eric (my review), which is a little book that was excerpted from his well-reviewed, beautifully illustrated story collection, Tales from outer suburbia.

WG Sebald, AusterlitzEric is about a “strange” (as you can tell from the book cover) foreign exchange student who comes to stay with a family in suburbia. The story is about feeling and being “other”. It’s delightfully whimsical – with a point. Another book about feeling “other” – but one that is intense rather than whimsical – is WG Sebald’s Austerlitz (my review). I love seeing how the same, fundamental “universal truth” can be explored in so many different ways.

Friedrich Gerstacker, AustraliaSebald was a German writer, but unfortunately I haven’t read many German writers here although I do have a few on my physical TBR piles. I have, though, read Friedrich Gerstäcker’s Australia: A German traveller in the Age of Gold (my review). That was an eye-opening read about a German traveller-explorer in mid-nineteenth century Australia – eye-opening for its content, but also for reminding me of how many stories there are out there, waiting to tell us about other lives and times, stories that need publishers like Wakefield Press, in this instance, to bring them to new generations.

Jane Fletcher Geniesse, Passionate nomad, book coverAnother eye-opening story about another place and time – and that I also read in 2017, when I read Gerstäcker – is Jane Fletcher Geniesse’s biography, Passionate nomad: The life of Freya Stark (my review). What a woman Stark was – living and traveling as she did in the Arabic states from the late 1920s to the mid 1940s, in particular, and being, in fact, one of the first non-Arabians to travel through the southern Arabian deserts.

We’ve travelled quite a bit this month, starting in America, then visiting Australia (including Outer Suburbia) and Europe, before finishing in the Middle East. We’ve met some intrepid people – real and fictional – and have heard from three male and three female writers (excluding the starting book).

Now, over to you: Have you read Fight Club? And, regardless, what would you link to? 

15 Comments leave one →
  1. Sara Dowse permalink
    February 2, 2019 10:46 am

    An interesting list, Madame Gums! I was particularly excited when you ended with Freya Stark – not sure I’ve read the biography but I read quite a lot of her own writing – anyway, what I could find of it in the UVic Library on Vancouver Island when I was plunging myself into Middle East politics and history of the time. I’m intrigued now by the thought of reading Stark and Gertrude Bell in tandem now – both intrepid late Victorian/Edwardian women travellers but possibly with distinctly different perspectives and modus operandi. Any thoughts there?

    • February 2, 2019 11:19 am

      I haven’t read Bell, Sara, but when my reading group did this Stark book er talked about her. I believe they were very different with Bell perhaps more politically astute and had an easier life. There was some resentment from the younger Stark I think… But I’m going on memory now. I think reading them or about them in tandem would be well worth doing.

  2. February 2, 2019 12:08 pm

    You always inlcude such an interesting list of books in your chains – probably indicative of how much you read and review! I love the work of Shaun Tan, and was surprised I hadn’t heard of Eric, until you explained it was an excerpt from Tales from Outer Suburbia.

    • February 2, 2019 12:26 pm

      Thanks Melinda. I’m glad you find them interesting. I gave Tales to my sister in law years ago, and when I saw Eric later I thought I’d just get that for me so at least I’d have an introduction.

  3. February 2, 2019 9:07 pm

    Your links are creative and fascinating. I have not read Fight Club. It seems to have something of a cult following, I remember seeing the film awhile ago and I remember disliking the message behind the work. However, I may have misinterpreted it at the time. It is an u=interesting book to base the meme on!

    • February 2, 2019 10:26 pm

      Thanks Brian. I know what you mean about the message. I think it’s one of those that you can read in different ways – and that it was intended to confront complacency? But it’s a long time since I’ve seen it.

  4. February 2, 2019 10:15 pm

    I had an interesting time reading up on Transgressive Fiction thank you WG. Some of the books listed you’d wonder how they got there but of course it’s only in our adult lifetimes that it’s not been transgressive to discuss sex.

    • February 2, 2019 10:39 pm

      Glad to be of service Bill! All these “genres” and “styles” eh? And you’re right of course about yesterday’s transgression being today’s run-of-the-mill. How much has changed in our time.

  5. Meg permalink
    February 3, 2019 7:52 am

    Hi sue, I am not a fan of boxing and I haven’t read the Fight Club, but did see the film. My track led me to Insomnia by Stephen King; The Power of One by Bryce Courtenay, The Fight by Norman Mailer; Shadowboxing by Tony Birch, and I finished with Tarzan of the Apes by Edgar Rice Burroughs.

  6. February 4, 2019 9:45 pm

    It’s nice to Shaun Tan in your list. His books are wonderful.

  7. February 9, 2019 12:01 pm

    Oh that was fun! And such restraint not linking to anything Austen 😀

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  1. Six Degrees of Separation: From Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk, to … | ANZ LitLovers LitBlog

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