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Six degrees of separation, FROM The dry TO …

May 4, 2019

Well, my record for 2019’s Six Degrees of Separation meme continues, that is, I still haven’t read a starting book! By comparison, last year I’d read three of the first five (which may have been a record in the opposite direction!) However, I have always read the books in my chain. And now before I share my chain, the formalities, which are simple:  if you don’t know the rules of the meme, please click on meme leader Kate’s blog name – booksaremyfavouriteandbest – and you will find them.

Book cover of Jane Harper's The DrySo, this month’s starting book is Jane Harper’s The dry, a book which got her career off to a rip-roaring start, and that’s been followed by two more, Force of nature and The lost man. These are all in the crime genre, I believe, which is not a genre I gravitate to.

Book coverThere are some books that “everyone” reads, but that I don’t, for various reasons, usually to do with genre. Occasionally though, something happens to change my mind. This may happen one day with The Dry, but for today’s post, I’m choosing Vicki Laveau-Harvie’s The erratics (my review), which won this year’s Stella Prize. It had not been on my TBR list, but winning the prize tipped it over … and, of course, I’m glad it did.

Emma Ayres, CadenceNow, The erratics was written by an Australian-based writer who was born in Canada. Another memoir written by an Australian-based writer who was born elsewhere (this time, England) is Emma (now Eddie) Ayres’ Cadence: Travels with music (my review). This is a travel memoir in which Ayres cycled from England to Hong Kong with her violin.

Linda Neil, All is given, coverSticking with memoirs, though I promise we’ll leave them soon, I’m choosing another travel memoir with a music focus, Linda Neil’s All is given: A memoir in songs (my review). Neil describes her travels in the usual and unusual places, the songs she wrote and how music helped her make connections she may never have made otherwise.

Melissa Lucashenko, Too Much LipAnd now, finally, we move onto fiction! Neil’s book came to me as a review copy from the wonderful UQP (the University of Queensland Press). The most recent book I reviewed from them is Melissa Lucashenko’s Too much lip (my review). It’s another excellent book from UQP, which has a marvellous track record in publishing indigenous Australian writers.

Oh, oh! I’m back to memoirs! You would think from this post that memoirs comprise the bulk of my reading! Not so. Just under 8% of my reviews are for memoirs. ‘Nuff said? Now, on with the chain … Lucashenko is the most recent indigenous Australian author I’ve read and reviewed. The first book by an indigenous Australian author that I read for my blog was Boori Monty Pryor’s Maybe tomorrow (my review), in June 2009, just one month into my blog.

Anita Heiss Paris DreamingBoori Monty Pryor was an author ambassador in Australia’s 2012 National Year of Reading program. Many authors from around Australia were nominated as ambassadors, but I’m going to end this chain on another indigenous Australian author who was one of these ambassadors, Anita Heiss. You’ll be pleased to know, however, that although I’ve read a memoir by her, one that came out in 2012 no less, I’m going to choose her novel, Paris dreaming (my review), because I heard her speak about it at the Canberra Readers Festival in 2012. Fair enough?

Hmmm … we’ve been everywhere this month, starting in Canada, then travelling all over the globe with Ayres and Neil, before landing in Australia, albeit ending on a foray to Paris with the Aussie protagonist of our last book. And for those who like chains to end in circles, you may like to know that the author of my opening book, The erratics, lived in France, before moving to Australia!

… over to you: Have you read The dry? And, regardless, what would you link to? 

30 Comments leave one →
  1. Meg permalink
    May 4, 2019 10:41 am

    Hi Sue, I have read the Dry and I think your link to Erratics is so appropriate. My links links were The Year of the Farmer (same as Kate’s); Resurrection Bay by Emma Viskic; An Isolated Incidence by Emily Maguire; The White Earth by Andrew McGahan; The Tree of Man by Patrick White; and another one of Jane Harper’s The Lost Man.

    • May 4, 2019 4:32 pm

      Thanks Meg – great minds, eh, with Kate. I can see the link. I’ve been out all day and am at the National Library now so will read hers this evening.

  2. May 4, 2019 11:01 am

    I’m going to be struggling to do mine this month… maybe there will be a scrap of time tomorrow.
    In the meantime, only 8% of your reading is memoir? That surprised me, because I tend to think of you as reading quite a lot of them. I’ve obviously got the wrong impression. I decided to check my percentage too, and it’s not so far off yours, 6.5%…
    I had a discomfiting little convo recently with an author who asked me to review her book, and when I explained that I was inundated with new fiction (which is true, so many good books this year!) I got in reply a little pep-talk about the virtues of creative NF and memoir in particular. It made me think, do we LitBloggers reach a stage somehow where there is an expectation that we will read & review whatever is in the zeitgeist whether it’s what we prefer to read or not?

    • May 4, 2019 6:24 pm

      Haha, Lisa, yes, in fact only 7.7%. I suspect your feeling comes from the fact that for some reason I read a lot of memoirs in 2016 and 2017. In each of those two years I read more than double the number I read in almost every other year. I have read three this year so far, one of those being Anita Heiss’s Growing up Aboriginal in Australia.

      Hmm, what an interesting conversation! I don’t know the answer to your question, but I do think that particularly in this time of decreasing literary review pages in traditional media that authors are suffering from lack of public responses to their work. A publisher wrote to me recently, that even though one of their books was shortlisted for an award, it got almost no exposure in the mainstream media and how disappointing that is for authors.

      However, one of the things about being an independent blogger is that, regardless of the virtues of one form or author or whatever, we can review what we want to, and I’d politely tell the author that. But, perhaps, you could see it as a credit to you that that author sees you as having such a role in Australia’s literary culture that they expect you to be across the lot!!

      • May 4, 2019 10:30 pm

        I confess to feeling mildly peeved when I hear these comments about the ‘mainstream media’ as if it’s the only media that counts. Authors get reviewed now more than they ever did, at Goodreads, Library Thing, and well, ok, Amazon reviews are a bit dubious, but then there are all the bloggers out there, reviewing their hearts out. Translated fiction is a classic example: it is very, very rarely reviewed in the ‘mainstream media’ but, Stu leading the way, and now others following all over the world, you can find reviews of translated fiction all over the place. Reviews from outside the US and UK rarely get noticed in the ‘mainstream media’ either, so we look online for reviews from Canada, New Zealand, and all of the countries in Africa. And although it’s not my thing or yours, genres that never got reviewed at all now have homes online: romance, crime, SF & SpecFic, probably Westerns too, for all I know.
        Yes, the quality of online reviewing varies, but it does in the print media too. There is some really terrible reviewing in The Australian, and some of the short reviews in the SMH aren’t worthy of the name, far inferior to the best of the reviewers that we can follow at Goodreads or on a blog.
        But still this view persists, and the Stella crowd and their silly stats are one of the worst, that an author’s prestige depends on getting reviewed in a newspaper or literary journal that hardly anybody reads any more anyway.

        • May 5, 2019 2:17 am

          I agree, of course, at least partly with what you say, and particularly about the wealth of online reviews for genre and niche (like translated) fiction – but I think there are many many poor online reviews. There’s a reason you and I prefer not to read self-published books – it’s because we like to read works that have had some level of professional assessment and editing. I can understand people seeing blogs versus mainstream media in the same light, given blogs tend to be self-published. I’d like to think that many of us are developing good reviewing skills with time and practice, but I can understand uncertainty about them. It takes quite a bit of time and effort to suss out the ones that meet your reading/criticism needs.

          The main thing that I wonder about print media and blogs is numbers. We know how many people “hit” individual posts (though we don’t know how many of these read them of course, nor how many might read the email and not click through.) But, how many people read reviews in print media? I think that’s part of the issue too re why mainstream media is still looked to. How many people buy the SMH on Saturdays and how many read the reviews versus how many read a review by a blogger? (Hmm, a quick Google search retrieved that SMH had 5 million readers in July 2018! That’s a lot, over 160,000 per day, but it’s probably more for the Saturday editions. I can’t compete with that – yet, anyhow, haha!)

          Anyhow, my point was that it might have been recognition of the value of blogs that made that author “lecture” you!! S/he saw you as having clout and wanted to state her case! Certainly, many of the small publishers, at least, value reviews from bloggers, don’t they?

        • May 5, 2019 5:04 am

          Yes, the small publishers definitely appreciate what we do. But I wasn’t really thinking of my own blog, or yours, just the principle of it….
          5 million readers of the SMH BTW doesn’t mean that they are reading the reviews, probably far from it. They’re reading the front page, and the gossip. And newspapers don’t have the longevity of a good blog review. I’ve got readers looking at reviews that are 6 years old and more, and I bet you have too.
          My point is that it’s not possible to make judgements about one over the other, and that people who do, who ignore the blogging scene because it’s hard to count, just look old-fashioned and fuddy-duddy.

        • May 5, 2019 9:20 am

          Yes, I understand you meant the principle. Sorry if I didn’t make that clear.

          And I think I notes that we don’t know how many actually read the reviews, but I T would be more than those who read mine! I nearly mentioned the longevity on blogs too, but felt I was writing another essay. And, it occurred to me that with the net and systems like Trove, print media’s reviews (because they are online too) are increasing in longevity (not all are behind pay walls, and as you know paywalls are often lifted a free time).

          BTW, I know that some researchers are researching this area. There have been papers on it… And I know at least one has plans to do more though I’m not sure how it’s going at present. I can’t wait to see the outcomes… And you’ll be interested too I know.

        • May 5, 2019 9:47 am

          Yes, one of those researchers contacted me a while ago…last year, maybe the year before. I have no idea what his methodology will be, given the messiness of the online scene. Which is what I like about it:)

        • May 5, 2019 10:08 am

          Me too, though mine was a woman! A few are out there then, which is not surprising.

          Yes the messiness is part of the charm I agree … And also the challenge for users, practitioners, and researchers!

        • May 5, 2019 10:16 am

          Ha ha, a PhD in getting lost in the web!

  3. May 4, 2019 5:24 pm

    I do not have the mental agility to do 6 Degrees…it just never gels. But I do like to read your
    book connections!
    Read The Dry — still cannot het The Erratics — must first read Eddie Ayres’ Danger Music (on Kindle — Read Too Much Lip — never heard of Linda Neil (blind date book?) — must read Maybe Tomorrow (author looks like he as a lot to say) and Anita Heiss (read her most recent book)…now Paris? I’m curious.

    • May 4, 2019 6:36 pm

      Paris dreaming, Nancy, is one of her “choc lit” novels.

      I’m sure you have the mental agility Nancy, but I’m glad you enjoy mine!

  4. May 4, 2019 8:23 pm

    Wow, some great sounding books here for me to check out, once again all new to me. Thanks.

  5. May 5, 2019 3:36 am

    I enjoyed The Dry, I’ve read most of the books by Anita Heiss, though not her latest for which she was honoured. Both The Erratics, and Too Much Lip are on my TBR list.
    Thanks for sharing your chain.

    PS. I was a Love2Read ambassador in 2012 too 🙂

    • May 5, 2019 9:11 am

      Thanks Shelleyrae. It’s nice to have actually read one books in someone’s chain isn’t it, just like it’s nice to hear about new books. Thanks for reminding me about being an ambassador. I remember that now. 😁

  6. May 5, 2019 1:26 pm

    I am keen to read Too Much Lip. As an aside, being an author your conversation about reviews was interesting. There are so many ways our work can be reviewed these days.(Not that is necessarily easy) But I wonder if the people who read the Goodreads reviews ever read the reviews in ‘mainstream’ media? Are they different readers? At the end the day, the Goodreads review and the blogger’s review are there forever. The review in the newspaper is used to light the fire.

  7. May 5, 2019 4:05 pm

    Once again I haven’t read any of these books! But I think I know why, apart from the fact that I’ve not read many books by Australian authors, I read a lot of crime fiction – I seem to gravitate to it more and more these days and I see that you don’t. I do enjoy memoirs but they only make up a small percentage of my reading – so far this year it’s just under 10%.

    • May 5, 2019 6:38 pm

      Yes, you’re right, Margaret, usually more than half of my chain books are Aussie writers (and this time it’s even more) and I read very little crime. I watch crime on TV but like to read different “stuff”! Your memoir percentage is a little higher than mine, but close. Clearly we are not the demographic for memoirs eh?

  8. May 5, 2019 10:54 pm

    I was surprised that 8% of your reading is memoir – I had the impression it was more. Out of curiosity, I had a look back at my last few years – my memoir-reading is around 17%, which feels about right.

    Despite reading nearly all of the Stella long and short lists, the gap was Too Much Lip – I will get to it at some stage, for completeness, but I just ran out of steam this year!

    • May 6, 2019 12:00 am

      Interesting that the impression is different than the fact! But I’m sure all my tagging is correct, and if it is, that’s the result. Several years I’ve only read 3 or 4 memoirs. I am of course distinguishing them from biographies, which are counted separately.

  9. May 6, 2019 3:33 am

    I like memoirs, in particular travel memoirs – I find them so inspirational. I have not read any of the ones in your chain, but Travels with Music sounds interesting.

    • May 6, 2019 8:54 am

      I like certain memoirs Stargazer too, and particularly agree with you re travel memoirs. I came to them relatively late, well, in my late 30’s.think, but I now like them. I think general memoirs can be inspirational, but they can also start to feel formulaic. I guess while I like good stories I also like provocative writing. Some memoirists aren’t really writers. I’d probably prefer to hear their inspirational stories in an interview. Does that make sense?

      • May 7, 2019 3:39 am

        That makes perfect sense. A good travel memoir definitely requires more than interesting travel experiences. Ideally good observation skills, humour, edge and ability to engage readers is also present. Because I love reading about foreign places, I am perhaps a tad more generous with travel writers compared to other literature.

        • May 7, 2019 8:21 am

          Exactly – and I think it’s perfectly ok to be a tad more generous about something you love!

  10. May 7, 2019 6:02 am

    Just pulling out the memoirs left and right this round! I don’t read crime either and I know nothing about this book. Running off to look at a summary I would have probably tried to come up with a book about a small town or a book about someone returning home who has been away for a while. Oh! I know! The Odyssey! Then after that the possibilities are endless 🙂

    • May 7, 2019 8:38 am

      Ha ha Stefanie, the Odyssey! That’s a good’un. I haven’t seen anyone do that link, but I like your thinking.

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