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Six degrees of separation, FROM Murmur TO …

June 1, 2019

And still it continues, and by this I mean my unbroken record this year of not having read the Six Degrees of Separation meme starting book. Who is to blame for this parlous state of affairs? Not me, of course – haha – but our meme leader Kate! I forgive her, though, and direct you to her blog – booksaremyfavouriteandbest – for the meme’s rules. Fortunately, you can trust that I’ve read my selections in the chain.

Book coverSo, this month’s starting book is Will Eaves’ Murmur. Not only have I not read it, but I had never heard of it. It is apparently inspired by the life of the mathematician Alan Turing, who among other things was instrumentally involved in Britain’s cypher-breaking work at Bletchley Park during World War 2.Lesley Lebkowicz, The Petrov Poems

It’s a bit of a stretch, perhaps, but from here I’m going to link to Lesley Lebkowicz’s historical fiction verse novel, The Petrov poems (my review). It tells the story of the Petrovs, who were Russian spies operating in Canberra during the earlier years of the Cold War. Early in his career, Vladimir Petrov was a cypher clerk!

Ali Cobby Eckermann, Ruby MoonlightMy next link moves to form, not content. It’s Ali Cobby Eckermann’s verse novel, Ruby Moonlight (my review), which is, in fact, another historical fiction work, though not based on “real people. It’s about an Aboriginal teenage girl, Ruby Moonlight, whose family is massacred by white settlers, and who, in her lonely wanderings, meets another lonely person, Miner Jack.

Chinua Achebe, Things fall apart

Ruby Moonlight’s subtitle is “a novel of the impact of colonisation in mid-north South Australia around 1880”. Another novel about the impact of colonisation, but this one set in Africa, is the modern classic, Chinua Achebe’s Things fall apart (my review). It’s rather different from Eckermann’s book, but it also offers a thoughtful rather than simplistic exploration of how colonialism can play out.

Sefi Atta, A bit of differenceChinua Achebe is Nigerian – though he wrote in English. Another Nigerian writer I’ve reviewed here, and who also writes in English, is Sefi Atta with her novel A bit of difference (my review). It is set in England, though, and its subject matter is very different. Its protagonist is an accountant at an international charitable foundation. Her job is to audit the organisations that receive its grants.

Jordan Fall GirlGrants provide the link to my next novel, Toni Jordan’s chick lit novel, Fall girl (my review). It’s about a young woman con artist trying to extract grant money from a young man representing his wealthy family’s trust. (Though, as is the way of cons, all is not as it seems.)

Cover for Amor Towles A gentleman in MoscowNow, if you are a reader who keeps an eye on the publishing environment, you’ve probably seen the discussions in recent years about book covers featuring women’s backs or headless women (of which Fall girl, in fact, has both). I’ve reviewed a couple of other novels featuring the backs of women, but I also have one featuring a man’s back, so rather than perpetuate anonymous women, I’m choosing the man! Hence, I give you Amor Towles’ A gentleman in Moscow (my review)!

I had fun with this challenge, partly because it took me a little more time than usual to get it going. However, I love that we’ve been to England, Australia, Nigeria and Russia. Four of my six writers are women – not unusual for my chain – and three are writers of colour, which pleases me.

Have you read Murmur? Would you recommend it, and, regardless, what would you link to? 

36 Comments leave one →
  1. Jim KABLE permalink
    June 1, 2019 11:50 am

    WG: Might I suggest six writers of colour in your chain – three of pinkish hue? In all my years in Japan I became used to hearing myself described as “white” and those so doing referencing themselves as “yellow”! (Memories of “Red, yellow black and white, all are precious in His sight, etc”) I used to laugh – and pull back my sleeve – and put my skin against theirs – not much difference really – though mine was Pink – not White! Their skin pretty much like that of my Olive-complexioned little brother – in fact – and a resemblance I drew to their attention. The post-war Occupation of Japan was largely a US-dominated matter and the language of racial difference came in loud and clear to the Japanese from that official sector – and did not move forward – as the age of feminism and understanding of racist terminology did – in the rest of the English-speaking world. I am sitting at Bucharest Airport – flying to Porto via München in an hour-and-a-half – it is 4.50 a.m.

    • June 1, 2019 3:50 pm

      You are remarkably rational for 4.50am Jim. I take your point of course. What I meant was three writers of very different backgrounds to my own Anglo one. Terminology is very tricky these days, and yet if need to do something to make sure we recognise and enjoy diversity don’t we?

  2. George permalink
    June 1, 2019 11:52 am

    Well, you could link Murmur to “The Cinderella Book” (Hopcroft and Ullman’s Introduction to Automata Theory, Languages, and Computation), but though it does deal (in depth) with Turing machines, it is slow going, is dry, and offers only so many links onward. Or you could link it to Hugh Kenner’s The Stoic Comedians, which gives some pages to Turing, Turing machines, and the Turing test, and which as dedicated to literature offers many onward links.

    • June 1, 2019 3:55 pm

      First, lovely to hear from you again George. I love your suggestions, particularly the first one. Sounds like a cure for insomnia to me! Love the title of the second one.

      Funnily, I drafted this post on Thursday, and on Thursday night I went to a one-woman show, Ada Ada Ada, about Ada Lovelace. At one point she mentioned that Ada’s work was lost/forgotten for about a century, until Turing referred to her in a paper! I love those coincidences.

      • George permalink
        June 1, 2019 9:43 pm

        Now, there would be another way to branch off: Turing -> Babbage -> Ada Lovelace -> Byron.

        Did the show mention the programming language Ada, developed at great expense for the U.S. Department of Defense? It never took off to the degree the DoD hoped, but remains in use for avionics and other software that requires high reliability.

        • June 2, 2019 9:03 am

          Absolutely yes, she (the actor who wrote the show) did, George, including the fact that it’s still used. I knew about the language, back in the 80s, which is when I first properly heard of Lovelace. But I didn’t know it was still in use. I think she mentioned mobile technology as one of its applications?

  3. June 1, 2019 12:07 pm

    Love the last link, love it to bits!

    • June 1, 2019 3:55 pm

      Oh thanks so much Lisa – I really had fun coming up with that so I’m glad you enjoyed it.

  4. June 1, 2019 2:22 pm

    I read “Things Fall Apart” in High School, and although I never wrote a book review for it for my blog, I remember it very well. Glad it got into one of these chains.

    • June 1, 2019 3:56 pm

      Thanks Davida, and welcome. I guess we don’t often revisit school books in our blogs do we, unless we decide to read them again. It is a memorable book isn’t it?

      • June 1, 2019 6:37 pm

        Yes. I remember very clearly the classroom discussions we had on the book, and learning the term “ethnocentric” which has stuck with me for over 40 years!

        • June 1, 2019 8:13 pm

          That’s impressive Davida. Actually, I remember one particular word from school too. It’s “peristalsis” from my science teacher who would walk around the room, moving her arms in an undulating way and saying “you’ll never forget peristalsis”. I never have!

  5. June 1, 2019 2:58 pm

    I haven’t read Murmur or any of the books on your list this month. So many books it the world and so little time. I have read Jordan’s Addition though. I would agree with your review which is maybe why I did not seek out Fall girl.

    • June 1, 2019 4:04 pm

      I completely understand Kathryn, they’re fun reads, but I think her later books are more meaty, though I’ve only read one, Nine days.

      • June 1, 2019 10:18 pm

        I agree about the depth of Toni Jordan’s later novels (‘Nine Days’ is a favourite & ‘The Fragments’ is wonderful, too), but I reckon the scene set in Wilson’s Promontory in ‘Fall Girl’ is among the funniest in Australian fiction.

        • June 2, 2019 9:06 am

          True, it was a good scene, Angela. I think it’s Jordan’s somewhat off-beat humour that makes the two chicklit novels good reads, isn’t it?

  6. June 1, 2019 6:12 pm

    I hadn’t read Murmur either, but found it quite easy to link to since I am a big admirer of Turing.

    I really want read A Gentleman in Moscow, you wrote a great review of it.

    • June 1, 2019 8:10 pm

      Thanks very much Stargazer. It was a tricky review to write – such an interesting book.

  7. June 1, 2019 6:45 pm

    This time I have read one of the books in your chain – Things Fall Apart! Your chains always interest me, tantalising me with books I haven’t heard of let alone read.

  8. Meg permalink
    June 1, 2019 7:27 pm

    Hi Sue, I have not read Murmur, and like you knew nothing about it. I just read Machines Like Me by Ian McEwan. Alan Turing is mentioned in this novel but I didn’t link him with Murmur, and now I think I should have. My links were from Murmur to Speak, Memory by Vladimir Nabokov; Talking to My Country by Stan Grant; Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris; Silent Spring by Rachel Carson; Lanny by Max Porter, and the Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker

  9. June 1, 2019 9:32 pm

    Ha! Love your last link.

    As it happens, I SHOULD have read Gentleman by now – my book group read it earlier this year and because I knew I couldn’t make it to that meeting, I didn’t read the book (I was legitimately busy with Stella Prize reading at the time!).

    • June 2, 2019 8:48 am

      Haha, Kate, I guess that’s legitimate!!! For me though reading group books are absolute number one priorities. Sorry Stella, love you, but that’s the way it is!

      BTW, do try to read it.

  10. June 1, 2019 10:46 pm

    Ooh a verse novel! The Petrov Poems sounds very interesting and I love poetry so it might be a good book for Muse & Views that is out of our comfort zone. And of course we all loved A Gentleman in Moscow. It won Best Book of the Year at Muse & Views last year.

    • June 2, 2019 9:10 am

      How great if you did The Petrov poems Muse! I’ve read a few Aussie verse novels and have enjoyed them, they’re not as much of a challenge as they sound.

      My group did Towles’ book this year, but we’ve had a strong year so far, so it will be interesting to see what comes out in our voting this year.

  11. June 1, 2019 10:52 pm

    Just looked The Petrov Poems up at our public library and national chain bookstore. I am going to have a hard time finding it I think. Is it possible it was published only on Kindle?

    • June 2, 2019 9:16 am

      No, it was also published in print… That’s what I read, but by a small publisher. It might be best to email them about availability overseas.

      You can buy it directly from them, but postage makes it expensive, though I don’t know about your dollar? It’s available electronically but NOT Kindle! https://pittstreetpoetry.com/book/the-petrov-poems/

  12. June 2, 2019 5:42 am

    I haven’t read Murmur, and I’m not likely to, though I’m familiar with Turing from the movie about his life The Imitation Game, which I thought was good.
    Naturally my chain turned out differently:)

  13. June 3, 2019 12:54 pm

    Another very creative and very interesting set of connections. Out of the books that you choose, I have only read Things Fall Apart. Your post has gotten me thinking of verse novels. I need to give one a try.

    • June 3, 2019 3:31 pm

      Haha, Bruce, I thought there’d be a good chance people will have read that.

      If you’ve never read a verse novel, I suggest you do give one a go, but you need to find one that is in a style (genre?) that interests you.

  14. buriedinprint permalink
    June 6, 2019 1:46 am

    I’ve not paid close attention to Murmur either but I did really enjoy the English television series, “The Bletchley Circle” which focussed on the women in the group (and less about their code-breaking and more about how they applied their analytical thinking and other skills to other matters as time passed). It must be a different kind of fun, to find this meme a slower start, forcing/requiring a different kind of angle to get through the beginning when the instigator is unfamiliar.

    Am in agreement with you, that it’s important to acknowledge that there are writers of colour in our stacks and on our shelves. In theory, of course it’s true that there are six colours, as is observed above, but without drawing attention to the fact that the publishing industry has not afforded writers of particular colours equal access to publication, we risk perpetuating an old habit of whitewashing.

    • June 6, 2019 9:04 am

      Oh yes, we’ve had The Bletchley Circle here too. I enjoyed the English set ones more than the American ones though they’ve been interesting too.

      Totally agree with you re acknowledging writers of certain colours for the reasons you say.

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