Six degrees of separation, FROM Alice’s adventures in Wonderland TO …

It is the first Saturday of the month again, which means it’s Six Degrees of Separation meme time. For those of you who don’t know what that is, please check our host Kate’s blog – booksaremyfavouriteandbest. It all starts with Kate setting a starting book.

Book coverThis month’s is a classic – the sort of book in fact which defines classic given its timelessness as a much loved book. It is, of course, given the post title, Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s adventures in Wonderland. And of course I have read it, though so so long ago that I really don’t recollect the actual time I read it because it’s one of those books that enters one’s consciousness isn’t it?

Charlotte Wood, The natural way of thingsFor my first link, I’m going to do something that might shock those of you who know the book, because I’m linking to Charlotte Wood’s dystopian novel, The natural way of things (my review). There is a clear link, though, and it is this – in both novels, a woman (in the first case) or women (in the second) suddenly find themselves in incomprehensible worlds. Unfortunately, though, in Wood’s novel, they end up eating rabbits! Hmm …

Book coverNow, not everyone approves of eating rabbits (or any animals for that matter). For Wood’s characters it was a matter of them or the rabbits, and they chose themselves. However, to be balanced about this, because, you know, we are supposed to be balanced here in Australia, my next link is to David Brooks’ animal rights reflection-cum-memoir, The grass library (my review).

Evie Wyld, All the birds, singingThe main animals in Brooks’ book are rescue sheep – two at first, then another, and finally a fourth. Sheep that desperately needed rescuing, because they are being mysteriously attacked, appear in Evie Wyld’s Miles Franklin award winning book, All the birds, singing (my review).

Mateship with Birds (Courtesy: Pan MacMillan)Birds of all sorts feature in All the birds, singing, as they also do in Carrie Tiffany’s Stella prize winning novel, Mateship with birds (my review). The main birds she features are a family of kookaburras, but there are also owls, magpies, wrens, and more.

Book coverFor Indigenous Australians, birds have many meanings and values, one of which is as messengers. We were introduced to this, practically, during our Arnhem Land trip last year, but birds-as-messengers feature in Tony Birch’s latest novel, The white girl (my review). “A morning doesn’t pass without one of them speaking to me”, says Odette. I love this.

Book coverAnd now, because all my links to this point have involved animals, I am going to stick with animals. However, for this last link, I’m going for a double shot and am linking on indigenous author too. The book is I saw we saw written and illustrated by the Yolngu students of Nhulunbuy Primary School (my review). The book features many animals that are part of these children’s lives – including birds, like eagles, chickens, seagulls and kingfishers, but other animals too, like whales, dogs and crocodiles.

So, for this month’s meme I’ve done two things I’ve not done before (as far as I remember anyhow): every link involves animals in some way, and we haven’t left Australia. It’s not the way I intended it to be when I started, but that’s the fun of this meme. You never know where you might take yourself!

Finally, before we leave the birds, let me put in a plug for the Australian Bird of the Year poll being run by The Guardian (and sent to me by M-R of MRSMRS blog.) If you love birds and want to take part in the fun, give it a go. The first round closes on 8 November. Regardless of whether you vote, do check out the poll for the often entertaining bird descriptions, such as this for the Sulphur-crested Cockatoo:

Gregarious, brash and not averse to a little mischief, is there another bird that better embodies the Aussie larrikin spirit? Shame about your timber decking, though.

And now, my usual questions: Have you read Alice’s adventures in Wonderland (or is this a silly question)? And, regardless, what would you link to? 

50 thoughts on “Six degrees of separation, FROM Alice’s adventures in Wonderland TO …

  1. From Alice to I Saw We Saw – this is a most charming six degrees. (I am not very secretly hoping to be bird of the year.) As for people who have and have not read Alice – I find that in many cases the text has been such a fundamental classic for so long that many people – many people – have never read the original books. It is so much a part of ‘western’ culture that its elements have perhaps become so recognisable they have long ago cut loose from their moorings. I was fortunate as a child in that my elocution teacher prescribed A in W as a text to be learned by heart and presented orally on demand.

    • Haha Carmel. You never know.

      I like that description of Alice having been cut loose from its/her bearings. I was trying to think I of a way to make that point succinctly.

      Learnt by heart? Wunderbar!

  2. This is a bee-yooty, ST ! – weird and wonderful links, entirely meeting the criterion !
    Not only have I read Alice, I can recite most of the poems; and my head is full of quotes from either Alice or Through the Looking-Glass. I and my four sisters were raised on both (inter plura alia); and I suspect my parents could come up with more quotes than could any of us. Alice and The Magic Pudding were our bibles, I believe. 😀

  3. My father read Alice to my sister and me so often that it was deeply embedded in our family culture. So my first move is sideways to Through the Looking Glass and the white knight (‘it’s an invention of my own’) – even as a pre-schooler I could see that he and my beloved father had a bit in common. The white knight leads me to another eccentric lover of nature – Merlin in TH White’s The Sword in the Stone. And that leads me to Sylvia Townsend Warner’s wonderful biography of TH White. Most roads lead to ST Warner for me! So that leads me to Claire Harman’s biography of Sylvia. And that leads me to some of my all time favourite short stories – ST Warner’s – many to choose from, but Kingdoms of Elfin is a great collection of earthy bad tempered fairies who would be right at home in Lewis Carroll’s writing.
    What a lovely exercise. Thank you!

  4. Just managing to keep up with the slew of online reading events ATM here’s my #6Degrees and I swear it’s just by accident that they’re all women authors…

    I love your links especially the way you so cunningly brought in The Grass Library. I did so love that book:)

    BTW I’ve only just started it, and if my reading life gets any more messy I may not get time to finish it, but Jane Sullivan’s Story Time, Growing up with Books features A in W in the first chapter:)

    • Funny, eh, how that happens – yours all women, mine all Australian.

      There are too many events at the moment. I can’t keep up. I’ll probably, as I have in the last couple of years, concatenate Non-fiction November into a couple of posts. I do like non-fiction so want to post on it.

      • Well, I’m not going to stress over it, It’s suited me to do what I’ve done so far, and I like NFN because I go to the NF Litfest in Geelong each year, but the rest of it, well, I’ll just muddle along reading in my usual impulsive way and see what happens!

  5. Hi Sue, I like your links, but unlike you I thought of ‘Alice novels’. I love Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, and I think it is still a favourite for many young readers. My grandsons inherited my Alice books when they were young. My links are: Still Alice by Lisa Genova; Alice to Nowhere by Evan Green; Alice to Prague by Tanya Heaslip; Alice by Christina Henry. and After Alice by Gregory Maguire;

    • It’s not surprising Meg, that you thought of Alice novels. I must say that I only know Still Alice of those you name. How can there be so many!! When I thought of going the Alice way, I had more authors than titles.

    • Thanks Brian … and yes, I love the bird of the year idea. What would you vote for in your area if you had such a poll? I only know a few of your eastern USA birds, but what I did know I really enjoyed. Woodpeckers for example, the gorgeous cardinal, the tufted titmouse, the nuthatch. Such fun to learn about them.

    • Thanks Mary. It probably works more that way for you than for us non-US bloggers as we do see a lot more about American books than you would of our smaller countries… But it still works the way you say for me… particularly with bloggers from the non-US countries!

  6. Lovely! “Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast” has always been my favourite line from Alice, so my next link would go to Breakfast at Tiffany’s.

  7. When I think of Alice, I think of the Jabberwocky (and yes, I know this is in Through the looking glass). So then I think of other favourite nonsense poems, and The Owl and the Pussycat (Edward Lear) springs to mind. (And yes, I know this is only a poem, not a book, but I’m taking liberties today.) So then I think of Just So Stories (Rudyard Kipling), and in particular The Cat That Walked By Himself. Another leap, to “I Am Papa Snap and These are my Favourite No Such Stories (Tomi Ungerer). This is a little different, so here’s a link
    I had this, but foolishly dispensed with it, a move I much regret. Now we’re going totally silly, so, keeping in the cartoon style, The Sandman, Neil Gaiman. Let’s try to get our feet back on earth with Gaiman’s Stardust. And finally, sticking with the fantasy, and because both authors have Polish ancestry, Naomi Novik’s Spinning Silver. Some of those are childhood favourites, some are much more recent, but I’ve read all, except the Sandman series, where I’ve read three or four of the series.

    • Excellent links Neil. I love how our interests and loves come out in our links … I think liberties can be taken with poems and stories. I reckon it just has to be literature. BTW Remember how I bought Spinning silver for my daughter feeling confident that she’d like it? She was thrilled, but with my knowing her so well – she’d already read it and loved it!!

      • Thanks for the note about your daughter. I was going to ask.

        By the way, how do I get italics in my post. I’ll try this. If it works, no need to respond 😁

      • We discussed Spinning Silver at book club tonight, my selection. I asked everyone to read a passage that caught their fancy. So each person set the context, read the passage, and then explained why they selected it. Then there was general discussion. By the time we had worked through the eight of us present, the hour was up. Easiest discussion I’ve ever led!

        • Yes, I gave them a month’s warning, and a reminder a week before. Everyone came prepared bar one, who found a passage but didn’t bookmark it, and subsequently couldn’t refind it. She paraphrased her passage. The technique only works on some books, but then it works very well.

        • Hm. I can waffle a bit. The book should be “meaty”. Helps if the writing is lyrical, so there are little pictures popping up. Lots of characters and viewpoints – so lots of variety for people to chose from. I think it would work well with Jane Austen 😃 Probably best with fiction. And as you say, after the event you’ll know if it worked! It is actually an interesting process, because each person gains ownership of their segment, so everyone ends up involved.

        • That all makes sense Neil … I mist suggest it to my group. We don’t have discussion leaders any more, but I know some love to share quotes so this idea might appeal – and add some structure to usual first impressions practice.

  8. If you’ll allow links to poems as literature, I guess my chain is really seven long, with the first link from Alice to Jabberwocky.

  9. Yes, I have read A in W and Through the Looking Glass. I have occasionally wondered whether Carroll’s dream sequences, which seem so plausible, have affected my recollection of my dreams.

    Anyway: degree 1 is the Greek-English Lexicon compiled in part by Alice’s father, and known commonly by his name and that of his collaborator as “Liddell and Scott”.

    Degree 2, as combining more immediately fantasy and lexicography is Grimm’s Fairy Tales, since the Grimm brothers also compiled an immense, learned dictionary of German.

    Degree 3, leaving out the fantasy, is Caught in the Web of Words: James Murray and the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary by Elizabeth Murray, granddaughter of James.

    Degree 4 is Vanity Fair since early in the action Becky Sharp hurls her copy of Johnson’s dictionary out a coach window.

    Degree 5 is The Dictionary of Received Ideas by Flaubert–not really lexicographical, but by a considerable author.

    Degree 6 is Under the Greenwood Tree by Thomas Hardy. Robert Graves claims that Hardy once consulted the OED to check on a word, and found that the only citation offered was from one of his earlier novels. (I’m pretty sure that Graves named neither word nor novel.)

    Degree 7 is Sweet’s Anglo-Saxon Reader, since it tells you what got written in Wessex when it was occupied by West Saxons.

    Degree 6

    • Oh, beautifully set out George. I love the dictionary related thread. I particularly love the Vanity Fair one, and also Thomas Hardy looking up a word and finding the only citation his. I’d love to know if that were true, but, regardless, it’s a good story!

  10. I love the linkage of the animals!

    I am acquaintances with a number of Australian cyclists I am certain they will not be voting for magpie as bird of the year!

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