Six degrees of separation, FROM Are you there, Margaret … TO …

And so, suddenly, it’s December and the last Six Degrees post of the year. What will 2021 bring. This time last year we could never have imagined what 2020 was going to be for us. I hope we don’t have another one like it again, but … it’s not over yet isn it? Anyhow, on to this month’s Six Degrees of Separation meme.  But first, if you don’t know this meme and how it works, please check out meme host Kate’s blog – booksaremyfavouriteandbest.

The first rule is that Kate sets our starting book. This month, she’s chosen a book that’s celebrating its 50th birthday this year – Judy Blume’s Are you there God? It’s me Margaret! I haven’t read it, though I know that Judy Blume is a huge favourite with young adults, or was, in those early days of her writing when YA was a relatively new genre.

What to do? I could go with another book celebrating its 50th anniversary, or a YA novel, but I’m going to look at questions, specifically How, What, When, Where, Why and Who, though many of my titles aren’t actually questions. They just start with a word that often starts a question. Sorry, but you’ll have to live with that, and that the links are simply from one of these words to the next! (BTW See notesinthemargin’s last six degrees post on questions in titles.)

Book cover

So, HOW. Melissa Lucashenko’s essay (not Richard Llewellyn’s novel), “How green was my valley?” (my review) appeared in Griffith Review’s Hot Air issue. It’s an excellent essay that talks about climate change, indigenous Australian culture, and the possibilities of connection between Indigenous and settler Australians to save our country.

Book cover

WHAT. For “what” I go to a favourite writer whom I haven’t read for a while, Haruki Murakami. I love memoirs that aren’t quite memoirs, and Murakami’s What I talk about when I talk about running (my review) is such a book. It purports to be about his running, but you learn a lot more besides.

Book cover

WHEN. My next book is another memoir, but a traditional one this time, white Zimbabwean writer Peter Godwin’s When a crocodile eats the sun (my review). It’s a tough book about a tough place, Robert Mugabe’s Zimbabwe.

Book cover

WHERE. This was my biggest challenge, as I’ve not reviewed any book starting with “where”. I nearly cheated and used Helen Garner’s EveryWHERE I look, but then remembered that I had suggested to Kate that we start a Six Degrees chain with Maurice Sendak’s Where the wild things are, so, why not get more mileage out of that! Otherwise, I could have used Delia Owens’ Where the crawdads sing, which my reading group has scheduled for next year.

Book cover

WHY. One reason for not “cheating” with Helen Garner’s Everywhere I look, was that my “why” link was going to be Garner. It’s her powerful Walkely-award-winning essay, “Why she broke: the woman, her children and the lake” (my review). It appeared in The monthly in 2017, and is an interesting companion piece to her earlier longform work, This house of grief. (It doesn’t appear in Yellow notebook, which I’ve used here for its pic of Garner!)

Hartmann Wallis, Who said what exactly

WHO. Like my “How” choice, my “who” title is a real question, though the import of the question is possibly obscure. I’m talking Hartman Wallis’ Who said what, exactly? (my review). It’s a cheeky and challenging book, but, given this month’s starting book, I must share this line from one of the book’s poems:

‘Think about it God is dead 

Hmm … what would Judy Blume’s Margaret say?

So, exactly reversing my usual Six degrees posts, four of my six links here are by men. However, like last month, we have travelled a bit, to Australia, Japan, Africa and the USA. We have also considered, one way or another, quite a few questions, and have, somehow, returned to God. Seems like a good point on which to close this year’s Six degrees. Thanks, Kate, for another enjoyable set of starting books. All being well, I’ll be back in 2021.

Now, the usual: Have you read Are you there God? It’s me Margaret!? And, regardless, what would you link to?

50 thoughts on “Six degrees of separation, FROM Are you there, Margaret … TO …

  1. Hi Sue, I have read God, It’s me Margaret by Judy Blume, years ago. My links are The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver; Gilead by Marilynee Robinson; A Tale for the Time Being by Yukio Mishima; The Wonder by Emma Donaghue; Keeping Faith by Jody Picoult; and The Getting of Wisdom by Henry Handel Richardson

  2. What a novel (ha-ha) approach! It certainly prompted a wide-ranging response. I looked through my list of titles, and there’s not a single one that starts with “Why…” How odd.

  3. Niiiiice. This is an excellent take on the #6Degrees challenge this month! Some excellent questions, some excellent book titles. When a crocodile eats the sun caught my eye; it sounds like a folk tale, but understand that this is a tough book. Where the Wild Things Are is an excellent book, and I see Murakami (as usual) provides some food for thought with his twists and turns.
    ~Six Degrees Post

  4. 😁 Title is from last month…. (I’m being pedantic ’cause I can’t think of a good starter. And still being pedantic, this is really one degree repeated six times… You can tell I’m in a sour mood.)

    • Thanks Neil … I’ve done that a few times but I usually catch it very quickly! You can see how discombobulated I am these days. I really hope 2021 will be better – every whichway (except that it won’t bring my Mum back!)

      I see others play this meme, one degree repeated six times, so why not me for a change?

      PS I hope your mood improves soon 😉

      • LOL. And you all have it wrong! I’ve just never been sour enough to comment before. (The reason I dislike it is that I enjoy the chain of thinking that comes from a “proper” list. Though to be fair to you, you at least came up with six different links to the starter book. Some folk just repeat the same link, like “books on religion” or “titles that include ‘Margaret'”. That’s a real cop-out.)

        This meme is the one I love the most and hate the most. I love it because I enjoy seeing the creative links people come up with. I hate it because my already-long TBR list inevitably grows by three or four books!

        Hm. The sour mood is improving. If I get out of bed I can probably make it revert…

        • I am impressed that you can do this each month (so I guess you need to introduce some variety to stop getting bored), since I struggle to produce a chain every three or four months.

          I panicked after my last comment, were there many books with ‘Margaret’ in the title? A quick scurry through GoodReads assured me that there were, though I had to wade through numerous Margaret Atwoods to reach this conclusion (apart from her “The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher”).

        • I just like to have fun Neil. After all, my life isn’t dependent upon it, and if I can enjoy it myself and entertain my readers at the same time, I’m happy!

          Oh yes, one of the irritating things about GoodReads is that you don’t seem to be able to filter searches, so a search on a common name is going to be tedious.

  5. I wish I had thought of doing questions! The only one of these I know (besides Margaret, which I read at 12) is Where the Wild Things Are. I did have a funny HHR experience recently, however. In a graduate school class this summer I had an assignment to research renowned architect Henry Hobson Richardson, often referred to as HHR. I must have used the initials to describe my project to a friend because she promptly began telling me about Henry Handel Richardson novel she had always intended to read. I had not heard of her HHR or even known he was a she and was puzzled besides as mine had not written any fiction and has been dead since the 19th century.

    Here is my chain:

  6. It seems to me that I remember Young Adult shelves in our neighborhood library in the mid 1960s, though I didn’t quite understand what these were, and I didn’t read much from them. So was YA really new in 1970? In any case, no, I have never read any of Judy Blume’s books.

    Perhaps one could pick up the clue with “God”, without even touching on theology. but I like your notion of question words. So I offer the following, all of which I have read (the last only in part):

    Who Killed Roger Ackroyd? by Agatha Christie. I read it long ago–before Judy Blume’s book was published. (For those who don’t care for mysteries, Edmund Wilson’s essay “Who Cares Who Killed Roger Ackroyd?” is collected in The Bit Between My Teeth.)

    What Is Called Thinking? by Martin Heidegger. Or, if you prefer poetry to philosophy or anyone to Heidegger, What Are Years by Marianne Moore.

    Manhattan When I Was Young by Mary Cantwell, a memoir.

    Where the Bluebird Sings to the Lemonade Springs by Wallace Stegner, a collection of essays on the American West. (The title quotes the hobo song “The Big Rock Candy Mountain”–Stegner also wrote a novel of that name.)

    How to Do Things With Words by J.L. Austin, philosophy.

    “Why” is tricky. I can think of a couple of books with that word in the title, but I haven’t read them. Therefore I offer you the choice of Yeats’s poem “Why Should Not Old Men Be Mad?” or the book why’s (poignant) Guide to Ruby, of which I have read a little–“why”, or rather “why the lucky stiff” is the author (are we getting into Abbott and Costello country?) and Ruby is a programming language. This book is freely available online, but to make much progress in it, one probably needs prior experience in programming.

    • First, re Young Adult, George, I think the beginning of the modern Young Adult novel tends to be credited to SE Hinton’s The outsiders from 1967, so I think it’s probably fair enough to see at is still pretty new in 1970? I think, though, that it did take off quickly.

      I’m so glad you took the question approach too – it’s great seeing what someone else could make of it. And, I reckon that if I could include a couple of essays in mine, you could use a Yeats poem in yours. I love the sound of Stegner’s essay collection – what a great title. I’d love to read more of his. (I think I’ll give the Ruby one a miss though !)

      How are you faring in your next of the woods? Keeping safe I hope.

      • You’d probably enjoy Stegner’s book. Among the defining features of the American West covered are plenty of space and not much water, both of which I think must be readily found in Australia.

        I do not know the history of YA fiction. Still it seems to me that the library in northern Ohio did have a section called “Young Adult”. I could certainly be wrong, for I haven’t been in that library in more than fifty years.

        We are well, thanks, and hope that you are.

        • Yes, I think I would George… So much of the American west is familiar to Australians, with if course a lot not too!

          They may have been ahead of the game, recognising the need, and been including there books young people liked, like the classics?

          Glad you are fine. All ok here too.

    • Thanks George. Neil just told me too. I’ve done that too many times this year, but I usually catch it very early in the day. Not today, I didn’t. Darn it. I’m glad it didn’t put people off thinking it was a repeat post coming through!

  7. I love your approach to this month’s chain. I also used a question for my first link, then went in a completely different direction after that.

  8. I enjoyed your links and think the who, what, when, where, why theme worked well with the title. My school librarian got me started on Judy Blume books. There was a sense of belonging that came from reading Blume’s books. Her characters didn’t always fit in socially but things worked out okay for them.

  9. I do like this fun way of doing a chain. Of course I would say that given I have done something similar this month using pronouns and I have done questions before! lol

    I enjoyed your chain!

  10. To start with, a book with ‘Margaret’ in its title: The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher by Hilary Mantel. I have this in my TBR pile.

    Another title link, to The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwell. This I haven’t read, but I’m intrigued by the notion. I wonder how you would assassinate someone if you were blind? Poison? Strangulation? I’ll have to read the story and find out.

    To the third title link, The Blind Watchmaker by Richard Dawkins. This is another interesting notion, though I think that is the point Dawkins was trying to make (I’ve read about the book without reading it). Dawkins is talking about evolution.

    Another book about evolution, this time looking at fossils in the Burgess Shale, is Wonderful Life by Stephen Jay Gould. This I have read, though it is a little dry. In it, Gould mentions Vonnegut contacting him to understand the mechanics of evolution.

    He also mentions the relevant book, which I promptly read – Galápagos by Kurt Vonnegut.

    And to finish, the book that brought the islands into notice, The Voyage of the Beagle by Charles Darwin.

  11. Very clever list. I admire the way you put it together with the journalistic questions. Makes me want to go back and rework my list. Mine seems so simplistic by comparison. I’d be honored if you’d take a look. My 6-Degrees chain

  12. This is an ingenious approach. I never think about finding links based on words in the titles but sometimes that could be easier for me than trying to think of thematic links.

    • I like to mix it up Karen … words in titles, themes, characters, awards, setting, author names, or more personal to me things. The world’s our oyster in this meme I reckon – so I enjoy pushing boundaries sometimes!

  13. You are a slippery one when it comes to these posts! I have read Blume’s book way way back when I was 12 or so. I can’t say i remember much about it, only it had definite shock factor to read in a novel about stuff my own parents didn’t talk to me about. Blume’s books were an education, that’s for sure! I think I’d start with a link to a coming of age story, not sure what, there are so many to choose from!

  14. What would Margaret say to that question? I think she would hrumph and appear nonplussed. I think she figured something was up when her “I must, I must…” regimen wasn’t yielding the desired results. 😀

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