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Six degrees of separation, FROM Eats shoots and leaves TO …

July 3, 2021

Now we come to July, and we Aussies have one month of winter under our belt. Woo hoo! But, enough weather report, onto our Six Degrees of Separation meme. If you don’t know how it works, please check out meme host Kate’s blog – booksaremyfavouriteandbest.

The first rule, as most of you know, is that Kate sets our starting book – and this month it’s a book I’ve read, albeit long before blogging. It’s Lynne Truss’s Eats shoots and leaves, whose subtitle, “The zero tolerance approach to punctuation”, tells you its subject.

As always, I had many thoughts about where to go with this, but I couldn’t resist using Truss’s dedication, which is: “to the memory of the striking Bolshevik printers of St Petersburg who, in 1905, demanded to be paid the same rate for punctuation marks as for letters, and thereby directly precipitated the first Russian Revolution”. This gave me the opportunity to link to my latest review, Steven Conte’s The Tolstoy Estate (my review), sinceone of the main characters, Katerina, was a Bolshevik supporter of the Russian Revolutions.

Izzeldin Abuelaish, I shall not hate

I love humane people who rise above the enmities that surround them to do the right thing. Conte’s doctor, Paul Bauer, is a fictional one, but a real one is Dr Izzeldin Abulaish who, in his book, I shall not hate (my review) tells of the killing of three of his daughters by Israeli Defence Force shells in January 2009 during a 23-day attack on Gaza, and his decision to not hate but to work for harmony in Palestine and Israel.

Sara Dowse, As the lonely bly

A novel which explores the twentieth century history of Israel and Palestine, looking at the early idealism and the later failures, and arguing for empathy and humanity, is Sara Dowse’s As the lonely fly (my review).

Sara Dowse Schemetime

Now I’m going to do something I rarely do in this meme, which is to link to another book by the same author, to a book that will move us away from politics to the arts. The book is Sara Dowse’s Schemetime (my review). It’s about an Australian filmmaker who goes to LA wanting to make a career in the film industry.

Book cover

The natural link for this is Dominic Smith’s recent historical fiction, The electric hotel (my review). It is about the early decades of the film industry, when entrepreneurs were developing cinematograph technology and touting it around the world.

Cover for Amor Towles A gentleman in Moscow

The main character in Smith’s book is silent film pioneer Claude Ballard, and when the novel opens he is an old man who as been living in LA’s Knickerbocker Hotel for over thirty years. Remind you of anything? It reminded me of Amor Towles A gentleman in Moscow (my review), which is about “pre-revolutionary” Count Rostov who lives (is, technically imprisoned) for decades in Moscow’s grand hotel, Metropol.

This doesn’t link naturally back to Lynne Truss, but it does to my first link The Tolstoy Estate! Yasnaya Polyana is not a grand hotel, but it is a real place used as a setting for a novel, and Bolshevik Katerina was originally an aristocrat like our count.

So, besides that little bit of circularity, where have we been? All over the place – Russia, Israel and Palestine, America, all over the world, and back to Russia. And, reversing my usual pattern, four of my selections are by men, and two by women (the same woman, actually.)

Now, the usual: Have you read Eats shoots and leaves? And, regardless, what would you link to?

44 Comments leave one →
  1. Meg permalink
    July 3, 2021 10:10

    Hi Sue, I have read Eats, Shoots, and Leaves, an educational read. I do like your link with Truss’s introduction: a good one. My links are as follows: True History of the Kelly Gang by Peter Carey; 84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff; The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarity: Where are you Now? by Mary Higgins Clark; No Friend But the Mountains: Writing from Manus Prison by Behrouz Boochani; and Catchby-22 by Joseph Heller.

    • July 3, 2021 10:35

      I admire your selection Meg. Catch-22, Behrouz Boochani’s book is a classic – up there with Ngugi wa Thiong’o and Wole Soyinka. 84 Charing Cross Road I saw first as a film – then read her book and followed up with her guide to NYC “Apple of My Eye” – both books and others full of heart and warmth, generosity.

      • July 3, 2021 10:43

        Thanks Jim. That’s interesting, I read 84,Charing Cross Road long before the film came out, I think because it had been given to my Mum. I did read Apple of my eye, which I remember enjoying, but not in the same way as 84!

    • July 3, 2021 10:42

      Haha Meg … I can see your link to True History! Thanks as always for sharing your links here.

      • Meg permalink
        July 3, 2021 11:46

        Hi Sue, I immediately thought of True History without its punctuation, and then I went to books with different punctuation marks in the title. It was good fun.

  2. July 3, 2021 10:28

    Yes, I’ve read the first book by Truss – as any English teacher might be drawn to do – what a lark of sorts – so long ago merely a happy memory remains. What has caused me to respond however is your mention of the Hotel Metropol. When my wife and I were in Moscow for a week in the summer of 1976 we had met a couple of journalists from Sydney. One was Pat(ricia) Dayman (then giving her address as 46 Fitzroy St, Surry Hills NSW). They were staying at the Metropol. We joined them for a meal in the grand central atrium – all aspidistras and a marvellous high glass ceiling. Later they took us up to show us their room/s. This was “super deluxe” level (and cost) – an apartment in fact overlooking the Bolshoi Theatre. The bathroom alone was bigger than our “first class” (and generous sized) accommodation in the 6,000 room Rossiya (since demolished) on the edge across from/below Red Square – and St Basil’s – and G.U.M. The Metropol room was indeed one of the apartments (or part of one of the apartments) formerly owned by Russian nobility when in Moscow for the “season” I assume – or else maybe permanently resident. The room was all ornate tables and art objects and paintings hanging from the walls and parquet flooring. It was fantastic. And this was in the days when one was careful with taking photos (limited rolls of film) and indeed I took none – not even of looking out at the Bolshoi – confident then of my memory! Well…precise memory does fade… but the impression remains.

    • July 3, 2021 10:46

      Oh how interesting to have a first hand experience of the Gentleman’s rooms. The way you describe it is much how I envisaged it from the book, probably peppered by the odd movie set in grand hotel suites too. But the ornate tables and art objects are so of the era.

      I agree re precise memory versus impressions. I rarely for example remember plots of books, but I do remember my impressions, which are often related to my feelings.

  3. July 3, 2021 11:05

    Well that was brilliant! Well done, you! Now I’m off to see who Sara Dowse is!

  4. Sara Dowse permalink
    July 3, 2021 11:28

    Wow, Madame Gums, a double mention! You’ve made my day. But seriously, its interesting that you link As the Lonely Fly with I Shall Not Hate – I chaired a session at the Sydney Writers Festival at Katoomba in which Abulaish was the guest speaker, and so special a one that, instead of continuing with my own questions, I opened the session to the audience as I could sense they were eager to ask theirs. It was the right thing to do, and the session stands out as one of my best memories of writing festival events. Abulaish was, in a word, wonderful.

    • July 3, 2021 13:28

      Oh, that’s a wonderful sneaky little extra link, Sara. That would have been a great session. He’s an icon for me because his values and way of seeing and behaving in the world are how I’d like to be.

  5. July 3, 2021 18:45

    Interesting selection, Sue. I have not read any of them but I have the Smith and the Towles in my TBR.

  6. July 3, 2021 18:48

    You totally piqued my interest with some of these books. I just had to click on the reviews. Thanks!

    • July 3, 2021 19:06

      Then I’ve done my job I reckon Davida. Seriously, though, I’m really glad that they interested you.

  7. July 3, 2021 19:30

    That first link is brilliantly done!

  8. George permalink
    July 3, 2021 21:00

    Let’s do this in the form of what computer folks call a breadth-first search.

    Degree one, following from “Eats” is A.J. Liebling’s memoir etc. Between Meals: An Appetite for Paris.

    Degree two, following from “Shoots”, is James Fenimore Cooper’s The Pathfinder, or The Inland Sea, since it includes probably the most preposterous example of Natty Bumpo’s marksmanship.

    Degree three, following from “Leaves” is Whitman’s Leaves of Grass.

    Degree four, following from Liebling’s book is Ernest Hemingway’s A Movable Feast a memoir of living and working in Paris in the 1920s.

    Degree five, following from Cooper, is Janet Lewis’s The Invasion: A Narrative of Events Concerning the Johnston Family of St. Mary’s, since it is set at the outlet of the upppermost of the Great Lakes, and Cooper’s novel at the outlet of lowest.

    Degree six, following from Whitman, is William Carlos Williams’s multi-book poem Paterson.

    I have not read Truss. It is possible that I still have my copy of You Have a Point There: A Guide to Punctuation and Its Allies by Eric Partridge, but I haven’t looked into it in probably forty years. I guess that if one were to follow out the logic of subject rather than words, one could include Partridge, and then go on to Edward II, in which Warwick’s instructions are deliberately unpunctuated, leaving open two interpretations. (In computing terms, a “shift-reduce ambiguity”) But I don’t know where one would go on to from there.

    • July 3, 2021 22:16

      I’ve never heard of “breadth-first” George so you’ve taught me something. I do like your breadth-first chain. Ingenius. I have Patridge’s Usage and abusage but hadn’t heard of You have a point there …

      As for your alternative idea, I’m not sure either … I tried to find some ambiguous punctuation ideas to link along, but struggled. However, you could go “straight” from there to a play about an English King? There are one or two of those!! But it wouldn’t be an exciting link.

      • George permalink
        July 4, 2021 07:05

        I see that I attributed Mortimer’s lines to Warwick. Well, it has been a while:

        Edwardum occidere nolite timere, bonum est,
        Fear not to kill the king, ’tis good he die:_
        But read it thus, and that’s another sense;
        _Edwardum occidere nolite, timere bonum est,
        Kill not the king, ’tis good to fear the worst._
        Unpointed as it is, thus shall it go.
        That, being dead, if it chance to be found,
        Matrevis and the rest may bear the blame,
        And we be quit that caus’d it to be done.

        Edward II, Act V, Scene IV.

        • July 4, 2021 09:39

          Yes, I did notice, but only because I had to look it up (!) as I don’t think I’ve ever read or seen that play. It wasn’t moot to your point!

  9. July 3, 2021 22:46

    You really *have* travelled with these books, and I always appeciate the #6Degrees chains that show the comparative links across countries. And this: “Bolshevik printers of St Petersburg who, in 1905, demanded to be paid the same rate for punctuation marks as for letters, and thereby directly precipitated the first Russian Revolution”… Seriously? Now I need to brush up on the Russian Revolution history again!

    • July 3, 2021 22:56

      I like chains like that too Lexlingua, so am glad you enjoyed this.

      The thing about the printers and the 1905 Russian Revolution is a bit more complex than this stat3ment suggests, but Trotsky apparently commented to this effect! My Russian history is not as strong as it used to be!

  10. July 4, 2021 06:14

    Neat links! Yes, I have read it. Here’s my post:

  11. July 4, 2021 09:10

    I enjoyed your chain. Loved the first link. I haven’t read The Tolstoy Estate yet, but hope to soon.

    • July 4, 2021 09:43

      Thanks Yvonne, and welcome. If you like good historical fiction, you’ll like it I think.

    • July 4, 2021 17:53

      I’m really sorry Yvonne, but I have tried to comment on your SIX DEGREES post twice, once from my iPad and once from my laptop and both times they seem to have disappeared into the ether. I’m not sure if you subscribe to comments here and will see this, but am letting you know, just in case.

      • July 4, 2021 18:36

        These things happen. So kind of you to let me know.

        • July 4, 2021 19:09

          I really enjoyed your chain and wanted to comment on the fountain pens, and some of the books! Weird. Blogs are a law unto themselves, I’ve realised.

        • July 4, 2021 21:29

          They certainly are – and thank you!

  12. July 7, 2021 04:37

    Heh, that was a cheeky leap to the Tolstoy Estate! I have read and enjoyed Eats Shoots and Leaves. I think I would link to T he Grammarians by Cathleen Schine and leap out from there 🙂

    • July 7, 2021 08:51

      I like being cheeky with this men, Stefanie, so thanks! I don’t know The grammarians but it sounds a perfect choice.

  13. July 8, 2021 01:29

    Love how you connected this (twice!) to a Russian theme. Oh, how I love Russian literature, and Tolstoy, and “the gentleman.” The book Eats, Shoots and Leaves always reminded me of when I asked my husband to bring back ice, cream, buns and hotdogs from the grocery story, and he brought back a half gallon of vanilla, buns and hotdogs. 🙄 It worries me, with all the texting, that our youth can no longer punctuate. Or, spell for that matter.😜

    • July 8, 2021 16:33

      That’s a great example Bellezza. I agree that it is a concern, that people are in fact oblivious to the ambiguities that can arise. You see it in official communications (emails, letters) coming from professionals, like lawyers. It’s disappointing, at the very least, and worrying as you say.

  14. buriedinprint permalink
    July 17, 2021 07:13

    The hotel link you’ve drawn reminds me of Elizabeth Taylor’s Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont (also a hotel resident, but more willingly, somewhat, at least, than the Towles). Lovely story and lovely film, if you’ve not had the pleasure (also, very short).


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