Six degrees of separation, FROM The lottery TO …

Another month has gone, and we in Canberra, New South Wales and Victoria are still in lockdown. However, with vaccinations proceeding apace, the end is in sight, we hope. On the plus side, it is spring, and the blossoms are out – and daylight savings starts this weekend which I love. I know that for some of you, though, it is autumn. I hope you are having a good one. Meanwhile, let’s get onto our Six Degrees of Separation meme, which, as most of you know, is run by Kate. Check her blog – booksaremyfavouriteandbest – to see how it works.

We start, of course, with the book chosen by Kate except that this month it is a short story, Shirley Jackson’s much studied, much anthologised “The lottery”. And, because it is a short story, I did manage to read it (my post).

My first link is an obvious one, another short story with a shocking ending, Kate Chopin’s “Désirèe’s baby” (my review). I’m a big Chopin fan, which started when I read her novel The awakening. Anyhow, our starting short story and this one make powerful statements about human cruelty, and both, coincidentally, start by describing lovely days!

Chopin’s story involves a baby and racism. Another book in which a baby is unwittingly related to brutal, racist behaviour is Nardi Simpson’s Song of the crocodile (my review). It’s a novel by a First Nations Australian, so its ambit extends beyond Chopin’s, but it is this baby who grows up and forces this novel’s shocking denouement.

Book cover

For my next link, I thought I’d move away from grimness, except I then realised that this next book also has racism at its core! However, my link is on the author’s career, because Nardi Simpson had an established singing career before she became a novelist. The author of the book I’m linking to is also a well-recognised First Nations singer, but his book is a memoir, Archie Roach’s Tell me why: The story of my life and my music (my review).

Emma Ayres, Cadence

I’m sticking with musical memoirs for my next link. It is a travel memoir by a musician who, bravely to my mind, cycled across Europe and Asia, from England to Hong Kong, with her violin. The book is Emma Ayres’ Cadence: Travels with music (my review).

Sarah Krasnostein, The trauma cleaner

Most Australians know Emma Ayres, as she was a much-loved presenter some years ago on ABC Classic FM. Most of us also know that, after she left that job, she went to Kabul and soon after that transitioned to Eddie Ayres. He wrote about this process in his book Danger music. However, I haven’t read that, but I have read Sarah Krasnostein’s The trauma cleaner (my review), an award-winning biography of a transgender woman, Sandra Pankhurst.

Now, what to end on? I think a short story might be apposite, and there is one that I read back in my first year of blogging that might fit the bill, though, back then, I gave less attention to my short story reviews than I do now. The story is Tessa Hadley’s “Friendly fire” (my post). I’m linking on the protagonists who are two middle-aged women cleaners in an industrial warehouse, Pam who owns the cleaning business and her friend Shelley who is helping her out for the day. The main focus is Shelley, and her thoughts about life and family, particularly about her son who is in the military in Afghanistan, which might give you a clue about the story’s title. I read it online, but it has been published in a collection called Married love, hence the cover I’ve used.

So, this month I have at least come full circle in terms of form. We have also travelled quite a bit, given one of the links is a a travel memoir, and we have, I’ve realised, met a few cleaners, as Nardi Simpson’s novel involves house cleaners and washerwomen. Perhaps, I’m giving myself a hint!

Now, the usual: Have you read “The lottery”? And, regardless, what would you link to it?

40 thoughts on “Six degrees of separation, FROM The lottery TO …

  1. I have read The Lottery and I suppose it is inevitable that chains beginning with a shocking story leads to more shocking stories. I hadn’t heard of most of these books/stories before and have only read Kate Chopin’s The awakening. So, as usual your post has given me plenty of new-to-me books to explore. By the way, the link to Tessa Hadley’s “Friendly fire” isn’t working, but I found your post through your Author Index.

    • Yes, Margaret, I did think my first link was pretty obvious this time. Did you like The awakening? There aren’t a lot of books I’ve read more than once, besides Austen, but I have read it twice.

      And thanks for letting me know about the link not working. Fixed now, but I’m impressed that you went looking for it anyhow.

  2. Hi Sue, I do like your links, especially The Trauma Cleaner. I thought I would keep to short stories where a gamble was the stakes! The Bet by Anton Chekhov; The Running Man by Stephen King; Man from the South Roald Dahl; The Queen of Spades by Alexander Pushkin and the The Rocking-Horse Winner by D H Lawrence. I read The Lottery years ago and most of Shirley Jackson’s other short stories. I like her irony.

  3. I went and read Kate Chopin’s “Désirèe’s baby”, and your review of it. I’m adding some of the other books to my TBR, and will now hunt out Tessa Hadley’s story.

    Thanks to your chain, I cam away enriched. This month was my first attempt at #6degrees, but it certainly won’t be my last.

  4. Great chain! I haven’t read “Dèsirèe’s Baby” but Chopin’s The Awakening is a favorite I return to every once in a while. I also liked the return to a short story at the end.

  5. One could do a chain with grim short stories: probably I’d start that with Saki’s “Sredni Vashtar”. But let’s go with the element of chance:

    Degree one: Roderick Random by Tobias Smollet, mostly for the name.

    Degree two: Pudd’nhead Wilson by Mark Twain, for the part that chance plays in the destinies of two children born about the same time.

    Degree three: Trollope’s The Way We Live Now, for the ruinous gambling.

    Degree four: Was by William Faulkner, which is either a short novella or a long short story. Either way, it sticks in my mind for a memorable exchange:
    “Stud,” Mr Hubert said. “One hand. You to shuffle, me to cut, this boy to deal.”
    “No,” Uncle Buddy said. “Not Cass. He’s too young. I don’t want him mixed up in any gambling.”
    “Hah,” Mr Hubert said. “It’s said that a man playing cards with Amodeus McCaslin aint gambling…”

    Degree five: At Swim-Two-Birds by Flann O’Brien. The reader will remember the consequences of a card game between the Good Fairy and the (devil) Pooka MacPhellimey,

    Degree six: If I Die in a Combat Zone by Tim O’Brien. At the time O’Brien was drafted, the draft was not explicitly a lottery, as it became in 1969 or 1970, but it was pretty nearly so.

    • Ah excellent , George. I’ve seen one other chain that stuck with gambling right through, but I didn’t really know many of their links. I know all your authors except the last, though have not read most of the actual titles you choose. Love all your links, but particularly 4 and 6. Four because it’s just great and six because I think choosing the draft is inspired (even if the lottery aspect is not quite true for the author’s own experience).

      • Long ago, when I applied for a position where I now work, I noticed that one manager’s shelf had some volumes of Faulkner. I mentioned what was true, that in talking with a friend the name “Amadeus” had come up, and that I had thought of Faulkner. She at once recited Mr Hubert’s words verbatim.

        In Faulkner’s genealogies, by the way, Amodeus McCaslin, generally known as Buddy, is the twin brother of Theophilus McCaslin, known as Buck, or occasionally Filus. One might have a hard time getting “Was” past a school board now, but it makes for excellent reading.

        • What a great story George … I don’t know Was so don’t know what it might be hard to get past a contemporary school board, but you have tempted me more now.

  6. It might be fun to make a separate set of links that would allow one to explore the spoiler(s) of the story. But, it would also be fun to link to another book called/about The Lottery…I’m thinking of one by Patricia Wood that was nominated for the Women’s Prize for Fiction several years ago. It’s a likeable story, to borrow a phrase from one of Lisa’s recent posts (a blurb in her post, I mean).

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