Six degrees of separation, FROM Wintering TO …

Why do I always start these posts with the weather or the seasons? This time I’ll break with tradition and start with the fact that I’ve just got back from a lovely trip to Melbourne where we enjoyed some good family times, albeit interrupted in the middle by COVID isolation. How our lives have changed over the last two to three years, as we take these things, not quite in our stride but, at least, as sort of normal or to be expected? What hasn’t changed, however, is our Six Degrees meme. If you don’t know how this meme works, please check meme host Kate’s blog – booksaremyfavouriteandbest.

The first rule is that Kate sets our starting book, and for July we are back to a book I’ve not read, Katherine May’s Wintering: The power of rest and retreat in difficult times. It’s a memoir, and I think the subtitle speaks for itself. I like the concept of “wintering” or lying fallow as you heal.

I thought a lot more than usual about my first link this month, toying with several ideas. In the end I decided to go with a title using a present participle that refers to an action that’s the subject of the book. Jim Crace’s Being dead (my review) is about a couple found dead among the dunes on a beach. As well as being the story of a crime, this novel also details what happens to dead bodies. It’s pretty visceral, but I learnt things I’ve not forgotten! I love it when fiction does that.

Bianca Nogrady, The end book cover

My next link was easy, because I went for the obvious, science writer Bianca Nogrady’s book The end: The human experience of death (my review). As you might have guessed from the title, it’s a nonfiction work that explores death and dying from multiple angles, including physical, psychological, scientific, and legal. I found it so interesting.

Bianca Nogrady, The best Australian science writing 2015

My next link is also pretty obvious, as it’s on the author Bianca Nogrady, except that for this book she’s the editor not the author. It’s The best Australian science writing 2015 (my review). I’ve come to love these volumes for their varied content ranging across all sorts of science from climate to AI, from how the brain works to research into disease, and so on.

Trent Dalton, Boy swallows universe

And now, unusually for me, I’m sticking with creator for yet another link. It’s interesting how many writers of fiction are also journalists and essayists. Trent Dalton, to whose book Boy swallows universe (my review) I’m linking, is an example. He had a piece in Bianca Nogrady’s anthology called “Beating the odds” about a driven Australian man who developed an artificial heart.

Rabih Alameddine, An unnecessary woman

But now its time to branch out, and I’m going personal this time. Trent Dalton’s book was my reading group’s first book in 2019. Our first book the year before, 2018, was Lebanese American writer Rabih Alameddine’s An unnecessary woman (my review). This was a great read on many levels, including the fact that the main character, a 72-year-old woman is a great reader who comments frequently on the books she reads, including Australian authors like Patrick White and Helen Garner.

Valeria Luiselli, Faces in the crowd

I nearly linked on one of those authors, but we’ve spent a bit of time in Australia this post, so I’m linking on something different. Alameddine’s protagonist Aaliya spends her time translating books, even though they will never be published. It’s an exercise for her. Another novel that features a translator – though in this case it is her job for a while – is Valeria Luiselli’s Faces in the crowd (my review).

I don’t see any obvious link back to the starting novel. The meme doesn’t require there to be, but it’s fun if there is one. As is common for me, four of my books are by female writers (or editors) and two by male. While we’ve spent quite a bit of time in English-speaking countries, we have also been to Beirut and Mexico City, which are places I rarely take us to.

Now, the usual: Have you read Wintering? And, regardless, what would you link to?

28 thoughts on “Six degrees of separation, FROM Wintering TO …

  1. I like reading about your amazing reading background.
    No: hang on .. ‘background’ is quite the wrong word; so what’s the right one ..?
    Head library ? 😀 That’ll do.

  2. I’m going to have to skip this month because I’m busy getting set for First Nations Reading Week, so I’ll just share what would have been my first link: I would have started with The Winter of Our Discontent by John Steinbeck, and from there to something Steinbeckian, though probably not the (too easy) Grapes of Wrath….
    PS I haven’t read *any* of your choices, unusual for me!

    • Yes! The Week has crept up on me I must say. I will be late with my reviews – the last two weeks with COVID and then catching up with family and driving home have put a huge dint in my reading, and I’m behind in a review post. Started it last Tuesday and it stalled with the trip home and busy-ness on arrival. I’m still pondering my NAIDOC focused MM, but have a couple of ideas.

      As for this Six degrees … I was surprised at first, but then I looked at my choices again and am not so surprised. Except for the Dalton, they are a little more left field than usual. My first thought was a Winter or seasons theme, so I like your Steinbeck idea.

  3. I would like to read Wintering as I have been very interested in these gentle reads since Covid but instead I have ordered The End as I enjoy scientific looks at a range of things especially to do with the human body. It sounds interesting. I have several books at the moment to catch up on as with a more settled eye reading again is possible. I enjoyed your selection of books very much. I really should try this meme once.

    • Oh thanks Pam. I’m really glad you’ve ordered The end. It’s a few years old so some things may have moved on – there’s some fascinating forensic stuff there, as well as ethical issues, medical research and so on. It was really interesting. And I’m really glad you enjoyed my selection. Do give it a go some time. It is a lot of fun.

      (PS I wonder why your comment went into moderation?)

  4. Hi Sue, I have not read Wintering, but my link is as follows: The Winter of Our Discontent by John Steinbeck; Ladder of Years by Anne tyler; The Weekend by Charlotte Wood; My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh; The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho and The 100-Year-Old – Man who Climbed out of the Window and Disappeared. All good reads for winter.

  5. An unusual and interesting chain. Jim Crace is always a worthwhile read. I’m not usually drawn to science writing but I might chance my ideas following this post. And you’ve definitely got me interested in An Unnecessary Woman. Thanks!

  6. Being dead sounds interesting but I also feel some hesitation about how visceral it gets. It stood out since I just read a mystery with two bodies found on a beach. A nice, different chain!

  7. I enjoyed your chain. I also toyed with several ideas about starting mine – all of which just petered out. All your books are new to me. I think I might try Jim Crace’s Being Dead, even though I’m not good with visceral details. And An unnecessary woman also tempts me.

    • Thanks Margaret. Both are great books. I think the thing about the Visceral details in this one is that it’s science, not gratuitous description to shock. At least that’s how I read it!

  8. I have chosen memoirs–except for the second–all by Americans, though the last two authors did not particularly think of themselves as Americans.

    The first degree has to be Larry Woiwode’s What I Think I Did. The reflection is about his becoming a writer, mostly in Illinois and New York. The winter is the severe winter of 1996 in southwestern North Dakota, a time less of contemplation than of trying to keep the house heated. The book goes back and forth between Urbana-Champaign and New York in the early 1960s and North Dakota in 1996.

    The second degree is Kathleen Norris’s Cloister Walk, largely about her relations with St. John’s Abbey in western Minnesota. There is a good deal in it about retreat and reflection, as I recall. But I seem to have given my copy away.

    Continuing to move east, I’ll pick George Kennan’s Reflections from a Life, for he grew up in Wisconsin. He spent a number of very busy years in the Foreign Service, but ended up with a position at the Institute for Advanced Studies at Princeton, where really he wasn’t expected to do anything but think.

    Fourth will be Herbert Simon’s Models of My Life: he was like Kennan a native of Milwaukee, though he spent most of his career at Carnegie-Mellon in Pittsburgh.

    Fifth is Persons and Places by George Santayana. He spent his late childhood and youth in Boston, though he was not by birth or inclination a Bostonian.

    Sixth is Iris Origo’s Images and Shadows. Her father was a student of Santayana’s at Harvard, and though her father died when she was very young, she was on familiar terms with Santayana.

    • I do love to hear about interesting memoirs and memoirists George, so greatly enjoyed this. Off the top of my head only Santayana and Norris are familiar to me, but Woiwode’s has particularly captured my attention. Re Kennan, I’m not sure I’d like a job where l only had to think, though having a job requiring , expecting, thinking is wonderful, particularly if your thinking is taken notice of.

      • Richard Feynman, a Nobelist in physics, suggested that the Institute for Advanced Studies wasn’t necessarily doing its residents good. Sometimes, he said, you hit dead ends. If that happens while you are teaching at a university, you have your classes to occupy you while perhaps you think of something else. If it happens at a place like the Institute for Advanced Studies, what do you do?

        And if you like interesting memoirs, Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman is most interesting and is quickly read. (It is an “as-told-to” book, but in this case I’m not going to complain.)

        • Thanks George, Richard Feynman makes good sense to my mind though I hadn’t thought of it from that angle.

          And you may be suprised but I have actually read his memoir. I don’t remenbe r the “as told to” style bothering me. In fact I seem to remember it enhanced this particular read. A fascinating man.

  9. Wintering doesn’t hold any appeal for me. Your mention of Jim Crace got my attention – I’ve read only one book by him (Harvest) which was fabulously atmospheric. Must make a note to look at Being Dead.

    • Oh yes, Harvest, Karen. That’s one I remember thinking I’d like to read. Great to hear your memory of it. ”Atmospheric” sounds like a good way to describe him.

  10. I have read Wintering and very much enjoyed it. I’m not sure what I would link to though, maybe Finding the Mother Tree, on the basis that wintering is about what happens below the surface and Finding the Mother Tree is about what happens below ground in a forest.

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