Six degrees of separation, FROM The book of form and emptiness TO …

Last month, as I wrote this post, I had just got back from Melbourne, and this month I am back in Melbourne. Next Six Degrees, I should be in Sydney, all being well. Life is busy at the moment, but we are enjoying catching up with family and friends after two years of limited opportunities. All that’s well and good, do I hear you say, but what about the main point of this post? It’s the Six Degrees meme, of course, and if you don’t know how it works, please check meme host Kate’s blog – booksaremyfavouriteandbest.

The first rule is that Kate sets our starting book, and for August it is another book I’ve not read, Ruth Ozeki’s The book of form and emptiness. GoodReads says it’s a “inventive new novel about loss, growing up, and our relationship with things”. Sounds interesting, but that doesn’t help me right now …

When I haven’t read the starting book, I prefer not to link on content because, you know, I might get it a bit wrong. So, for my first link I’m going with title, and another book that starts with “The book of”. My book is Australian author Leslie Cannold’s The book of Rachael (my review).

Book cover

Cannold’s book is about biblical characters, although the title character is a fictional one. Another book about biblical characters, though in this case the protagonist is real, is Christos Tsiolkas’ Damascus (my review) about Saul who became Paul, in the New Testament.

My next link is weak – I know it – but I’m going there anyhow. Tsiolkas’ Saul became the Apostle Paul, though throughout the novel he remains known as Saul. Garry Disher’s detective in Bitter Wash Road (my review) is Paul Hirschhausen, but throughout the novel he is Hirsch. No-one would ever know he was a Paul!

And now it’s time, after three links, to leave Australia, and the best way I can think of is to go to a much beloved detective of recent decades, Alexander McCall Smith’s Precious Ramotswe from Botswana. I’m choosing one of the two novels I’ve reviewed from this long series, The Saturday big tent wedding party (my review). You’ll have to forgive this very loose link, because Precious is a female private detective whilst Hirsch is a male police detective.

Now, if there is someone who could have done with some of Precious Ramotswe’s common-sense and warmth, it’s Tambu in Tstitsi Dangarembga’s This mournable body (my review). Again my link is very loose, based as it is on the fact that the two novels are set in neighbouring African countries, Tambu living in Zimbabwe bordering Precious’ Botswana.

And now, having found myself here, I can’t resist returning to Australia, linking this time on authors who also make films. Tsitisi Dangarembga has an impressive resume, having won multiple literary awards while also being an active filmmaker of feature, short and documentary films. While she’s not as prolific, Australia’s Leah Purcell is also known as a novelist and filmmaker. I’m linking to her latest production, The drover’s wife (my review), which she’d also written as an award-winning play and a novel.

This month, then, we’ve managed to travel through history and place, from biblical times in the middle east to modern times in Africa and Australia. And we have a 50:50 split in authors, three male and three female.

Now, the usual: Have you read The book of form and emptiness? And, regardless, what would you link to?

39 thoughts on “Six degrees of separation, FROM The book of form and emptiness TO …

    • I thought she’d be a nice change to introduce into my chain Mallika so I’m
      glad you liked that. I’ve just checked and I think I’ve read the first 12, mainly because for a few years there this series was our family holiday read. I’d buy it and we’d all read it over the time we were away (my parents, MIL, and husband.)

        • I have to admit it makes me VERY uncomfortable. I read one about 15+ years ago and did not think much of it so never read another but now I just would not read as a point of principal. Imagine if a white Australian writer wrote a series featuring a First Nations woman… it would be (rightly) condemned.

        • Yes, fair enough. I haven’t read them since I became more conscious of this issue but I’m also uncomfortable about restrictions on writers. I do agree that it’s more an issue in these situations where we have a power imbalance. By way of contrast, there is the female non-deaf, I think?, Emma Viskic writing a deaf male character.

  1. I have actually read the books ar the centre of your chain! The Disher, which I didn’t enjoy, the McCall Smith – always a delightful light read, and the Dangarembga. Which suggests to me that I should give the remainder of the books in your interesting chain a go.

  2. It always brings a smile to my face to see a book by Alexander McCall Smith on any list, especially if it’s The No 1 Ladies Detective Agency!

    I completely went with the Book of …. theme and you just gave me another one to add to my list.

    Have a wonderful August!

    Elza Reads

  3. Hi Sue, I am glad that you are getting out and about, and catching up with family and friends. I have not read Emptiness of Form by Ruth Ozeki, but my links are related to the themes of the book. They are Lanny by Max Porter; Where reason Ends by Yiyun Li; Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng; The travelling Cat Chronicles by Hiro Arikawa; Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami and The Island of Missing Trees by Eli Shafak

  4. Ah, you reminded me of Alexander McCall Smith. It has been a while since I’ve read any of his books, but I used to enjoy them very much. I have travelled a lot in Africa, including Botswana, and it feels like he gets the mentality and small observations spot on, bringing me right back to Africa. Also, you reminded me of This Mournable Body – there used to be a lot of hype around it (was it nominated for a prize?) but I never managed to pick it up. Some day….

  5. There are no “weak” or “loose” links. If your mind makes the association, it’s valid. In fact, I often find links that people describe as wild (or some such) to be the most interesting! Thanks for sharing.

  6. Fun linking!

    I have read The Book of Form and Emptiness–so good! So many options for linking too, but the first thing that popped into my head was Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Luiz Zafon. Part of Ozecki’s book is narrated by a book and large portions of it take place in a library. Not sure where I’d go from there, some kind of mystery or hunt for a missing or lost item most likely.

    • See, Stefani, that’s where knowing the content helps a lot! I saw one other chain picking up this book idea and I was really mystified because the summaries I read didn’t give clues about that. Armed with that knowledge I see your first link is perfect.

  7. I think I would have had to go with a “Book of…” link too, not having read the Ozeki. By coincidence I just finished reading Book of Memory by Petina Gappah. Really good.

    • Thanks Karen. I’ve never heard of that book or that author. Have you reviewed it? I’ve been travelling on and off for the last couple of months (Melbourne and back, twice) that I’m really behind in everything else.

  8. Philosophers are fond of X and Y titles: Being and Time, Word and Object, etc., etc. They don’t seem to be that fond of starting titles with “The Book”.

    So perhaps The Book of Laughter and Forgetting by Milan Kundera; Mnemosyne Lay in the Dust (actually a long poem) by Basil Bunting, restoring memory; Garlic and Sapphires by Ruth Reichl (a memoir), since in Four Quartets those are both in the mud (which is dust: just add water); On the Road by Jack Kerouac, since the garlic and sapphires were clogging an axle tree; Two Weeks on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers by Henry Thoreau, since the two weeks are spent largely off the road; and Arabia Deserta by Charles Doughty, which hasn’t much to do with rivers.

    I have not read The Book of Form and Emptiness. I have read the others, except for Garlic and Sapphires.

      • Actually, I find that the poem is “Mnemosyne Lay in Dust” (no “the”) and it is by Austin Clarke, a poet very different from Basil Bunting. An odd confusion.

        A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers is well worth looking into; if I had to take a volume of Thoreau’s along on a trip, I might pick it over Walden. The Book of Laughter and Forgetting has its merits.

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