Half the year is over – and what an awful year it has been, generally and personally. I’d like to try to put the first half behind me (without ever forgetting the special person who left my life during it and whose 91st birthday would, in fact, have been today) and look to a more positive second half. Let’s see what we can do with this month’s Six Degrees of Separation meme. If you are new to blogging and don’t know this meme and how it works, please check out meme host Kate’s blog – booksaremyfavouriteandbest.
July’s starting book is another I haven’t read. Indeed, I haven’t read any of her books, but if I did, this is the one I’d choose. The book is American writer Siri Hustvedt’s What I loved.
Siri Hustvedt is, I read a long time ago, a Jane Austen fan, so my first link is Jane Austen’s Persuasion (my reviews of volume 1 and volume 2) because Hustvedt wrote the introduction to the Folio edition of this novel. If you are a Jane Austen fan, like me, you will buy multiple versions of her novels just for the introductions. (For this reason, I’ll be adding my mum’s editions to my already multiple edition Austen library.)
Another novelist who loves Jane Austen – they are legion in fact – is Helen Garner. She wrote about Austen in her collection of essays, Everywhere I look (my review).
Garner, in fact, wrote about quite a few writers in that collection, including Tim Winton and Elizabeth Jolley, but the one I am going to link to next is a much older writer, Barbara Baynton, and her short story “The chosen vessel”, (my review). Garner says she has never got over it. It’s a powerful story, that’s for sure.
There are many short stories and novels I have never got over, though quite a few of them are from pre-blogging times. However, there’s a short story from my blogging times that affected me deeply and that I keep returning to. The writer is the American Kate Chopin, and the story “Désirée’s baby” (my review). Its underlying themes about race and gender are distressingly still too relevant today (or, do I mean still too distressingly relevant!)
Racism is an issue that we just can’t seem to resolve. Why is it that we can’t all see and respect each other as equal human beings? I have read many books over the years – fiction and non-fiction – that deal with race. However, I’m going to return to Australia, and Maxine Beneba Clarke’s The hate race (my review), for my fifth link, because her aim was to show “the extreme toll that casual, overt and institutionalised racism can take: the way it erodes us all”. It “erodes us all”: this is a lesson we are all still learning.
Where to from here? Can I be a little less heavy for my last link? The hate race is a memoir about Clarke’s experience of growing up. I hope it’s not disrespectful to conclude with a very different, and rather happier memoir about growing up, Anna Goldsworthy’s Piano lessons (my review). Goldsworthy had her challenges – who doesn’t – but nothing like those faced by Clarke.
So, an unusual chain this month, because it includes two short stories, a book of essays, two memoirs, and just one novel. My links have stayed mostly in Australia, but I have popped over to early 19th century England and late 19th century USA. All this month’s writers are women.
Now the usual: Have you read What I loved? And, regardless, what would you link to?