6 Degrees of Separation: From Three to Eight

It’s time for another adventure in Kate’s 6 Degrees of Separation Meme from her blog, Books Are My Favourite and Best. We are given a book to start with, and from there we free associate six books.

This month we begin with a book that everyone’s talking about – Three Women by Lisa Taddeo, which Goodreads describes as “the deepest nonfiction portrait of desire ever written.”

Since I’m not interested in the subject matter, I’m going to approach this month’s list by the numbers.

1. Another book with three in the title is The Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu. In this science fiction book the author uses a well-known problem in physics and mathematics as the basis for an explication of China’s Cultural Revolution.

2. Next comes The Fourth Steven by Margaret Moseley, a humorous though dark mystery. Book rep Honey Huckleberry has three friends named Steven, but when someone named Steven calls her and confesses to murder, she’s pretty sure the caller isn’t one of them. Then, when her three Stevens start dying, the fourth Steven becomes the prime suspect. Yes, like so much in life, it’s complicated.

3. The anti-war novel Slaughterhouse-Five is Kurt Vonnegut’s best known work.

4. In Six Years by Harlan Coben, college professor Jake Fisher attends the funeral of Todd, the man he watched marry Natalie, the love of Jake’s life, six years earlier. But the grieving widow Jake glimpses at the funeral is not Natalie. Jake’s world begins to unravel as he searches for the truth about his past and about the woman he loved.

5. The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid tells the life story of an aging movie star who has a secret to reveal to the young writer she has chosen to do the work.

6. Robert Dugoni combines a thrilling spy story with a cerebral courtroom procedural in The Eighth Sister.

And just like that, we’ve gone from three women to eight.

© 2019 by Mary Daniels Brown

Literary Links

A Love Letter to the Girls Who Die First in Horror Films

When I recently read Riley Sager’s novel Final Girls, I didn’t realize that the final girl, the last girl left standing, is a standard trope of slasher movies. In this article Lindsay King-Miller talks about “a film’s Final Girl, a term coined by Carol Clover in her brilliant work of horror theory Men, Women, and Chainsaws.” But what she’s more interested in all the other girls who die first, before the Final Girl is left to face down the enemy.

There’s a morality play element to this, as countless film writers have explored: girls in horror movies are punished for doing things girls aren’t supposed to do, especially for having sex.

From the Battlefield to ‘Little Women’

Cover: Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

Jennifer Wilson describes how serving in military hospitals shaped the story Louisa May Alcott later wrote as Little Women. The basis for the article is the letters Alcott wrote home during her war experiences, published in 1863 as Hospital Sketches.

The Cult Books That Lost Their Cool

The definition of the term cult books that Hephzibah Anderson uses in this essay is pretty amorphous:

the cult classic inspires passionate devotion among its fans, who frequently weave their own myths around the texts. But another, underexamined, feature of the cult book is this: . . . it can sometimes age really badly.

You can pull together your own definition of the term from Anderson’s discussions of the following cult classics:

  • The Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger, 1951  
  • Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand, 1957  
  • The Beach by Alex Garland, 1996  
  • Iron John by Robert Bly, 1990  
  • The Outsider by Colin Wilson, 1956  
  • The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway, 1952  
  • On the Road by Jack Kerouac, 1957  
  • The Rules by Ellen Fein and Sherrie Schneider, 1995  
  • Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach, 1970  
  • Little Red Book by Mao Zedong, 1964  
  • Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace, 1996

It’s a Fact: Mistakes Are Embarrassing the Publishing Industry

In the past year alone, errors in books by several high-profile authors — including Naomi Wolf, the former New York Times executive editor Jill Abramson, the historian Jared Diamond, the behavioral scientist and “happiness expert” Paul Dolan and the journalist Michael Wolff — have ignited a debate over whether publishers should take more responsibility for the accuracy of their books.

Writing in The New York Times, Alexandra Alter looks at the question of who should be responsible for fact checking: authors or publishers?

The Temporary Memory Lapse of Transient Global Amnesia

Amnesia is a standard trope of mysteries and psychological thrillers, which I read a lot of. This article describes a very real phenomenon, transient global amnesia:

Transient global amnesia, often called T.G.A. It is a temporary lapse in memory that can never be retrieved. “It’s as if the brain is on overload and takes a break to recharge,” Dr. [Carolyn] Brockington [a vascular neurologist] said in an interview. She likened it to rebooting a computer to eradicate an unexplainable glitch. Those with T.G.A. do not experience any alteration in consciousness or abnormal movements. Only the ability to lay down memories is affected. All other parts of the brain appear to be working normally.

T.G.A. is relatively rare, though it appears to occur more frequently in people over age 50 than in younger people, with men and women affected about equally. It leaves no lasting effects except for the lack of memories during its occurrence. It typically lasts for one to eight hours and usually clears up within a day. Its cause or causes have not been established, and there is no treatment. The condition occurs a second time in only 4% or 5% of patients.

© 2019 by Mary Daniels Brown

Bookshelf Scavenger Hunt Tag

Thanks to Madame Writer, on whose blog I found this tag. (She in turn traced the tag back to here.)

I undertook this challenge because I’m in favor of anything that makes me stop and think about the books that I own, read or unread.

1. Find an author name or title with a Z in it.

cover: The Pigman by Paul Zindel

The Pigman by Paul Zindel

2. Find a classic.

Cover: Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

3. Find a book with a key on it.

cover: The Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware

S T R E T C H I N G 
the prompt here 
The Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware

4. Find something on your bookshelf that is not a book.

Moi statue and read sign

Left: a small moi (replica of the giant stone heads on Easter Island)
Right: a sign of encouragement made by RamonaClaire from rolled-up pages of To Kill a Mockingbird, my favorite book

5. Find the oldest book on your shelf.

cover: Four Afloat by Ralph Henry Barbour

Probably Four Afloat by Ralph Henry Barbour. This is from my father-in-law’s childhood collection. The text is © 1907. I can’t find out when this version was published, but, as you can tell, it’s pretty old.

6. Find a book with a girl on it.

Cover: 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami

1Q84 by Haruki Murakami

7. Find a book that has an animal in it.

Cover: Watership Down

How about lots of animals: Watership Down by Richard Adams

8. Find a book with a male protagonist.

Cover: Thirteen by Steve Cavanagh

How about a book with two male protagonists: Thirteen by Steve Cavanagh

9. Find a book with only words on the cover.

cover: Ulysses by James Joyce

This copy of Ulysses by James Joyce, which I bought in Dublin.

10. Find a book with illustrations in it.

cover: Lorna Doone by R.D. Blackmore

Lorna Doone by R.D. Blackmore. This was my father-in-law’s copy, inscribed June 26, 1912.

11. Find a book with gold lettering.

cover: A Backward Glance by Edith Wharton

A Backward Glance by Edith Wharton

12. Find a diary, true or fictional.

cover: Blue Diary by Alice Hoffman

Since diaries, both real and fictional, are one of my favorite things to study, my shelf contains a lot of books that fit this category. Blue Diary by Alice Hoffman is one of the best.

13. Find a book written by an author with a common name (like Smith).

cover: Breakheart Hill by Thomas Cook

Breakheart Hill by Thomas H. Cook

14. Find a book with a close-up of something on it.

cover: The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield

This edition of The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield has a wonderful close-up of a stack of old books.

15. Find a book on your shelf that takes place in the earliest time period.

cover: The Poetry of John Milton

That must be Paradise Lost by John Milton, which takes place shortly after the creation of the world.

16. Find a hardcover book without a jacket.

cover: The Prairie by J.F. Cooper

This old, undated copy of The Prairie by James Fenimore Cooper.

17. Find a teal/turquoise colored book.

cover: Where'd You Go, Bernadette

Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple

18. Find a book with stars on it.

cover: The Island of the Day Before by Umberto Eco

Well darn, The Fault in Our Stars by John Green doesn’t have stars on the cover. But this edition of The Island of the Day Before does.

19. Find a non-YA book.

cover: The Golden Notebook by Doris Lessing

YA literature has only come into existence over the last few years of my reading life, so most of my books fit this category. I chose The Golden Notebook by Doris Lessing because it was close at hand.

How about you?

Let me know if you decide to give this book tag challenge a try.

© 2019 by Mary Daniels Brown

Literary Links

Tash Aw in Conversation with Chia-Chia Lin

Chinese Malaysian novelist Tash Aw discusses his latest novel, We, the Survivors, and the relationship between literature and the immigrant experience. 

Of course there are always local details that make more sense to some. But when a very specific story of racism is committed to paper, it acquires a universality that speaks far beyond its boundaries.

Why Monster Stories Captivate Us

“Our brains are compelled by category violations.”

Every culture has “monstrous mash-ups,” or composite creatures, in their folklore and religion. Think of the Sphinx (half human, half lion), centaurs (half human, half horse), and mermaids (half woman, half fish). Such unexpected hybrids violate our “innate or . . . early developmental folk taxonomy of the world, according to psychologist Dan Sperber and anthropologist Pascal Boyer.” Such monstrous creatures “offer surrogate rehearsals for how the real community (‘us’) will resist actual enemies (‘them’).”

True crime always risks exploitation. But it can still make the world a better place

when we center the lives of the victims and their families rather than obsessing over the quirks of killers and accept the costs of being more sensitive to victims’ pain than we are thrilled by murderers’ transgressions, true-crime stories can make a small contribution to making the world a more just, more empathetic place.

‘Ulysses’ on Trial

In connection with the centennial anniversary of the American Civil Liberties Union, novelist Michael Chabon discusses the significance of the trial that determined James Joyce’s Ulysses was not obscene. 

The 100 best books of the 21st century

Here’s a very humbling list of the best of world literature, both fiction and nonfiction, produced so far in the 21st century. I’ll never catch up.

© 2019 by Mary Daniels Brown