6 Degrees of Separation: From “Where the Wild Things Are” to “Under the Lake”

Here’s my entry in Kate’s 6 Degrees of Separation Meme from her blog, Books Are My Favourite and Best. Here’s how it works:

Books can be linked in obvious ways – for example, books by the same authors, from the same era or genre, or books with similar themes or settings. Or, you may choose to link them in more personal or esoteric ways: books you read on the same holiday, books given to you by a particular friend, books that remind you of a particular time in your life, or books you read for an online challenge.

The great thing about this meme is that each participant can make their own rules. A book doesn’t need to be connected to all the other books on the list, only to the ones next to them in the chain. . .

This month we begin with the children’s classic Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak. 

1. Word association leads me immediately to Cheryl Strayed’s memoir Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail. Just let me say that I was not wild about this book. I thought it was way over-hyped and wasn’t even fully satisfying as a memoir (and I’ve studied a lot of memoirs, having written my dissertation on life stories just before this book came out). 

2. So let me stretch the word association a bit to arrive at the novel Wilde Lake by Laura Lippman. To tell the truth, I wasn’t particularly wild about this one, either. It’s Lippman’s homage to Harper Lee’s classic To Kill a Mockingbird, but it doesn’t work as well as its model.

3. But I have high hopes for Laura Lippman’s latest novel, Lady in the Lake,  scheduled for publication by William Morrow on July 23, 2019. The description on Goodreads promises a book “that combines modern psychological insights with elements of classic noir.” This book shares with the previous one not only an author but also the word lake in the title.

4. Another novel with the word lake in the title is In the Lake of the Woods by Tim O’Brien. I read it back in 1996 and certainly should reread it. It’s haunting in the way that only the best literature is, giving readers much to ponder.

5. By the Lake by Irish writer John McGahern is a quiet yet deep novel set in a rural village in Ireland. Over the course of a year the novel explores the inner and outer lives of the villagers: their relationships with each other, with the land, and with the encroachment of the modern world on their way of life.

6. Having been in the lake and by the lake, we finally arrive Under the Lake in a novel by Stuart Woods. I remember it as the spookiest book I’d ever read when I discovered it back in 1996. But I’ve read a lot of other spooky books since then, and I don’t know whether I’d be as wild about it now as I was back then if I reread it.

That’s the end of this month’s journey, a wild trek near, into, and under several literary lakes.

© 2019 by Mary Daniels Brown

6 Degrees of Separation: From “Murmur” to “Eat, Pray, Love”

Here’s my second entry in Kate’s 6 Degrees of Separation Meme from her blog, Books Are My Favourite and Best. Here’s how it works:

Books can be linked in obvious ways – for example, books by the same authors, from the same era or genre, or books with similar themes or settings. Or, you may choose to link them in more personal or esoteric ways: books you read on the same holiday, books given to you by a particular friend, books that remind you of a particular time in your life, or books you read for an online challenge.

The great thing about this meme is that each participant can make their own rules. A book doesn’t need to be connected to all the other books on the list, only to the ones next to them in the chain. . .

This month we begin with the winner of the 2019 Wellcome Prize, Murmur by Will Eaves.

I have not yet read this book, but I find the description from Amazon fascinating:

In Murmur, a hallucinatory masterwork, Will Eaves invites us into the brilliant mind of Alec Pryor, a character inspired by Alan Turing. Turing, father of artificial intelligence and pioneer of radical new techniques to break the Nazi Enigma cipher during World War II, was later persecuted by the British state for “gross indecency with another male” and forced to undergo chemical castration. Set during the devastating period before Turing’s suicide, Murmur evokes an extraordinary life, the beauty and sorrows of love, and the nature of consciousness.

1. After this description of Murmur, a description of a novel due to hit shelves on June 4 struck me: Fall, or Dodge in Hell by Neal Stephenson, which will also explore the nature of consciousness:

From the author of Snow Crash comes a futuristic take on Paradise Lost. In a parallel universe, Dodge is pronounced brain-dead, catapulting his consciousness into the cloud where the “eternal afterlife” is not the utopia it might first seem. 

2. Dark Matter by Blake Crouch also looks at the possibility of parallel universes, although alternative universes might be a more apt phrase, since every choice we make takes us down one path to the exclusion of all other possible paths and their possible worlds.

3. Since different choices could theoretically produce different worlds, one of the classic conundrums of time travel literature is the question of how changing something in the past will affect (or effect; both words are accurate here) the present. In Stephen King’s novel 11/22/63, Jake Epping is tasked by his dying friend with traveling back in time to prevent the assassination of John F. Kennedy. On one of his returns from the past, Jake arrives in a present so frighteningly different from the one he knows that all he can do is scramble back through the time portal as fast as possible to get back to the past and try to fix things.

4. November Road by Lou Berney takes place in late November 1963. Frank Guidry is livin’ the good life as a mid-level functionary of the most powerful crime boss in New Orleans. When President Kennedy is assassinated, Frank remembers that he delivered a get-away car to Dallas just a few days earlier. When a couple of Frank’s associates turn up dead, Frank realizes that whoever’s behind the Kennedy assassination is tying up loose ends—and that he himself is just another loose end. Without even returning home he hits the road to try to outrun the hit man he knows will soon be on his tail.

The obvious connection between November Road and King’s 11/22/63 is the Kennedy assassination. But another similarity between the two is the love story that develops in each and the decision by both male protagonists to sacrifice self-interest and do what’s best in the overall scheme of things.

5. Frank Guidry takes off on a desperate run to save his life. Another character who takes off on an even wilder dash to stay alive is Jason Bourne, the title character of The Bourne Identity, the first—and best—entry in Robert Ludlum’s Jason Bourne series. While scrambling to stay alive, the character known as Jason Bourne searches not only for the people who created his fake persona but also for his true identity. And yes, he’s also working to figure out how to do what’s right within the overall scheme of things.

6. Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert is the nonfiction story of a woman whose soul-searching takes her to several places around the globe on her quest for self-discovery.

So there we have it: another journey of discovery through the overall scheme of the literary world. 

© 2019 by Mary Daniels Brown

6 Degrees of Separation: From “The Dry” to “Oliver Twist”

While exploring other book blogs after I came home from my vacation, I discovered the 6 DEGREES OF SEPARATION MEME.

I was immediately drawn to it because I like the way it makes me think about how the books I read may be related. Here, from the meme description page, is how it works:

Books can be linked in obvious ways – for example, books by the same authors, from the same era or genre, or books with similar themes or settings. Or, you may choose to link them in more personal or esoteric ways: books you read on the same holiday, books given to you by a particular friend, books that remind you of a particular time in your life, or books you read for an online challenge.


The great thing about this meme is that each participant can make their own rules. A book doesn’t need to be connected to all the other books on the list, only to the ones next to them in the chain. . .

If this kind of exercise appeals to you, too, you can find out all about how to participate by checking out Kate’s 6 Degrees of Separation Meme page at her blog, Books Are My Favourite and Best.  

This month’s exercise begins with Jane Harper’s debut best-seller, The Dry. I was impressed enough with The Dry that I immediately bought Harper’s second novel, and second in the Aaron Falk series, Force of Nature.

1. Having become a fan of Harper’s writing, I bought her next book, The Lost Man (a standalone novel) while we were traveling in Australia.

2. I also bought another book in Australia, by another Australian author: What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty. In this novel, Alice wakes up after a head injury with no memory of the most recent 10 years of her life. 

3. Sometimes I Lie by Alice Feeney features a lead character, Amber Reynolds, who also wakes up in a hospital after a head injury with little memory of what happened to her. Amber warns us right up front: “Sometimes I lie.”

4. But not all unreliable narrators are downright liars. Some are just naive, like Philip in Daphne du Maurier’s novel My Cousin Rachel. Philip was raised from young childhood by his much older cousin, Ambrose, who designates Philip as his heir.

5. Another orphaned child raised by a relative is Pip in Great Expectations by Charles Dickens. 

6. Of course, it’s impossible to discuss Dickens and orphans without mentioning one of his best known works, Oliver Twist.     

Isn’t that a long and twisty path, from Australia all the way back to England, the country that sent its prisoners to colonize the land down under?

© 2019 by Mary Daniels Brown