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 start with Notes on a Scandal by Zoë Heller. I thought I had seen the film adaptation of this book, but from the description I see that I have not. I saw something, probably on Netflix, similarly titled, but about a politician.
However, not having seen the film or read the starting book isn’t a problem, because the link I’m using for the first degree is the absence of the word Notes in the book title: In the Margins: On the Pleasures of Reading and Writing by Elena Ferrante, translated by Ann Goldstein. Appropriate for a blog called Notes in the Margin, right? In this short book Italian author Elena Ferrante writes about her struggles and her growth as both a writer and a reader. I have this book on my TBR shelf.
My second degree is another book on my TBR shelf, How to Read Now by Elaine Castillo:
Not only are these first two books both on my TBR shelf and both about reading, but their covers are markedly similar. Just look at them side by side, with their black backgrounds and their white and red typography:
Another book about writing, and one that I have read, is Writing in an Age of Silence by Sara Paretsky, author of the V.I. Warshawski mystery novels. Published in 2007, this book “explores the traditions of political and literary dissent that have informed [Paretsky’s] life and work, against the unparalleled repression of free speech and thought in the USA today” (Goodreads).
The thought of reading and writing during turbulent times brings to mind one of the most famous novels about such times, A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens. This novel’s famous opening—“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. . .”—evokes the ambiguity of life under such circumstances, a time of both danger and opportunity. I’ve always found Sydney Carton, the intelligent but cynical lawyer unable to make the most of his abilities, the most interesting among this novel’s panorama of characters because he recognizes an opportunity to change the meaning of his life: “It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done.”
Another book about finding meaning in one’s life is Sorrow and Bliss by Meg Mason, which was the starting point of a recent 6 Degrees of Separation exercise.
I’ve read this novel but haven’t reviewed it on the blog because I’m still mulling it over. I’m not quite sure how I feel about what I see as the novel’s mixed messages and ambiguity.
Finally, another book about the ambiguity of life that I’m still mulling over (and therefore haven’t yet reviewed) is The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes. The protagonist of this novel has settled into early old age with a satisfied complacency about the life he has lived. But the arrival, out of the blue, about something that happened in his young adulthood causes him to investigate and re-examine his life story.
When I started this chain of thinking, I had no idea where it would take me. But I have found a certain logical progression here, from thinking about reading fiction in general back to thinking about some particular novels and what they have to say about human existence.
Where did your 6 Degrees of Separation list take you this month?
© 2022 by Mary Daniels Brown