Hosted by Kate at the Books Are My Favourite and Best blog, the Six Degrees of Separation meme is a monthly bookish version of the original concept devised by Frigyes Karinthy in 1929 (more here). Each month Kate chooses a different starting book for us to take in whichever direction inspires us. Thanks for Elle for highlighting this fun meme last month. I love puzzle type memes, so had to join in this month – and the starting book is:
Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguru
I read this 2005 novel pre-blog, so no review link. One of the things that the pupils at Hailsham, the weird boarding school, are encouraged to do is to paint – to create art, which is whisked off by the headmistress.
“We took away your art because we thought it would reveal your souls. Or to put it more finely, we did it to prove you had souls at all.”
Thus for my first link – art takes me to:
1. An Object of Beauty by Steve Martin
…which takes a more satirical view. Art, and particularly contemporary art these days, is more often viewed as a commodity to be bought and sold as described in Steve Martin’s beautifully crafted novel.
It’s all about the money… which leads to
2. Money by Martin Amis
Amis’s satire on the money-grabbing 1980s is partially set in New York City – a location central to so many novels, that it was hard to pick where to go next until going through my posts tagged ‘New York’, one stood out to me…
3. The Invention of Everything Else by Samantha Hunt
Let me take you back to a hotel in NYC in 1943 where scientist Nikola Tesla was living out the last months of his life. He plays a central role in this novel.
Chambermaid Louisa befriends the ailing scientist who had failed to capitalise on his development of AC systems which overtook Edison’s lesser DC ones. He let go of his ideas for radio too and Marconi leapt in to steal the limelight. His head is still full of mad plans though from death rays to time travel, It is the latter that Louisa’s father and friend Azor are working on too.
Time travel will then lead us to:
4. Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
S-5 is commonly seen as Vonnegut’s most influential novel, as it builds in autobiographical elements of Vonnegut’s own experience of the firebombing of Dresden as a PoW, escaping death by hiding in the cellar of ‘Slaughterhouse-5’. Other themes are time travel, alien abduction and living an otherwise normal life – all seen through Vonnegut’s metafictional alterego Billy Pilgrim.
Kurt Vonnegut looms large as the favourite author of one of the characters in:
5. The Universe versus Alex Woods by Gavin Extence
This is the story of an unusual friendship between young Alex and the reclusive widower and Vietnam veteran who’d settled in England Mr Petersen. They meet when Alex is hiding from bullies in his greenhouse – and the greenhouse gets smashed. Alex’s mum makes him help out Mr P for penance, the two strike up a friendship and Mr P shares his love of the books of Vonnegut.
There were so many directions I could have gone from here for my last link: Alex’s Mum is a clairvoyant white witch which would lead me to Sally Green’s Half Bad trilogy, amongst other avenues. However, Alex suffers from epilepsy and has to learn coping strategies for it, helped by his consultant, Dr Enderby…
I watched my breath. I counted to fifty. I named each of the planets and major moons in turn, starting at the sun and working my way out to the Kuiper Belt. I listed every character from The Simpsons I could think of. I remained calm and alert and banished any distractions into a separate corner of my mind and focused my attention like a laser. It was a very strange experience. I told Dr Enderby that it felt like Jedi training. Dr Enderby replied that it was like Jedi training. It was a form of meditation – a way of helping my brain to stay poised and peaceful.
Thus, epilepsy takes me to:
6. Electricity by Ray Robinson
This is another novel I read pre-blog, but mentioned in my review of Robinson’s second novel The Man Without.
Electricity has a superb heroine in Lily – a severe epileptic who was abused and in care as a child. The novel follows her quest to find her lost brother Mikey. The text buzzes and hums around her as we find out what it’s like to suffer a fit and how the condition rules her life. The language is direct and doesn’t pull any punches, but we’re with Lily all the way on her as she searches for the family she’s never had. An astounding debut.
Electricity was filmed in 2014, and stars model Agyness Deyn as Lily. It received rave reviews but never made it to a cinema near me that I was aware of sadly. I’ve ordered the DVD, and I am reminded that I have Robinson’s 3rd and 4th novels in my TBR; he’s an author that deserves more attention.
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From Never Let Me Go to Electricity – I enjoyed this journey. Feel free to join in and link back to the monthly meme home-post here (from November 5).