Saturday 3 February 2018

#6degrees February

#6degrees is a monthly meme hosted by Kate @Books Are My Favourite and Best.

Oftentimes I haven't read the starting book for this meme, but I can assure you that I only play the next 6 books with ones I have actually read. 
If I've read the book during this blogging life, then I include my review, otherwise, you just have to take my word for it!

This month the starting book is Lincoln in the Bardo by George Sauders.
Are you game?

Old image alert - Kate @Books Are My Favourite & Best now hosts #6Degrees but this is a good refresh of the rules.

I've been rather distracted and all over the place these past few months.
November & December flew by in a blur of grief and busyness.
I sat down to write a January #6degrees post but inspiration failed me completely.

I'm hoping that February will turn things around.

1. It's my birthday month
2. I'm turning 50
3. It's my party & I'll cry if I want to
4. I'm enjoying my first w/e at home for ages
5. A lovely cool change blew in to Sydney during the week
6. I've had my first Saturday morning sleep-in this year
7. Lincoln in the Bardo was one of my favourite books of 2017

So where to next?
Lincoln in the Bardo was a courageous choice for the Man Booker Prize judges.
Many people are still struggling with the whole international (i.e. American) nature of the prize now.
And Lincoln in the Bardo was not, and is not, a conventional book.
It's structure and format frustrates and annoys many readers.
I however loved it from start to finish.

I had the same response to an earlier Booker winner that played around with structure and format, that many readers also failed to warm to... The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton.

One of the things I loved about it was Catton's ability to evoke such a strong sense of place.
It would be easy to now jump to Tim Winton as being another writer who has that amazing ability to write about place with such power, but I'm going to take a step to the right and pick Robert Drewe instead. His memoir styled story, Shark Net, struck a huge chord with me, even though I did not grow in WA in the 1960's!

Madeleine St John's The Women in Black is about a young girl coming of age in Sydney during the late 1950's. Even though I did not grow up in Sydney during this time, I did visit Sydney a lot in the 70's. Sydney in the 70's was obviously not that different to Sydney in the 50's - I recognised pretty much everything that St John mentioned.

Reading stories that reflect your own life and your own experiences are important.
Perhaps readers in England, Europe and the US don't feel this as strongly, but it took quite some time for Australians to feel comfortable with their fellow Australians telling stories to and about us.
I could write post after post on the Cultural Cringe that infected our artistic life for so long.
My childhood was spent reading about children living in England and Northern America in particular. The first story that I remember reading, that was set in Australia, occurred during my teen years when I discovered Pastures of the Blue Crane by H. F. Brinsmead in my school library.

Reading a book that was set in an area that I knew so well was such a powerful validation of identity. It was the first time that I was consciously aware of a sense of belonging and pride for this country that I was born into. 
Pastures of the Blue Crane also was my first introduction to an Indigenous perspective in literature.
Since that time, I have read many more stories and texts by indigenous authors.
The most recent was Dark Emu Black Seeds by Bruce Pascoe.

Lots of important ideas and issues were raised and discussed by Pascoe in this book, but one that continues to play through my mind is the idea of 'to the victor goes the spoils.'
History is so often written by the 'winners' - those that hold the power and all the resources.
Stories from the perspective of minority groups and the less powerful are forgotten, discounted or ignored completely.
In an attempt to address this imbalance one my current non-fiction reads is Inglorious Empire: What the British Did to India by Shashi Tharoor.

From a story about ghosts and letting go, we journeyed through sense of place and belonging, to a history populated with the ghosts of inglorious misdeeds. 
The trick, it would seem, after learning how to let go, is to move forward.

Which leads us to March #6degrees where our starting book will be The Beauty Myth by Naomi Wolf.


  1. What an amazing chain of books you have here! I've read The Shark Net and The Women in Black (my bookclub book last month) and Dark Emu is on my bookshelf waiting for me. All the others sound like they should be on my TBR pile.

  2. Anonymous3/2/18

    Happy birthday!

    I loved Women in Black - such a delightful story and so glad it got renewed recognition after the musical production - did you see it?

    1. No I didn't see The Women in Black (we were in Cuba Jan last year when it was showing!) but a friend who did was rather disappointed.

  3. First of all, happy birthday! 50 isn't bad - now 60?? Anyway, I really enjoyed your chain. I had heard about The Luminaries, but wasn't familiar with any of the other books. Always love broadening my reading eye.

    1. My 40's have been fabulous, so I'm a little sad to leave them behind, but all my friends have said that the 50's are just as good...or even better as there is much less running around after kids!

      And yes, my #6degrees tends to be dominated by Australian books...

  4. I love this chain! A sense of place! I have read about 43% (according to Goodreads) of The Luminaries and enjoy it but for some reason I keep putting it aside to read something else, eventually I will finish it. Coming from Canada, we can understand the "Cultural Cringe". Thankfully like Australia we have come to champion our writers and artists . Now the francophones in Québec did it a lot earlier than anglophones in the rest of Canada.

    1. The Luminaries got easier to read as you go along.
      1. All the characters that seemed overwhelming at the beginning become familiar.
      2. Each chapters was shorter by half than the one before. Which meant by the end the final few chapters were very quick.
      3. I enjoyed it so much, I saved it to reread at a later date. Hopefully on our next trip to NZ.

      I was curious/pleased to hear that Canadians have had a similar cultural cringe. I try to seek out Canadian lit as I often feel there is an affinity of colonial experience that comes across in your stories. Your local lit scene has had a wonderful flourishing in recent years, like ours - long may it continue!

  5. Happy Birthday!

    Such a fascinating chain - taking me to books I haven't read. I don't like the look of Lincoln in the Bardo, so was really interested to see that it's such a favourite of yours. I've borrowed it from the library and after flipping through it I decided not to read it - maybe I should think again...

    I have a Kindle copy of The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton and keep meaning to start it, but apart from that I haven' heard of the other books in your chain.

    1. Lincoln in the Bardo is not for everyone. Mr Books didn't take to it at all. Whereas I cannot wait to reread it one day.

      That's what I love about reading and blogging - we all have different tastes and just because we enjoy lots of the same books and authors doesn't mean we will like everything. One of my colleagues is a prolific reader of contemporary Aust lit and constantly recommends books - I have about an 85% agreement rate with her, which I think is a fabulous kinship, but she's disappointed because I haven't got into some of her very, very favourite books as much as she did.

      What I'm trying to say in a waffling round about way is don't read Lincoln in the Bardo cause you feel you should. If it's not for you, that's okay...there are plenty of other choices out there :-)

    2. Mr Brooks and I agree! :)

  6. Nice set of links. I did not warm to The Luminaries. I had not long since read Hokitika Town by Charlotte Randall which is set in the era and place I liked it better.

    1. Adding Hokitika Town to my wishlist now :-)

  7. Many books here I haven't heard of, which is always a good thing, except for on my wallet... Interesting what you say about the Cringe or inferiority complex of portraying life in Australia as opposed to life in the UK or America

  8. You do this '#6 degrees" so well...there is a great deal of thought required to produce such an engaging post! After reading your choices I should buckle down and get back to #Reading Aussie! Dark Emu is definitely on my list! I still have Tracker (A. Wright) on the Kindle....but have a difficult time starting it. Have you heard from others is the book is worth reading time?
    ...and remember 50 is the new 30!

    1. Thanks Nancy. I just start writing them each month and the thoughts and connections flow. The times that they don't (like in Jan) I simply have to abandon ship.

      "The weight of these stories demands the reader’s ongoing and active attention, and at 580 pages, this can be challenging. Good portions of the anecdotes are acronym-filled or legalistic, which can be alienating, yet it is worth persevering: they shift, without warning, to brilliant insight. Tracker requires a lot of effort, but does reward the reader for it." The Guardian review of Tracker

  9. Interesting chain and such a variety of books. I actually loved The Luminaries. Was quite impressed on the structure of the book. I have not read any of the others, but they all seem interesting.
    There is such an influx of literature from England and the US, often good ones. I think we tend to forget our own neighbourhood. I have been living out of Sweden for 35 years and must admit, that I probably know more about the countries I have lived in or read about, than Sweden! You take a lot for granted about your own country.

  10. Glad to know that you really liked Lincoln in the Bardo since we are doing it for book club in a few months. I also want to read The Luminaries but the length of it scares me. Happy Birthday this month, btw. I also have a February birthday. Here is my 6-Degrees Post

  11. I'm very taken with The Women in Black. Great chain, and I hope your year improves.


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