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ExUrbanis

Urban Leaving to Country Living

SIX DEGREES OF SEPARATION from Revolutionary Road

December2

This link-up is hosted by Books Are My Favourite and Best, and was inspired by Hungarian writer and poet Frigyes Karinthy. In his 1929 short story, “Chains”, Karinthy coined the phrase ‘six degrees of separation’. The phrase was popularized by a 1990 play written by John Guare, which was later made into a film starring Stockard Channing.

On the first Saturday of every month, Kate chooses a book as a starting point and links that book to six others forming a chain. Bloggers and readers are invited to join in and the beauty of this mini-challenge is that I can decide how and why I make the links in my chain

6 Degrees of Separation December 2016 photo 2016-12 Revolutionary Road_zps9i7cdlfy.jpg

December’s starting book is Richard Yates’ 1961 classic Revolutionary Road. This is another starting book that I haven’t read yet. Amazon tells me that “It’s the story of Frank and April Wheeler, a bright, beautiful, and talented couple who have lived on the assumption that greatness is only just around the corner.”

1. Revolutionary Road came into my sphere of awareness about the same time as Reservation Road by John Burnham Schwarz, which has nothing at all to do with Yates’ novel, except that I confused them in my mind for a couple of years. Reservation Road is the story of man who accidently runs over a young boy and flees the scene. It was made into a movie with Mark Ruffalo in 2007.

2. In 2011, the sequel Northwest Corner by the same author was published. It tells the story of the same man, after he is released from prison some years later and is trying to start his life over. I won a copy of this in a blog giveaway and read it in January 2012.

3. Another book I read in January 2012 was Blizzard of Glass: The Halifax Explosion 1917 by Sally Walker.

Imagine the greatest manmade explosion in history prior to the atomic bomb. That was what was detonated in Halifax Harbour in December of 1917, killing two thousand people, leaving more than six thousand wounded, many of them blinded by flying glass, and over 9,000 homeless. Relief efforts were hampered by a blizzard the day after the explosion.

The style of this book is a middle-school textbook but it’s well worth the read.

4. Since The Cartographer of No Man’s Land by P.S. Duffy is set throughout the year of 1917, in France and in Chester Nova Scotia, just a few miles outside Halifax, I expected the Explosion to play some part in the story. I was disappointed that it rated only a passing reference near the end of the book.

5. The explosion also has a bit part in Ami McKay’s The Birth House. The bulk of this story takes place in the years 1916-1919, in Nova Scotia, this time on the Bay of Fundy shore.

The protagonist, Dora Rae, is befriended and mentored by the community’s midwife/herbalist. Over the course of her life, Dora’s house becomes the birth house—or the place where the women of the community go to have their babies, rather than taking the sometimes dangerous trip into the nearest town where ‘modern’ male medicine suits their needs somewhat less.

The midwives offered onion juice as a tonic to their expectant and new mothers.

6. Another book where onions have medicinal purposes is Holes by Louis Sachar, a 1999 multiple award winning children’s chapter book. Our protagonist Stanley Yelnats has been unjustly sent to a boys’ detention center in the desert, where the boys build character by spending all day, every day, digging holes exactly five feet wide and five feet deep.

There’s a mystery told in flashback so the reader is always ahead of Stanley but just, and there’s piecing together for the reader to do too. It’s actually quite a bit of fun. (The onions play a part in the flashback bits.)

So there you have it: from 1950s suburbia to a 1990s boys’ detention centre, via the first world war. What do you think?
 

Why not visit Kate’s blog and see how she made the final connection to Rush Oh!

P.S. The links are affiliate links so I will receive a small percentage of any purchase you make after clicking through from this blog.

SIX DEGREES OF SEPARATION: I Love New York – from New York City to New York City

October5

This link-up is hosted by Books Are My Favourite and Best, and was inspired by Hungarian writer and poet Frigyes Karinthy. In his 1929 short story, “Chains”, Karinthy coined the phrase ‘six degrees of separation’. The phrase was popularized by a 1990 play written by John Guare, which was later made into a film starring Stockard Channing.

On the first Saturday of every month, Kate chooses a book as a starting point and links that book to six others forming a chain. Bloggers and readers are invited to join in and the beauty of this mini-challenge is that I can decide how and why I make the links in my chain

Six Degrees of Separation October 2016 photo 2016-10 Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close_zpsitfy3g83.jpg

October’s starting book is Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer. It’s the story of nine –year-old Oskar who is on an urgent, secret search through the five boroughs of New York City. His mission is to find the lock that fits a mysterious key belonging to his father, who died in the World Trade Center on 9/11. I haven’t read this book but I have read the first novel by this author:

Everything Is Illuminated which is a very busy, self-conscious novel. The main story concerns a young American Jew named Jonathan Safran Foer (yes, the same name as the author, though the book is fiction) who travels to the Ukraine searching for the woman who saved his grandfather from the Nazis in 1941. At the risk of giving you a spoiler, I will tell you that there is a grand betrayal waiting at the end of this tale.

Betrayal is the underlying current in Vasily Grossman’s autobiographical novel Everything Flows. Part of the book features a series of informers who step forward, each making excuses for the inexcusable things that he did—inexcusable and yet, the informers plead, in Stalinist Russia understandable, almost unavoidable.

Life under another Communist government—this one Mao’s China—is examined in Waiting, a novel by Ha Jin. The author portrays the life of Lin Kong, a dedicated doctor torn by his love for two women: one who belongs to the New China of the Cultural Revolution, the other to the ancient traditions of his family’s village.

While we’re talking about love and bad government, let’s move to Lily Tuck’s The News from Paraguay. Amazon describes this: “The year is 1854. In Paris, Francisco Solano –the future dictator of Paraguay—begins his courtship of the young, beautiful Irish courtesan Ella Lynch with a poncho, a Paraguayan band, and a horse named Mathilde. Ella follows Franco to Asunción and reigns there as his mistress.”

Another strong woman, married to a famous man, and in a Latin American setting, Frida Kahlo was a real-life artist. Barbara Mujica’s Frida is a haunting and powerful fictional account that chronicles Kahlo’s life, from a childhood shadowed by polio to the accident at eighteen that left her barren, from her marriage to larger-than-life muralist Diego Rivera through her tragic decline into alcoholism and drug abuse. This is the book that inspired the movie of the same name but I don’t recommend either to anyone sensitive about strong language.

(Did you know that you can buy Frida Kahlo paper dolls on Amazon?!)

And finally, my last link – from one artist to another (or two). Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon tells a story set in 1939 New York City, where budding magician Joe Kavalier arrives on the doorstep of his cousin, Sammy Clay. While the long shadow of Hitler falls across Europe, America is happily in thrall to the Golden Age of comic books, and Sammy and the artistically-gifted Joe team up to produce uber-successful supermen.

There you go – NYC to NYC, albeit in different time periods. What do you think?
 

Why not visit Kate’s blog and see how she made the final connection to The Book of Royal Lists?

P.S. The links are affiliate links so I will receive a small percentage of any purchase you make after clicking through from this blog.

SIX DEGREES OF SEPARATION: Year of Wonders to White Fang

August6

This link-up is hosted by Books Are My Favourite and Best, and was inspired by Hungarian writer and poet Frigyes Karinthy. In his 1929 short story, “Chains”, Karinthy coined the phrase ‘six degrees of separation’. The phrase was popularized by a 1990 play written by John Guare, which was later made into a film starring Stockard Channing.

On the first Saturday of every month, Kate chooses a book as a starting point and links that book to six others forming a chain. Bloggers and readers are invited to join in and the beauty of this mini-challenge is that I can decide how and why I make the links in my chain.

Six Degrees of Separation Year of Wonders Aug2016 photo 2016-8 Year of Wonders_zpsg1amj8kk.jpg

August’s starting book is Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks. You no doubt know that this is a story of the plague in the year 1666. When one village receives an infected bolt of cloth from Europe, they decide to isolate themselves from the world in order to prevent the spread of plague to their neighbours. Year of Wonders is perhaps Brooks’ best known book, but the book the won her the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction is

1. March in which she imagines the Civil War experiences of Marmee’s husband, and the March sisters’ (Meg, Jo, Beth & Amy) father. It is a stunning story, and I believe that Brooks based the character loosely on Amos Bronson Alcott, father of real-life author Louisa May who wrote

2. Little Women (Kindle edition free on Amazon). I’m certain this link did not surprise you. This classic story of one year in the lives of the March sisters of New England during the American Civil War justly holds its place of honour in American literary tradition. We likely all know that the character of Jo March was the author’s alter-ego.

3. In The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott, the only book in this chain that I have not read, the author Kelly O’Connor McNees, mixes fact and fiction to return to the summer of 1855 when Louisa was twenty-two. The cover promises that it is “a richly imagined, remarkably written story of the woman who created [Little Women]”.

4. From the LOST summer, we move a link to LAst Summer in Louisburg by Claire Mowat. The fortress of Louisburg is on Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia, Canada. It’s been partially rebuilt and is a National Historic Site which employs scores of young people every summer to act in character throughout the fort. This book is a novel for young teens and centres on fifteen-year-old Andrea Baxter who obtains just such a summer job working in the fort.

Claire Mowat was the wife of Farley Mowat, famed Canadian author, who left a prodigious oeuvre of non-fiction books about Canada, its people, its wildlife, and its geography. He is perhaps best known for The Boat Who Wouldn’t Float and

5. Never Cry Wolf. This book is based on naturalist Mowat’s work for the Canadian government’s Wildlife Service which in the 1950s sent him north to assess the slaughter of caribou by wolves. Mowat is dropped alone onto the frozen tundra, where he begins his mission to live among the howling wolf packs and study their ways.

Never Cry Wolf should be required reading in every secondary school in Canada, and perhaps the US. It was made into a movie starring Charles Martin Smith and Brian Dennehy in 1983.

The cover on this reissue of Never Cry Wolf is a crime and I wonder how people in publishing who have never read a book are allowed to choose a cover. Nonetheless, the cover leads me to my last link:

6. White Fang (free Kindle edition on Amazon), a classic novel by Jack London first published in 1906. It takes place in the Yukon Territories and Northwest Territories of Canada during the 1890s Klondike Gold Rush. White Fang, whose mother was half-wolf, is a fighting dog (hence the cover) who inherits a new owner who domesticates him.

So that’s my chain of six degrees: from a seventeenth century English village to nineteenth century Arctic Canada in six links. What do you think?

Why not visit Kate’s blog and see how she made the final connection to The Muse?
 

P.S. The links are affiliate links so I will receive a small percentage of any purchase you make after clicking through from this blog.

SIX DEGREES OF SEPARATION from Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet

June4

This link-up is hosted by Books Are My Favourite and Best, and was inspired by Hungarian writer and poet Frigyes Karinthy. In his 1929 short story, “Chains”, Karinthy coined the phrase ‘six degrees of separation’. The phrase was popularized by a 1990 play written by John Guare, which was later made into a film starring Stockard Channing.

On the first Saturday of every month, Kate chooses a book as a starting point and links that book to six others forming a chain. Bloggers and readers are invited to join in and the beauty of this mini-challenge is that I can decide how and why I make the links in my chain.

six degrees of separation June 2016 photo 2016-6 Romeo amp Juliet_zpsnrb0h4jf.jpg

June’s starting book is Romeo & Juliet by William Shakespeare. Is there anyone who doesn’t know this story, even if they haven’t read the play or seen it performed? It’s the classic “love-tragedy” that is so poignant over 400 years after its writing that I find myself still, upon seeing it performed, wanting to call out loud to the players: “Turn around!” or “No! Wait!”

1. Its connection to my first link Juliet in August by Dianne Warren is in title only. This cool and still story (also published as Cool Water) of a priairie town in summer won the Canadian Governor-General’s Award for Fiction in 2010.

2. The book that is my next link, The Sisters Brothers by Patrick DeWitt won the same award, the following year. Both books are Canadian and both are very good but deWitt’s ‘noir western’ about two cowboys whose last name is Sisters and who are hired to kill a man, is in no other way similar to Warren’s book, nor to my third link (by a title word only),

3. The Bird Sisters by Rebecca Rasmussen, which tells the story of two elderly spinster sisters who nurse injured birds back to health. The birds lead me to my fourth link,

4. Nicholas Drayson’s A Guide to the Birds of East Africa , a gentle love story of the courtship between two middle-aged bird-watchers in almost-modern-day Kenya. This was a charming book which connects in two ways (love and Africa) to my fifth link in the chain.

5. African Love Stories, edited by Ama Ata Aidoo, is an anthology of short stories, not so gentle, about love relationships, mostly in West Africa, expecially Nigeria. My last link also connects to Africa and love.

6. Adé: A Love Story by Rebecca Walker is a love story in the tradition of Romeo and Juliet: haunting and heart-breaking. This tale, set in modern-day Kenya, deserves to be a classic of 21st century literature. I have not been as touched by a book in a long time as I was by Adé.

So that’s my chain of six degrees: from a classic love tragedy of the 16th century to an equalling heart-rending love tragedy of the 21st century. What do you think? Does love ever change?

Why not visit Kate’s blog and see how she made the final connection to The Last Painting of Sarah de Vos.

P.S. The links are affiliate links so I will receive a small percentage of any purchase you make after clicking through from this blog.

SIX DEGREES OF SEPARATION from “Perfume – The Story of a Murderer”

May7

This link-up is hosted by Books Are My Favourite and Best, and was inspired by Hungarian writer and poet Frigyes Karinthy. In his 1929 short story, “Chains”, Karinthy coined the phrase ‘six degrees of separation’. The phrase was popularized by a 1990 play written by John Guare, which was later made into a film starring Stockard Channing.

On the first Saturday of every month, Kate chooses a book as a starting point and links that book to six others forming a chain. Bloggers and readers are invited to join in and the beauty of this mini-challenge is that I can decide how and why I make the links in my chain.

 photo 2016-4 Perfume_zpskx1vh4ag.jpg

May’s starting book is Perfume – the Story of a Murderer.

1. I haven’t read Perfume but I understand that it is translated from German, as is Thomas Mann’s classic of modern literature, The Buddenbrooks: The Decline of a Family, first published in Germany in 1900. I read this in my pre-blogging days for our local book club, The Loquacious Compendium.

2. The Mountain and the Valley by Ernest Buckler, a modern classic in its own right, also documents the decline of a family over three generations of farming people in the Annapolis Valley of Nova Scotia. The tale culminates in the story of David Canaan who wants to leave the family farm to devote himself to writing.

3. Loyal Blood, the main character in Annie Proulx’ Postcards also leaves the farm – this one in post WWII Vermont, and for an entirely different reason. Loyal has unintentionally killed his fiancee – the literal girl next door, hastily buried her body, and fled in the night leaving a note to say that he and she have run off together. Afraid to ever leave a trail, over the years Loyal sends heart-wrenching barely-literate postcards from across the USA to his family, but remains unable to receive news from them.

4. The postcards in Griffin and Sabine: An Extraordinary Correspondence are of a different type. They are part of an artistic correspondence documented in this incredibly imagined & illustrated book. (Click on the title to see my 2012 review.

5. The topic of illustration put me in mind of The Illustrated Man by Ray Bradbury which I also reviewed in 2012.

6. And Bradbury leads me to my sixth and last link in the chain: Dandelion Wine, Bradbury’s enchanting tale of twelve-year-old Douglas Spaulding and the summer of 1928. I read (and reread) and loved this book as a teenager. It holds its magic still.

So that’s my chain: not as strong as I’d like but leading from the slums of 18th century France to the small town of Green Town, Illinois two centuries later. Do you have any suggestions for me? Why not visit Kate’s blog and see how she made the final connection to The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters.

P.S. The links are affiliate links so I will receive a small percentage of any purchase you make after clicking through from this blog.

Six Degrees of Separation from “A Prayer for Owen Meany”

April5

This is the first time I’ve joined in this meme. It’s hosted by Books Are My Favourite and Best, and was inspired by Hungarian writer and poet Frigyes Karinthy. In his 1929 short story, “Chains”, Karinthy coined the phrase ‘six degrees of separation’. The phrase was popularized by a 1990 play written by John Guare, which was later made into a film starring Stockard Channing.

On the first Saturday of every month, Kate chooses a book as a starting point and links that book to six others forming a chain. Bloggers and readers are invited to join in and the beauty of this mini-challenge is that I can decide how and why I make the links in my chain.

 photo 2014-4 A Prayer for Own Meany 450_zpsuevr66ti.jpg

April’s starting book is A Prayer for Owen Meany. The Vietnam War plays a large part in the adult lives of the two main characters John & Owen, and I haven’t yet read a better book to explain (from the side that wasn’t protesting for peace) the emotions and politics of that war in the USA than Altamont Augie. It’s nothing if not thought-provoking.

The Headmaster’s Wager shows the life of the South Vietnamese people during that War, particularly the headmaster of an elite school. Seeing troubles on the horizon Percival Chen, said headmaster, sends his son to live in China, from where his parents emigrated decades earlier, not realizing that China is undergoing even greater change under Mao than Vietnam.

Those changes are only alluded to at the end of Pearl S. Buck’s Pulitzer prizewinning novel, The Good Earth set in mid-twentieth century China. Peasant Wang Lung’s very life is tied up in cycles of that earth that he works so diligently to acquire.

That same question of whether a person owns the land, or vice versa, is a central theme in The Meadow set in the Rocky Mountains on the Colorado/Wyoming border. The author, James Galvin, brings home the hardship of winter, a theme addressed more comedically, in Cathie Pelletier’s The Weight of Winter. It’s the third book in her Mattagash, Maine trilogy. I’ve just finished reading the first title: The Funeral Makers. (I hate reading books out of order, but this just happened.) That finishes up my version of this month’s Six Degrees of Separation – in Maine, next door to Irving’s New Hampshire where we began our journey.

So what six connections can you make from A Prayer for Owen Meany? Visit Kate’s blog and see how she got to Fates and Furies.


P.S.
This post contains affiliate links. If you purchase after clicking through on them, I will earn a small percentage of the sale.

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