Six Degrees of Separation – from Less Than Zero to The Yellow Wallpaper

Six Degrees of Separation is a meme hosted by Kate over at Books Are My Favourite and Best. It works like this: each month, a book is chosen as a starting point and linked to six other books to form a chain. A book doesn’t need to be connected to all the others on the list, only to the one next to it in the chain.

This month we’re starting with Bret Easton Ellis’ Less Than Zero whose title may trigger an earworm if you’re an Elvis Costello fan. I read Ellis’ novel when it was published back in 1985 and so my memories are pretty sketchy but I do know there’s lots of sex, drugs and probably rock n’ roll. It’s become that thing that publishers love – a cult classic.

Which takes me to Jack Kerouac’s On the Road, another cult classic, which I read when I was a teenager but didn’t enjoy as much as I thought I was supposed to, put off by Kerouac’s sexist portrayal of women.

I started Cormac McCarthy’s dystopian The Road about a father and his son walking through a blasted American landscape, gun at the ready to fend off attackers, and admired the writing but it was so bleak I gave it up.

Russell Hoban’s Riddley Walker is set against a similarly blasted landscape this time in England where twelve-year-old Riddley finds himself trying to make sense of the power struggle resulting from his father’s death. Ridley’s language is fractured and often difficult to follow but patience pays dividends with this one.

Hoban was a children’s author as well as a successful adult novelist. J K Rowling also made the leap to adult fiction with what was to be the first in a series of crime novels, The Cuckoo’s Calling. I have to confess I haven’t read the book but the recent BBC TV series was a Sunday evening treat.

Rowling published her Strike series under the name Robert Galbraith in the hopes that it would be judged on its own merits, although predictably it was a secret not kept for long. Doris Lessing also submitted a manuscript under another name as a challenge to publishers who she thought weren’t giving unknown writers a chance. The book was The Diary of a Good Neighbour, rejected several times under the pseudonym Jane Somers but later published under Lessing’s name together with If the Old Could as The Diaries of Jane Somers.

Lessing was the author of the chunky feminist classic The Golden Notebook which I have read although I found it something of a trudge unlike the slim The Yellow Wallpaper, another feminist novel which is frankly terrifying. Based on Charlotte Perkins Gilmer’s own experience it tells of a woman confined to her bedroom after giving birth, driven mad by her isolation.

This month’s Six Degrees of Separation has taken me from a hedonistic coming of age novel set in the ‘80s to a late nineteenth-century classic feminist novella. Part of the fun of this meme is comparing the very different routes other bloggers take from each month’s starting point. If you’re interested, you can follow it on Twitter with the hashtag #6Degrees, check out the links over at Kate’s blog or perhaps even join in.

Next month’s starting point is Stephen King’s It. Given that I’m not a fan of being scared witless, I might struggle with that one.

14 thoughts on “Six Degrees of Separation – from Less Than Zero to The Yellow Wallpaper

  1. annelogan17

    Um Yellow Wallpaper does sound terrifying! As a pregnant woman, I’m thinking I should probably avoid that book until my children are at least….teenagers 🙂

    Reply
    1. Susan Osborne Post author

      Ah, I can see that the synopsis would be worrying but it’s very much a book which addresses the situation women found themselves at the time it was written. Probably best left for a while, though!

      Reply
  2. Deepika Ramesh

    I tried reading ‘On The Road’ when I visited the US for the first time and tried genuinely to love the book. For reasons I can’t fathom, I couldn’t invest in it. I think I should give it another chance, Susan. I am drawn toward ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’. I look forward to reading that. Thank you for this post. 🙂

    Reply
    1. Susan Osborne Post author

      You’re very welcome – these posts are so much fun to think about and write. We all come up with such different sets of books. I’m glad I’m not the only one who couldn’t love Kerouac. I didn’t think of it in this way when I was 14 but now I can see that it’s downright misogynistic. I hope you enjoy The Yellow Wallpaper.

      Reply
  3. BookerTalk

    Couldn’t agree more about the disturbing nature of The Yellow Wallpaper. That ending gave me the shivers…..
    Getting Galbraith/Rowling into this chain was a creative leap

    Reply
    1. Susan Osborne Post author

      I’m the same, Wendy. I used to ‘have’ to read a lot of books that didn’t particularly appeal for work. Now I stick to what I want to read and give up the ones I’m getting nothing from.

      Reply

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