Six Degrees of Separation – from A Christmas Carol to The Bird Artist

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, appropriately enough, with Charles Dicken’s A Christmas Carol which is about generosity of spirit. I’m all for that but I’m still a bit bah humbug about Christmas after so many years in bookselling which left me a wee bit cynical about the whole thing.

Patricia Highsmith’s Carol was first published with the title The Price of Salt and renamed for the film starring Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara. It’s the semi-autobiographical story of a tragic love affair. I’ve yet to read the book but the film was superb.

Jill Dawson’s The Crime Writer is an homage to Highsmith, a brilliant piece of literary fan fiction. She takes the writer’s time at Bridge Cottage in Suffolk and weaves it into a story which constantly pulls the rug from under her readers’ feet.

Dawson often tells the stories of real people in her fiction. Sean Michaels takes the same tack in Us, Conductors, his fictionalised story of the inventor of the theremin, a weird and wonderful musical instrument. If you want to hear it, pop over to YouTube where you’ll find a demonstration by Leon Theremin the subject of Michaels’ book.

Much to my surprise I read another novel about the theremin, shortly after Us, Conductors. Tracy Farr’s The Life and Loves of Lena Gaunt tells the story of a fictional virtuoso theremin player and has a cameo from its inventor.

Continuing the musical instrument theme, Annie Proulx’ Accordion Crimes tells the story of immigration through the accordion, an instrument dear to many nations’ hearts so it seems. I like the idea of this very much but learned – and have since forgotten – far more about accordions than I ever wanted to know.

Annie Proulx’ The Shipping News is set on Newfoundland as is Howard Norman’s The Bird Artist which was published around the same time as Proulx’ bestseller in the UK. I enjoyed The Shipping News but much preferred Howard’s lyrical, poetic novel, stuffed full of eccentric characters

This month’s Six Degrees of Separation has taken me from a nineteenth-century tale of Christmas cheer (eventually) set in London to a tale of betrayal and revenge in Newfoundland. 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.

12 thoughts on “Six Degrees of Separation – from A Christmas Carol to The Bird Artist

  1. Café Society

    I ended up with a fictionalised history of philosophy that I haven’t thought about in years. It’s a great way of bring books to mind that you might otherwise never have remembered reading in the first place.

    Reply
    1. Susan Osborne Post author

      Thank you. I would have been surprised to read two novels about it in a lifetime let alone a year! I was so fascinated by it I went to a theremin concert a few months ago. It’s a very strange instrument!

      Reply
  2. Liz

    I love this chain Susan. I am the opposite way round to you with Carol – I recently read and adored the book. Must get around to the film some time. 🙂

    Reply
    1. Susan Osborne Post author

      Thanks, Cathy. I hope you can get your hands on a copy of The Bird Artist if you decide to go for it. Unfortunately, it’s out of print in the UK. Well worth truffling around the internet for a copy, though.

      Reply
  3. Debbie Rodgers @Exurbanis

    Like Helen, I’m surprised at the theremin connection. It’s that kind of serendipity that this meme showcases.

    I remember enjoying Accordion Crimes but it was a few years. I don’t recall the over-education 😉

    Great links!

    Reply
    1. Susan Osborne Post author

      Thank you! I was delighted when the theremin link popped into my head. And you’re right: one of the great pleasures of this meme is the lateral thinking on show.

      Reply

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