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 others to form a chain. A book doesn’t need to be connected to all the titles on the list, only to the one next to it in the chain.
This month we’re starting with Curtis Sittenfeld’s Rodham which imagines an America where Hillary Clinton chooses not to marry Bill. It’s a novel I’d been eagerly anticipating but Kate’s review has primed me for disappointment.
Michael Chabon’s enjoyable The Yiddish Policeman’s Union also explores an alternative American history in which Franklin Roosevelt’s proposal that Alaska rather than Israel should become a Jewish homeland is accepted.
It was H who introduced me to Leo Rosten’s wonderful The Joys of Yiddish which made me realise that I’d grown up hearing a surprising number of Yiddish words at home given I’m the child of goy parents.
A love of words drew me to Eley Williams’ superb The Liar’s Dictionary which introduced me to ‘mountweasels’, false entries inserted into a dictionary as a guard against plagiarism, or in this case, out of mischief.
For some reason I kept referring to Williams’ novel in my head as The Devil’s Dictionary while I was reading it. I’m sure Williams is familiar with Ambrose Bierce’s satirical take on dictionaries.
Mention of the devil leads me to my early teenage reading, Dennis Wheatley’s The Devil Rides Out, which always popped into my head when customers were dismayed by what their children were reading when I was a bookseller.
Wheatley’s The Haunting of Toby Jugg, another teenage favourite, features a plague of spiders bringing to mind Patrick McGrath’s distinctly gothic Spider in which a deeply disturbed man, recently released from an asylum, writes a revealing account of his early life.
This month’s Six Degrees has taken me from an alternative America into the mind of a psychotic in 1950s London. 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.