Six Degrees of Separation – From Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret to Expo 58

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.

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This month we’re starting with Judy Blume’s Are you There God? It’s Me, Margaret whose fiftieth anniversary it is this year. Not a book I’ve read but I gather it’s about a twelve-year-old girl grappling with adolescent insecurities and confiding her problems in God.

Another young girl is looking to make sense of things in Jostein Gaarder’s Sophie’s World. She encounters a mentor who introduces her to philosophy which she uses to help solve the mystery of who is sending her postcards. I remember selling shedloads of this when I was a bookseller.

Alain de Botton is another writer intent on showing the rest of us how to use philosophy in our everyday lives, applying it to relationships in his novel The Course of Love which I enjoyed but I suspect it might have left readers looking for a conventional love story a wee bit perplexed.

That title leads me to Nicole Krauss’ The History of Love which brings together fourteen-year-old Alma, whose widowed mother is translating a novel, and Leo Gursky, still dreaming of his estranged beloved commemorated in the novel he wrote in his native Poland, lost before it was published.

I read Krauss’ book years ago in Stockholm which is why Cynthia Ozick’s The Messiah of Stockholm initially popped into my head but it’s also about a lost book by a Polish author whose son is obsessed with tracking it down.

Ozick is the author of The Putermesser Papers which features a child created from clay as does Sjón’s Codex 1962 in which a clay son is carried in a hatbox by his Jewish fugitive father in WW2 Germany. Having loved Moonstone I was very keen to read this one and enjoyed the first part but at 528 pages it was just too long.

Another novel with a date in its title is Jonathan Coe’s Expo 58 whose backdrop is the Brussels World Fair. Coe has a lot of fun with the naïve British official, out to enjoy himself, who fails to spot spies at every turn despite being in the midst of the Cold War.

This month’s Six Degrees has taken me from a twelve-year-old looking for answers to fun and games with spies in 1950s Brussels. 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.

27 thoughts on “Six Degrees of Separation – From Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret to Expo 58”

  1. I read Ozick’s Puttermesser Papers, but I don’t know this one. As for the “clay child” you mean a Golem, and well… if you ever read Chabon’s Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, there’s one in that book too! Great chain!

  2. I loved the Judy Blume book and Sophie’s World when I was younger, but I haven’t read any of the others in your chain. I didn’t really enjoy Great House by Nicole Krauss so haven’t looked for any more of her books, but maybe I should try The History of Love.

  3. This is what they call traveling through books. 🙂 Can’t say I’ve read any of these, but each one looks interesting. Expo 58 sounds like fun, though I do feel sorry for the poor guy — I’m always up for humorous stuff, so will look this up. Thanks!

  4. I’ve always meant to read Sophie’s World. I’m a fan of de Botton and Krauss, and I’m reading Coe’s Mr Wilder & Me at the moment. Sjon I’ve had less luck with, but would be willing to try again.

  5. Seven books and I’ve not read a single one of them. I picked up Sophie’s World many times but only out of curiosity because it was talked about so much. It’s popularity wasn’t enough of a draw in the end

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