Six Degrees of Separation – Passages to Life a User’s Manual

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 Gail Sheehy’s Passages, a ‘70s self-help book I remember stocking when I was a bookseller but have never read

I remember selling shed loads of Robin Skynner and John Cleese’s self-help classic Families and How to Survive Them over school holidays.

I can’t mention John Cleese without thinking of Fawlty Towers (soon to be reprised) and the hapless Manuel leading me to Matias Faldbakken’s highly entertaining The Waiter.

There’s an incident in The Waiter where the titular character has one coffee too many with disastrous results leading me to Toshikazu Kawaguchi’s Before the Coffee Gets Cold which I’ve read but remember little or nothing about.

The coffee and books combination makes me think of the late, lamented Costa Awards leading me to Claire Fuller’s Unsettled Ground, the last Costa Novel Winner.

The central characters in Fuller’s novel are twins bringing to mind Guy Ware’s The Peckham Experiment in which one twin is preparing for the other’s funeral.

An apartment building features prominently in Ware’s novel leading me to Georges Perec’s Life, A User’s Manual, all about the tenants of a Parisian block of flats.

This month’s Six Degrees has taken me from a classic self-help manual to a classic French novel revolving around an apartment building’s tenants. 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 – Passages to Life a User’s Manual”

  1. John Cleese’s book was a classic in its time, and I can’t remember anything from it. Nor of Before the Coffee Gets Cold. Unsettled Ground though,I enjoyed that. And your other books appeal too, particularly the Perec. An interesting chain.

  2. Like the way you wove coffee into the chain, although I didn’t like Before the Coffee Gets Cold book, which I thought was sentimental clap-trap and poorly written.

  3. I laughed at your comment “books which I’ve read but remember little or nothing about” because it happens to me frequently. I often can’t recall much about books I read years before or even – if it wasn’t for Goodreads – that I’d read them at all. Perhaps an ‘occupational hazard’ for those of us who read so many books…

  4. Before the Coffee Gets Cold I remember as part of a series in a coffee shop where strange people sit over coffee and either disappear into a magical reality or resolve their problems. I’ll have to reread.

      1. It’s interesting that the Folio has now adopted the Costa structure, with multiple genre awards and a final big one. I wonder if that was on purpose.

  5. Fawlty Towers was such good fun. I love how that took you to the Waiter and Before the Coffee Gets Cold. I had meant to read the latter in the second half of February but then things went rather differently than planned

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