Six Degrees of Separation!

Six Degrees of Separation is the brainchild of Kate over at Books Are My Favourite and Best where we all start with the same book and see where our links take us!

Follow the hashtag #6degrees on Twitter to check out everyone else’s chains!

This month’s starting point for Six Degrees of Separation is Hydra by Adriane Howell, which I haven’t read but which was recently shortlisted for the Stella Prize in Australia.

Hydra is the setting for Polly Samson’s 2020 novel A Theatre for Dreamers, set in 1960, which follows the bohemian, international crowd who surrounded Australian authors Charmain Clift and George Johnson. Most famous among their set, which included talented writers and painters, along with the odd scrounger and hanger-on, were of course Leonard Cohen and his muse Marianne Ihlen.

There are no shortage of artists famous for their muses, Andy Warhol being an obvious choice. In Nicole Flattery’s debut novel Nothing Special, she fictionalises the world of the Factory from the point of view of two women who worked in the typing pool there. These young women transcribed hours of voice recordings of Warhol’s superstars, with the texts eventually making up his book, a: A novel.

Another novel with a one letter title is S by John Updike. As a nod to Nathaniel Hawthorne, Updike titled his 1988 novel with just one letter. S. follows Sarah Worth as she leaves her husband and suburban life behind to join her guru, a Hindu religious leader known as Arhat, at his Arizona-based ashram. What unfolds is a story of the realities of life on a religious commune and of a woman in search of herself.

Survivor by Chuck Palanhiuk also tells the story of a member of a commune. Tender Branson—last surviving member of the so-called Creedish Death Cult—is dictating his life story into the flight recorder of Flight 2039, cruising on autopilot alone in an airplane, which will crash shortly into the vast Australian outback. Before it does, he will unfold the tale of his journey from an obedient Creedish child and humble domestic servant to an ultra-buffed, steroid- and collagen-packed famous media messiah.  

In Survivor, the pages and chapters count backwards, starting at the end, before finishing at page 1. In Time’s Arrow by Martin Amis, the story of a Holocaust doctor is literally told backwards.  He dies and then feels markedly better, breaks up with his lovers as a prelude to seducing them, and mangles his patients before he sends them home perfectly well. The doctor assists “Uncle Pepi” (modelled on Josef Mengele) in his torture and murder of Jews at Auschwitz, the reverse chronology meaning that he can tell himself he is healing the sick and creating life, rather than the opposite.  

Josef Mengele plays a central role in Ira Levin’s brilliant thriller The Boys from Brazil, which imagines Mengele’s nightmarish plot to restore the Third Reich. Alive and hiding in South America, thirty years after the end of the Second World War, Mengele gathers a group of former colleagues for a sinister project – the creation of the Fourth Reich. Ageing Nazi hunter Yakov Lieberman is informed of the plot and must try to stop his old enemy.

So there we have my six degrees for this month, journeying from Greece to New York and Australia to Brazil, and featuring poets, muses, typists, cult leaders and mass murderers!

Six Degrees

Cathy746books View All →

I am a 40 something book buying addict trying to reduce the backlog one book at a time!

18 Comments Leave a comment

  1. What a sinister turn that took! I hated Time’s Arrow and haven’t read another book by Martin Amis since, it turned my stomach so much.

    I like the sound of Nothing Special, though, and have added it to my wishlist.


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