Six Degrees of Separation – From Ellis to…

Chain links…

Six Degrees of Separation is a monthly meme hosted by Books Are My Favourite and Best. The idea is to start with the book that Kate gives us and then create a chain of six books, each suggested by the one before…

This month’s starting book is Less Than Zero by Bret Easton Ellis. I haven’t read it but the blurb tells me…

Set in Los Angeles in the early 1980’s, this coolly mesmerizing novel is a raw, powerful portrait of a lost generation who have experienced sex, drugs, and disaffection at too early an age, in a world shaped by casual nihilism, passivity, and too much money– a place devoid of feeling or hope.

…which sounds remarkably like the only one of his books I have read…

American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis. The blackest black comedy I have ever read, the author lays bare the shallow and self-obsessed world of ’80s yuppie culture and does so superbly. The violence is indeed graphic and gets progressively more extreme as the book goes on. However, given the theme of excess in all things that runs through the book, I felt it stayed in context. In fact, it eventually became so outrageous that, for me, it passed from being shocking to being, in a strange way, part of the humour of the book.

The office Halloween party was at the Royalton last week and I went as a mass murderer, complete with a sign painted on my back that read MASS MURDERER (which was decidedly lighter than the sandwich board I had constructed earlier that day that read DRILLER KILLER), and beneath those two words I had written in blood Yep, that’s me and the suit was also covered with blood, some of it fake, most of it real. In one fist I clenched a hank of Victoria Bell’s hair, and pinned next to my boutonniere (a small white rose) was a finger bone I’d boiled the flesh off of. As elaborate as my costume was, Craig McDermott still managed to win first place in the competition.

Less humour and less graphic gore, but just as much violence and horror for my next link to…

Psycho by Robert Bloch. When Mary Crane, driving through a downpour with the $40,000 she has just stolen, takes a wrong turning and finds herself lost, she makes a big mistake by deciding to spend the night at the Bates Motel. Norman Bates is pretty creepy, but not nearly as creepy as his mother… 😱The film is scarier, but the book has more psychological depth making it more substantial than a mere shocker. But all the famous scenes are still there…

The film of the book was of course directed by Hitchcock, which reminded me of…

The Lodger by Marie Belloc Lowndes – another terrifying tale that Hitch turned into an equally great film even if he changed the story pretty dramatically. When Mr and Mrs Bunting take in a new lodger, he seems a kindly, quiet gentleman, if a little eccentric. Meantime, London is agog over a series of horrific murders, all of drunken women. Gradually the Buntings begin to wonder if their lodger could possibly be the murderer, but with no proof, what should they do? What if they go to the police, and it turns out he’s innocent? He’ll leave, of course, and they desperately need the money he pays for rent. But what if he’s guilty and they do nothing – does that make them guilty too? It really is brilliantly done – great characterisation and totally credible psychologically. And in the film, Ivor Novello might be scary, but he’s also yummy…

Lucky June Tripp as Daisy Bunting. He can’t be a murderer! Can he??

The Lodger is set in turn of the century London, and Marie Belloc Lowndes makes great use of the notorious London fogs, which leads me to my next book…

London Fog by Christine L Corton. Corton sets out to tell the two stories of the fog – the actual one of what caused it and how it was eventually defeated, and the artistic one, of how it was used atmospherically and metaphorically in the literature and art of the period. While I found the tale of trying to get Parliament to act to clean up the air somewhat tedious, I loved all the stuff about how writers and artists had used the fog. Of course, Dickens was one of the greatest writers to use it…

Fog everywhere. Fog up the river, where it flows among green aits and meadows; fog down the river, where it rolls defiled among the tiers of shipping and the waterside pollutions of a great (and dirty) city. Fog on the Essex marshes, fog on the Kentish heights. Fog creeping into the cabooses of collier-brigs; fog lying out on the yards, and hovering in the rigging of great ships; fog drooping on the gunwales of barges and small boats. Fog in the eyes and throats of ancient Greenwich pensioners, wheezing by the firesides of their wards; fog in the stem and bowl of the afternoon pipe of the wrathful skipper, down in his close cabin; fog cruelly pinching the toes and fingers of his shivering little ’prentice boy on deck. Chance people on the bridges peeping over the parapets into a nether sky of fog, with fog all round them, as if they were up in a balloon, and hanging in the misty clouds…

… And hard by Temple Bar, in Lincoln’s Inn Hall, at the very heart of the fog, sits the Lord High Chancellor in his High Court of Chancery.

Bleak House, Charles Dickens

And Monet one of the greatest artists…

Waterloo Bridge Sunlight Effect No. 4 by Claude Monet

One of the fascinating factlets in the book is that the term “pea-souper” to describe the thick London fog was coined by none other than the author of my old adversary…

Moby-Dick by Herman Melville. Our narrator (call him Ishmael) signs up for a voyage aboard the whaling ship Pequod, only to find that the Captain, Ahab, is pursuing a personal vendetta against the whale which caused him to lose his leg – Moby-Dick. Sounds good, doesn’t it? Proving conclusively that more is required to make a good book than an intriguing blurb. The book may have been tedious, but the film is great…

…and provides two links to my final book. Firstly, one of the ships the Pequod meets with on its journey is called the Rosebud, and secondly, Orson Welles appears in a cameo role as the preacher. All of which made me think of…

Citizen Kane by Harlan Lebo. Lebo takes the reader through the entire process of the making of Kane in painstaking and pretty geeky detail. But geeky in a good way – written so that even I, who wouldn’t recognise a movie camera if I tripped over it, was able to easily understand. No detail is too small, no aspect too obscure to be included here, from budgeting, casting, direction, production, even what days particular scenes were filmed on. Sounds dreadful, huh? And yet, I found it increasingly fascinating…

Lebo explains how the newspapers were produced and translated into various languages, with ‘real’ stories even though they mostly can’t be read except in stills…

 * * * * *

So Ellis to Lebo, via Bret Easton Ellis, psychos, Hitchcock, fog, pea-soupers and Orson Welles!

Hope you enjoyed the journey. 😀

39 thoughts on “Six Degrees of Separation – From Ellis to…

  1. Quite the eclectic journey, FF! I hear London Fog is now a type of Hipster tea and, more pleasingly, a cocktail. Hipsters, don’t mess with tea, I tell you! But that is enough ranting for today, I think. It is too early in the week to expend so much energy, I won’t have enough for drinking wine at the weekend! Incidentally, The Chap’s name is Simon Rose 🙂

    • Ooh – journalist/author Chap? He looks nice…and oddly familiar. Has he done any TV stuff? I’m feeling something like That’s Life or Watchdog or one of these consumer programmes? But maybe I’m mistaking him for someone else…

      Hahaha – I was sent some of what I must assume was Hipster tea by Amazon Vine for review recently – dreadful stuff! It tasted like Lemsip only not so nice. I expect they won’t send me any more now they’ve read my review… (I was particularly sarcastic about them describing their tea-bags as “Tea Temples” – I ask you!!! Probably added 50p a cup for that! 😉 )

      • He his nice. Yes, he has done TV stuff in the past, all sorts of things. He will be chuffed that the famous FF recognised his little face! I am hoping to unleash him on the public before too long… 😉
        When will people learn not to mess with tea?! Tea Temples?! My word! I’m glad you gave them whatfor. We can but hope no more are inflicted upon you!

        • Poor man – I feel sorry for him already! What has he done to deserve all of us??

          Haha – given my track record of demolishing these products I’m surprised anyone ever asks me to review anything… 😉

            • Tragically, and I find this so annoying I may have to make a placard, they do wine-tastings, but only in London! And then the people who attended the tastings (like that awful Lady Fancifull) get free booze to try! AND she got chocolates once… it’s sheer racism, I tell you! Wait till Robert the Bruce hears about it!! I am however the Queen of the Headphones – I think I have seven sets now… 😉

            • This is a travesty! (Says she who spends 4 days a week in London) But it is annoying that people don’t think anything exists outside of the M25. Scotland is MUCH prettier, after all. That is a lot of headphones. Are they all in one big tangle or still independent of each other? 🤣

            • Haha – I tend to only use the most recent ones (currently a fab set of Sennheisers) and the rest get relegated to a box in the “spare room” aka “dump”. I’ve passed a couple of sets on but shhhh! That’s strictly against the rules… 😉

  2. What a journey, FictionFan! And you even managed to fit Captain Ahab in there! I wouldn’t have thought it likely, that’s for sure. I do like that inclusion of London’s famous fogs; I’ve always thought they have a personality all their own. Very clever progression!

    • Thanks, Cathy! The Lodger is brilliant – both book and film, even though they’re quite different. Haha – I can’t keep that pesky whale out… I’m sure it’s stalking me… 😉

  3. Whew, I feel like I’ve been on a whirlwind journey! Well done, FF. I haven’t seen that Hitchcock movie Psycho in many a year, but I remember it as being terrifying (so was Moby in his own way, ha!)

  4. This is a fascination journey. Thank you. I have watched the movie adaptations of some of these, but I wish I could get around the books soon. Also, maybe, I should try the Six Degrees of Separation next month. It is quite stimulating. 🙂

    • Glad you enjoyed it! 😀 I’ve always loved Hitchcock’s films and have been enjoying reading some of the books recently and comparing them. Oh, I hope you do join in next month – it’s great fun to do, and to see how different everyone’s chains end up!

  5. Speaking of London Fogs (which I love the drink of, by the way) do you watch “The Crown” On Netflix? On that show was the first reference I had ever seen to London Fogs and how dangerous they could be, and I found it fascinating! I’m hoping with the better quality of air that those fogs don’t happen too often anymore?

    • No, I’m the last person left in the world without Netflix *proud face* London fogs fascinate me for the way they got used in fiction and film for all kinds of reason – to make things creepy, to allow deeds of darkness to be done unseen, as a metaphor… Yeah, they kinda cleared them up in the ’50s and ’60s – hurrah for the people, boo for the writers! 😉

  6. The London Fog is such a presence in so many books of that era! I was rather disappointed when I realized later in life that it was more like smog and has been mostly dissipated. I love the contrast between Moby Dick having a “great blurb” but being boring and Citizen Kane sounding dull but being fascinating.

    • Yes, from a literary point of view I wish they’d never cleaned it up – it was such a brillinat thing for creating atmosphere and made London such a unique setting for crime or spooky novels! Haha – just goes to show the blurb can’t ever be relied on! I still think Moby *ought* to have been great… 😉

      Thanks for popping in! 😀

  7. Love your movie and art inclusions.

    I agree with you about American Psycho – it went so far it was kind of ridiculous. In contrast, there was a scene in one of his later books, Imperial Bedrooms, that came out of nowhere and was so graphic that I couldn’t cope and had to stop reading…

    • Thanks! It wasn’t really intentional – the chain just took me in that direction… 😀

      Ha – funnily enough, although I really enjoyed American Psycho I was left with no desire to read any more of his stuff. It felt like it ought to be a one-off experience somehow… 😉

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