Six Degrees of Separation – From Wolf 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 The Beauty Myth by Naomi Wolf. I haven’t read it but the blurb tells me…

The bestselling classic that redefined our view of the relationship between beauty and female identity. In today’s world, women have more power, legal recognition, and professional success than ever before. Alongside the evident progress of the women’s movement, however, writer and journalist Naomi Wolf is troubled by a different kind of social control, which, she argues, may prove just as restrictive as the traditional image of homemaker and wife. It’s the beauty myth, an obsession with physical perfection that traps the modern woman in an endless spiral of hope, self-consciousness, and self-hatred as she tries to fulfil society’s impossible definition of “the flawless beauty.”

Hmm – since I think this sounds like utter tosh that’s selling the mythical ‘myth’ about which it’s pretending to protest, I think it’s safe to say the book’s not my kind of thing. Which reminds me of another book that’s not my kind of thing, but which I loved anyway…

In the Valley of the Sun by Andy Davidson. Normally I avoid vampire books but this one turned out to be so much more than that. Part examination of the hard-scrabble life of rural Texans and part-metaphor for the lasting shockwaves of the traumas visited on America, and its young men in particular, by the Vietnam war, it’s right up there with the best of American fiction writing. And will almost certainly make it onto my best of the year list.

He watched her go, thinking of the children they had been when they were married. He eighteen, she seventeen. She a half-breed, he a white Texan boy, theirs a romance, Reader had always thought, befitting the romance of the land itself, the wide open spaces and faraway horizons, where the hearts of the young were as big and green as the vast sweep of the eastern grasslands, and the land and the courses of the lives lived on it moved and rolled in ways no man could ever predict, as though the breath of giants were easing over them, shaping them, turning them.

Some reviewers have compared it in terms of subject matter to Cormac McCarthy, which makes me think of…

The Road by Cormac McCarthy. As dystopian novels go, they don’t get much bleaker than this. All plant-life and most animal-life has been destroyed, and the implication is that the earth itself has been so badly damaged that nothing can grow in it. We follow two characters, known only as the man and the boy, as they journey through the devastated land. I was unsure how I felt about this at the time, but it is undoubtedly thought-provoking and full of imagery that has stayed with me – images both of horror and the ugliness of mankind, and of goodness, truth and a stark kind of beauty.

The most recent dystopian novel I’ve read is…

Yevgeny Zamyatin’s We. Written in 1920, this book gives a prescient look at the potential outcome of the Marxist-style regime that was then coming into existence in Revolutionary Russia. A totalitarian “utopia” where almost all individuality is stripped away and people become nothing more than cogs in a massive machine, and just as dispensable. It’s easy to see its influence on some of the great dystopian novels of the early and mid-twentieth century, like Orwell’s 1984.

I haven’t reviewed 1984 on the blog, but I have reviewed…

Animal Farm by George Orwell. This allegorical fable of the Russian Revolution didn’t work as well for me now as it had done when I first read it in school. But it’s still a great book for younger readers who might not be quite ready for the likes of 1984, and the story of poor Boxer the horse is still just as moving…

Talking of boxers reminded me of…

The End of the Web by George Sims, the hero of which is an ex-boxer. (Yeah, I know that link is pretty strrrrrretched, but work with me, people… 😉 ) From 1976, this starts off as a fairly conventional thriller – ordinary man caught up in extraordinary events – but suddenly veers off in a different direction half-way through, giving it a feeling of originality. Well written and giving a great sense of the London of the time, I thoroughly enjoyed it

The author was apparently connected to the code-breaking facility at Bletchley Park during WW2, which made me think of…

Robert Harris’ Enigma. A first rate spy thriller, written with all the qualities of literary fiction, this story is set amid the codebreakers of Bletchley Park during WW2. A great depiction of the almost intolerable pressure placed on the shoulders of these mainly young men at a time when the course of the whole war depended on their success.

* * * * *

So Wolf to Harris, via not my kind of thing, Cormac McCarthy, dystopian novels, George Orwell, boxers and Bletchley Park!

Hope you enjoyed the journey. 😀

32 thoughts on “Six Degrees of Separation – From Wolf to…

  1. That first book does look like utter tosh! I don’t appreciate self-righteous know-alls telling me I’m oppressed by society’s ideal of beauty or whatever. People like that need a poke in the bum. That vampire one is on my list and it really does sound fascinating – if a little horrific. I will have to wait until I’m in the right mood 🙂 I’ve been re-reading Animal Farm for work-type purposes – I agree with you, it seemed much more impressive when I was at school, but it’s still a poignant read, nonetheless. Robert Harris is just brilliant!! This is all very clever, FF, bravo! 🙂

    • Haha – doesn’t it? I can’t say I’ve ever thought of myself as beautiful, but nor have I ever felt oppressed by it! I felt like writing to her and telling her to stay away from the mirror if it all upsets her so much… ;)The vampire one will be worth waiting for! I am utterly intrigued as to the link between Animal Farm and your work – apart from bacon sandwiches, I’m struggling to make a connection. Napoleon would undoubtedly be nicer if he was turned into crispy rashers…

  2. I love this! You had me laughing from the first – I almost felt sorry for Naomi Wolf there 😉 I shrank a little when you arrived at Animal Farm – then perked up as you wisely advised that it’s probably best for younger readers. It’s on my classics club spin list, you see, and clearly I am perfected suited to read it now… Yours seems a rather dark list, FF,but well done for avoiding reference to the white stuff! 😉

    • Haha – my little rant about Naomi’s book was considerably longer at one point, but I felt the world could probably live without my views on this kind of book! 😉 *frowns threateningly* I hope you’re not implying anything about my new-found status as feeble elderly person… 👵 Yes, I hadn’t realised how depressing all my choices are – oh, well! Into each life, some snow must fall…

      • I can assure you the image of you as feeble elderly person never entered my head at the time of replying. Totally focused on my own youthful presence which can only be enhanced by the reading of Animal Farm. Of course, now the notion of your feeble, elderly frame is filling my head…. Slightly discomfiting :0 😉

        • Of course, the first time I read Animal Farm, I was also wearing tartan Oxford Bags and batwing blouses, so don’t forget to dress appropriately. I shall hobble off to make a nice cup of Horlicks now…

  3. I really think these links are awfully clever, FictionFan! You’ve tied together such disparate elements! And I rather like the theme of dystopia that runs through these choices. It’s not one I’d have thought of, and it’s interesting!

    • Thanks, Margot – I never have a clue where these chains will take me! It did all get a little end-of-the-world-ish there for a bit, though… must have allowed my chocolate levels to sink too low… 😉

  4. I am always amazed at how you make connections. Brilliant!
    Yeah, I don’t think I would read the first book either. But I would probably flip through it at the bookstore out of curiosity just to see what her chapter titles are like.

    • Haha – so am I! I never have a clue where I’m going till I get there… a bit like when I go out for a drive. I would use her book as emergency fuel should the electricity go off… 😉

  5. I so agree about Naomi Wolf and all her ilk. I don’t think I’ll be following you down this road: it’s cheering up I need at this time of year, not depressing! 🙂

    • Yep! Can’t be doing with these books that tell us all how oppressed we are by the “need” to wear mascara! Haha – I didn’t really set out for the chain to get so depressing but the links just seemed to take me there…

  6. I’ve only read a couple on this post, but it never ceases to amaze (and amuse!) me how you get from one to the next! Very clever, FF! Kind of surprised that first one even got published, though — sounds like a yawn!

    • Haha – me neither, Debbie! I never have a clue from one link to another, and a lot of head-scratching goes on… 😉 Sounds dreadful, doesn’t it? She should spend less time looking in the mirror…

  7. As always a fascinating journey for your six degrees – I particularly loved the link to Boxer! I’ve yet to come across anyone who has read the first book in the chain this time. I haven’t and wouldn’t for pretty much the reasons you express.

    • Haha – I nearly got stuck at Animal Farm so I was glad when I remembered the guy in the next book had been a boxer. I never have a clue what I’m doing with these chains… 😉 It sounds dreadful, doesn’t it? I want to tell her to spend less time gazing at herself in the mirror…

  8. may I use the term ‘utter tosh’ when referring to things I think are stupid? Is that the correct definition? I’d like to bring that saying over to North America, I think we’d all be better for it over here.

  9. Always enjoy your six degree journeys! I read The Beauty Myth when I was in high school, I think, and I remember that I liked it? But I liked a lot of things back then that I wouldn’t necessarily like now, ha ha! Also, I remember read Animal Farm in high school and HATING it with a fiery passion. I couldn’t read The Road, too dark, child involved, but I skimmed it and that was even too much for me!

    • Haha – I might even have liked it when I was in school too, but I get progressively fed up with people telling women how oppressed we are by how we look, ‘cos we only are if we choose to be!! *stamps foot angrily* It was the Boxer story in Animal Farm that got to me as a teenager, but it didn’t have the same impact on adult me. The Road is great, but it must be one of the bleakest books I’ve ever read…

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