This is the first time I have participated in 6 Degrees of Separation, but I had a great time reading some of them last month and I am a sucker for lists (and games) so I thought I would give it a go. For those not in the know, 6 Degrees is hosted by booksaremyfavouriteandbest and you can find all the rules of joining in here. Basically, we are given a book to start with and we must link to 6 other books from there, using any connections we choose. Not disimilar to my Bookworm feature, in case you’re interested.
So, this month we’ve been asked to start with A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. Surely a story which everyone knows, whether you have read it or not. For what is basically little more than a short story, or perhaps a novella, it’s almost impossible to image Christmas without it. It’s been adapted so many times in so many ways, from the silliness of the Muppets to the hamminess of Albert Finney. And the sublime, awe-inspiring one man show by Patrick Stewart I once had the pleasure to see. You just can’t have Christmas without a little Scrooooooooge. And that is a testament to a bloody good story.
Also not strictly a book, but easily another of my absolute favourite Christmas short stories has to be the imaginatively titled A Christmas Memory by Truman Capote. It is Capote at his best, so full of life, it is as though he is sitting next you chatting away. It’s what Christmas should be like and isn’t, and the ending is what life is like but shouldn’t be. Just beautiful.
A Christmas Memory features a motif about kites, and they are used in the final few lines, to great effect. Kites remind me of The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini. This was a book I didn’t particularly fancy reading, and not one I would ever have picked on my own steam. I’m not sure why, but the setting and the heavy sounding narrative totally put me off. But someone recommended it, and it was a lot better than I expected it to be.
The Kite Runner makes me think of Running with Scissors by the marvelous Augusten Burroughs. I’ve read several of Burrough’s books. They are all beautifully written, thought provoking, funny and tragic. There is something strangely comforting about reading about other people’s messed up lives – I guess it makes you realise just how normal yours is, and how small your problems are. So thank you, Augusten.
Running with Scissors centres around Burrough’s strange childhood, during which he is sent to live with his mother’s psychiatrist. Another book featuring psychiatrists and mental health problems is Girl, Interrupted by Susanna Kaysen. It’s a memoir about the time the author spent in a private mental hospital in Massachusetts. It’s an interesting book, and well worth a read, even if you’ve already seen the movie.
Girl, Interrupted is about Kaysen’s time at McLean Hospital, which also treated several other famous people, including Sylvia Plath. So next, I chose Plath’s children’s story The-It-Doesn’t-Matter Suit. It is a cute little tale, basically about not being so full of worry and self consciousness that you miss out on good things. It’s a little repetitive, and for that reason, I’m kind of glad I didn’t end up having to read it endlessly to my kids, but it does have a nice message.
And now all I can think of is that Wyclef Jean song where The Rock periodically shouts “It Doesn’t Matter!!” And the Rock makes me think of the magnificent Brighton Rock by Graham Greene. I could be wrong, but I think this was the first book I read as a young teenager that was properly dark, and it had a big impact on me. There may have been some evil in previous books I had read, but it was generally ‘fantasy evil’ existing in a different world, in which good always triumphed. I think Brighton Rock was the first time I had read a book which showed me that there is a whole layer of darkness to the bright lights of the world I knew.
Incidently, Carol Marsh, who played Rose in the original film adaptation of Brighton Rock, also starred as Fanny in ‘Scrooge’ opposite Alastair Sim. So, via kites, psychiatrists, suits and sociopaths, we have come full circle. I thank you.
Where did your 6 Degrees take you?