It’s time for one of my favourite monthly gatherings, namely that chain of literary associations. It’s a meme hosted by Kate over at Books Are My Favourite and Best. Each month, a book is chosen as a starting point and you need to link to six other books to form a chain. A book doesn’t need to be connected to all the others on the list, only to the one next to it in the chain.
This month’s starting point is a book I have real problems with (although I haven’t read the book, only seen the film). Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk is one of those creations that is adored by men and that women have had quoted at them ad nauseum. Or at least that happened to me in my youth: all those young men trying to be cool, profound and edgy ADORED both film and book, while I thought that all that self-loathing and masochism and sense of futility should stay well away from me.
Another book that I found far too full of machismo is The Sun Also Rises by Hemingway. Pretty much all of Hemingway’s novels make me feel uncomfortable to be a woman, as if I’m missing out on all the hunting, bullfighting and other manly pursuits that make me part of the charmed inner circle. [I like his short stories better, where he shows a far more sensitive side.]
One more author whom I will always appreciate more as a short story writer than a novelist is Lydia Davis. She writes very short ‘stories’ or ‘fragments’ – perhaps nowadays it would be called flash fiction – which appear to be very simple but are in fact quite enigmatic. She has also written a novel The End of the Story, which I have not read but which sounds like it is a lot of rumination about the end of a love affair. I’m not sure that I could cope with her style over the course of an entire novel though!
It’s the word ‘end’ in the title that creates the link for my next choice: The War of the End of the World by Mario Vargas Llosa. Based on the deadliest though short-lived civil war in Brazil, it is the story of an apocalyptic cult led by a charismatic leader who at the end of the 19th century dared to oppose the government. After repeated military interventions which failed to stop the settlers in that corner of Bahia, the whole Brazilian army intervened and decimated everyone there (reportedly 30,000 people died).
A much more cheery book about Brazil is (despite the rather grim title) The Head of the Saint by Socorro Acioli, about a homeless orphan boy who finds shelter in the concrete head of the giant statue of St. Anthony that this small town failed to build and has now abandoned. The problems start when he attempts to answer the prayers that people come to share with the statue.
This is a YA book, a genre I don’t read all that frequently, but there is one YA-before-the-label-was-invented book that does stick to my mind. That is Watership Down by Richard Adams. I was heartbroken reading the book as a child, but not quite as traumatised by the filmed version of it because I only got to see it as an adult. Nevertheless, I did not enjoy the new animated version of it released by the BBC over the Christmas period.
My final pick is another book whose TV series version I did not enjoy. John le Carré’s The Little Drummer Girl is a complex novel about how easy it is to be attracted to dangerous ideologies or to accept bad things happening in the name of a somewhat vague but positive-sounding ideology. I felt the recent TV series was disappointing, trying to be too clever for its own good, although stuffed full of beautiful cinematography, nice period detail (it takes place in the 1970s) and good actors.
Oh, dear, I’ve been a bit grumpy this month, haven’t I? I hope you can find a more cheerful chain yourselves.