#6Degrees for September 2020: From Rodham to…

Another month, another Six Degrees of Separation link-up hosted by Kate at Books Are My Favourite and Best. Each month a book is chosen as a starting point and linked to six other books to form a chain. This month the starting point is Rodham by Curtis Sittenfeld, an alternative history of Hillary Clinton, a book that I haven’t read and have no intention of reading.

I’m not a huge fan of fictional biographies (even ‘alternative’ ones), but one book that I do have on my shelves and am thinking of reading is The Paris Wife by Paula McLain. It’s the story of Hemingway’s first wife, Hadley, and the early years of his writing career and his Paris lifestyle. I don’t have a very high opinion of Hemingway as a man and husband, so this book is likely to reinforce this view.

It might be an obvious link, but my next choice of book is one set in Paris, namely Paris Nocturne by Patrick Modiano. Modiano is a fine writer, although his low-key, unshowy prose often translates as rather flat in English, but he was a bit of a surprise Nobel Prize winner. I find he does tend to address the same themes over and over again, which can get wearisome. However, this is one of his best, most slippery and mysterious books about accidents, mistakes and unreliable memories, with the streets of Paris coming to melancholy life here.

From one Nobel Prize winner to a wannabe one. According to Mircea Cartarescu’s Journal (III – aka Zen), which I read a few years back, he is disappointed every year that he hasn’t won it. Maybe it will be his year this year? This is a very personal and surprisingly candid diary, and this third volume (from 2004-2010) deals with suffering from writer’s block, going on a lot of writing retreats, keeping his family at arm’s length and learning to live with fame and freedom. I love some of his work, but this diary is a little bit too much like Karl Ove Knausgård for me.

Which brings me to the next obvious link, Knausgård himself. I only read three of the Norwegian writer’s six volume memoir and my favourite was Part 2, A Man in Love, which is more than a little self-indulgent (a man in love with himself?) but entertaining to see a man struggling to combine parenthood with writing, for once.

But enough of male writers drunk on their own ego, let’s look at a woman writer who was a star in her own time, namely Fanny Burney and her first novel Evelina was written in secret and published anonymously, because her father did not approve of her scribbles. She had a wicked satirical pen and cynical view of high society (perhaps informed by her stint as a lady-in-waiting at the Royal Court). She is also famous for her diaries, which she kept over a period of no less than 72 years – and she was probably the first person to describe a mastectomy performed on her without anaesthetic.

Although she didn’t write about mastectomies, Virginia Woolf’s Diaries do tell us about her fear of succumbing to her mental illness once more, and how much of an effort it was for her to socialise and be creative at times. Nevertheless, it also give us an entertaining insight into the gossip of the Bloomsbury Group, as well as her thoughts about her reading and the seedlings of ideas from which her novels grew.

Not that much travel this month – only Paris, Romania, Norway and England. But where will your links take you?



24 thoughts on “#6Degrees for September 2020: From Rodham to…”

  1. ‘I don’t have a very high opinion of Hemingway as a man and husband, so this book is likely to reinforce this view.’ 😉

  2. A smart chain, as ever. I particularly like your first link although I gave up the book. Much preferred Naomi Wood’s Mrs Hemingway which looks at the relationship between the three wives.

    1. I was thinking of that one, but haven’t read it. I picked this one up in a charity shop and thought I’d give it a try at some point, but it’s been 3 years or so.

  3. Clever chain, Marina! With my reservations about fictionalised biog, I shan’t be reading Rodham either, and I have my reservations about The Paris Wife too… Interested in what you say about Modiano too – I liked what I’ve read of him, but did feel repetition after only a couple of books so have never felt the strong need to read any more. Woolf, however, I could read until the cows come home… ;D

  4. I won’t be reading Rodham – I’m not really a fan of fictional biographies either. I haven’t read any the books in your chain, but was flabbergasted to read that Fanny Burney had a mastectomy without an anaesthetic.

  5. I’m with you, Marina Sofia, in that I won’t be reading Rodham. She’s an interesting person, but I would rather read a biography, if that makes sense. You’ve got a very clever chain for the others! And you’ve reminded me I want to read Paris Nocturne. I have far too long a list of books I want to read and haven’t got to yet… *sigh*

  6. I don’t think anyone has a high opinion of Hemingway as a man or husband, but I do have that book on my shelf. By the way Jack London also wasn’t a very nice guy. But hey, I guess back then bad boys could still be good writers. That Fanny Burney sounds interesting. Thanks!

  7. This is a really interesting list: I’m not sure any of these choices makes it onto my TBR list, but I’m trying to be highly selective these days, as it’s already ridiculously unwieldy.

  8. I’ve read The Paris Wife; I can’t see it as one you would take much from, MarinaSofia. I love the cover on that edition of Evelina – one I’ve wanted to read for a while. I’ve read Woolf’s ‘A Writer’s Diary’ and would love to read the full set. Just not enough time …

  9. Some neat links. I did get myself most of the Knausgaards at one point, but then couldn’t bear to read them, so got rid! I probably would read The Paris Wife, but do have a copy of Mrs Hemingway actually on the shelves.

  10. Omigod! A mastectomy without anesthesia. Absolutely cruel, sadistic, horrible. I wonder if she could drink a lot of vodka or bourbon, enough to be unconscious.
    Hemingway: I saw a movie with Nicole Kidman playing Martha Gellhorn, who was married to him for awhile. That movie shows several of his horrible actions, like even stealing her job away from her, in addition to the womanizing.
    It’s an interesting movie, which led me to read a book by Gellhorn about her travels. She and Hemingway were in Spain during the civil war and then went to China during WWII. And more. She led an interesting life, too, and got sick of Hemingway’s behavior.

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