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6 Degrees of Separation: What Have You Read Lately?

Have you read any of these? What great novels have you read lately? Would you like to try the #6degrees  meme?

Reading is my first love, as anyone who knows me will tell you. Novels and short story collections inhabit all habitable surfaces of my home, so when I heard of #6degrees I had to try it.

WHAT IS THE #6DEGREES READING MEME ? (Novels and all things reading, of course. )

The idea is to start with a book, at the same place as other wonderful readers, add six novels through a variety of connections, and see where you end up.

The pick for this installment is The Lottery and Other Stories by the inimitable Shirley Jackson, one of my writing heroes.

I love how Jackson uses her words so carefully, and builds horror in a such a nuanced yet nonchalant way from the commonplace and harmless. You feel it gradually creep over you, and then, after you’ve been spellbound for hours,  you’re unwilling to step out of bed and into the darkness of your toilet before you switch the light on.

Another writer who has made me curl deeper under the covers is Poe, so I begin  my chain of reads/ novels, with a short story : The Cask of Amontillado. It is a creepy tale about a man who lures his enemy, a wine connoisseur, into his family vaults to examine a rare vintage. As a teen I loved the self-assured tone, and the horrible end with the dead body lying undisturbed for fifty years.

The wine in that story reminds me of the way Amor Towles deftly writes wine into his nuanced historical novel, A Gentleman in Moscow: a surprisingly upbeat look at Russian history through the eyes of Count Alexander Ilyich Rostov, who is sentenced to spend his life under house arrest in Moscow’s Metropol Hotel. All the labels in the hotel’s 100,000-bottle wine cellar are removed according to the spirit of communism, and each sold at a single price as merely red or white, even though, as the Count says, ‘the contents of the bottle in his hand was the product of a history as unique and complex as that of a nation, or a man’.

Count Rostov and Russian history lead me to the only novel by Anton Chekov, a mystery at that. It uses footnotes, and a structure that Agatha Christie would use much later to great sensational effect. If you haven’t read The Shooting Party, I wouldn’t spoil it for you. It is of great interest to me as a Chekov devotee and a crime author, even though as far as mystery novels go, this won’t be the top of must-read lists.

The various affairs in this book, between Olga, the heroine and various men make me think of another novel I read and loved as a teen, Madame Bovary, by Gustave Flaubert.

It is a novel that draws me back again and again, each time with hopefully a better understanding. Emma Bovary’s romantic aspirations, her marriage to a man who has none, her affairs with two different men, which lead to such tragedy–it is a masterpiece of both language and plot, and made me long to be French just to able to read and appreciate it in the original.

The complicated marriage in Madame Bovary bring to mind Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff. The marriage between the glamorous couple, Lotto and Mathilde,  is  the envy of their friends, but we see so many secrets revealed in vibrant prose in this propulsive novel about love, art, creativity, and power. I tend to mix up novels after I read them, but I thought about this one for weeks afterward.

Another novel that examines the themes of marriage is Some Prefer Nettles , a classic by Jun’ichirō Tanizaki, in which the author uses a marriage to explore themes of performance vs reality, East vs West, and the way some men see women.

So those were my 6 reads that came via free association from The Lottery and Other Stories .

Have you read any of these? What great novels have you read lately? Would you like to try the #6degrees  meme? Want to suggest 6 novels that Shirley Jackson’s work brings to mind?

(I do have some wonderful, exciting book-news that’s been all over my social media, but I think it deserves a post of its own, so I’ll hold off until next week!)

 


Are you part of nay online or offline book groups? Founded any? What is the experience like? Do you think online book groups are similar to those offline?My debut literary crime novel,”You Beneath Your Skin,” published by the fab team at Simon and Schuster IN is optioned to be a TV series by Endemol Shine.

It is available in India here.

Worldwide, here.

Reviews are appreciated–please get in touch if you’d like a review copy.

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Damyanti Biswas

Damyanti Biswas is the author of You Beneath Your Skin and numerous short stories that have been published in magazines and anthologies in the US, the UK, and Asia. She has been shortlisted for Best Small Fictions and Bath Novel Awards and is co-editor of the Forge Literary Magazine. Her forthcoming literary crime thriller, The Blue Bar is represented by Lucienne Diver from The Knight Agency, and will be published by Thomas & Mercer on January 1, 2023.

I appreciate comments, and I always visit back. If you're having trouble commenting, let me know via the contact form, or tweet me up @damyantig !

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33 Comments

  • marianallen says:

    I’ve read A Gentleman in Moscow and LOVED IT. I’ve read “A Cask of Amontillado”, “The Lottery”, and many stories by Poe, Jackson, and Chekov. I’ll have to look up his novel; I’ll be very surprised if Charlie didn’t have it. I like this challenge. I’ll have to play with it. 🙂

  • Anne Bennett says:

    Many of these authors are on my TBR. I did like A Gentleman in Moscow, the only book on your list which I’ve read. My 6-Degrees post

  • J.E. Fountain says:

    I’ve read The Cask of Amontillado and Madame B, enjoyed them both. I’ve read and enjoyed Chekov, but not this mystery. I may have to give it a read. Nice list 🙂

  • Jan Hicks says:

    What a great chain, Damyanti. I like how it moves from horror to love. The only title I haven’t read among your list is Fates and Furies. You’ve chosen some of my favourite reads (The Shooting Party, A Gentleman in Moscow, Some Prefer Nettles) and a book that infuriated me when I read it years ago (Madame Bovary – I found Emma too selfish, I couldn’t like her).

    • Damyanti Biswas says:

      Ah, so lovely to meet someone who has the same reading history as me, Jan. I hope you’ll stop by often. I was upset at Emma that first time, but I think over the decades have come to understand her. I still don’t approve of her, but I get her now.

  • MaryR says:

    Glad you found this fun meme! I have read several of the books you put in your post, but none of them turned up in the chain I created from The Lottery! That’s one of the best things about this meme, everyone goes a different direction.

    • Damyanti Biswas says:

      Thanks for visiting, Mary. I love all the chains I’ve read and hope to read more today. I plan to participate again, next month.

  • vishnupria says:

    Well, I have read “A gentleman in Moscow” and was deeply moved by the protagonist and his unique morality skills. It became my favourite for its profound meaning – “What sort of divinity, he seemed to be thinking, would devise a world in which an aging man’s malady afflicts the very attribute that has set him apart from his fellow men and elevated him in the eyes of all? What sort of divinity, Emily? The very same who rendered Beethoven deaf and Monet blind. For what the lord giveth, is precisely what he come through later to taketh away”.

    • Damyanti Biswas says:

      Yes, Vishnupria, this was indeed a moving book. Thank you for sharing the quote!

  • I guess we do most of our watching not reading on Netflix at night. Recently completed the series on Tagore’s works put to film. They were excellent.

    • Damyanti Biswas says:

      Tagore was a genius, wasn’t he? I’m so pleased you enjoyed the stories, though of course they’re slightly different from the originals.

  • I love discovering new blogs by novelists. Thanks for a great list and discussion.

    • Damyanti Biswas says:

      Thanks so much for stopping by Mary–welcome! I hope you’ll visit often.

  • DutchIl says:

    Thank you for sharing!!.. I read whatever my heart wishes to read at the time… The Hound of the Baskervilles, some Sherlock Holmes, Love Story, Phantom of the Opera, Winnie the Pooh, Cat in the hat and, of course, we cannot forget You Beneath Your Skin….. just naming a few books… 🙂

    Thanks to technology and the Kindle PaperWhite and Fire, I have a large selection to choose from… I have over a 1000 books stored on those ereaders… 🙂

    Until we meet again..
    May flowers always line your path
    and sunshine light your way,
    May songbirds serenade your
    every step along the way,
    May a rainbow run beside you
    in a sky that’s always blue,
    And may happiness fill your heart
    each day your whole life through.
    (Irish Saying)

    • Damyanti Biswas says:

      Thank you, Larry, for reading You beneath your Skin. I’ve read all of Sherlock Holmes as a young teen and enjoyed them! And Winnie the Pooh is one of the wisest books and characters there is.

  • Sudeepa Nair says:

    I have picked five books from my last quarter’s reads, which in my opinion, represent courage in various forms. Do take a look when you have some time. It’s a slightly long read. Also, I have bought your book and hope to read it soon!

    https://sudeepanair.wordpress.com/2021/10/02/q3-2021-books-of-courage/

    • Damyanti Biswas says:

      Thanks for the share, Sudeepa, I’m off to read it. And thank you so much for picking up You Beneath Your Skin!

  • Jemima Pett says:

    This is where my science path shows: it kept me away from all these classic authors, let alone their less well-known works. And I don’t much like gothic horror (too scary).
    But I am tempted to do a 6Degrees reading challenge next year, maybe starting from one of your choices 🙂

    • Damyanti Biswas says:

      Jemima, we all have our tastes and those are all valid. We may or may not read the classics–I read a few mostly because those were the only things available where I lived. Pls join 6 Degrees, because I do plan to continue. The prompt is always by the host though, and I don’t host this wonderful meme.

  • Hm… I think I’ve read Madame Bovary but I can’t see my copy on my shelf… (Well, I did lose one box of books when I moved house last year so…). Nice chain!

    • Damyanti Biswas says:

      Thanks, Davida, and glad you liked the chain. I don’t have a copy of Madame Bovary either, but it is so easy to borrow it from the library if and when I want to go back to it.

  • I really enjoyed your chain Damyanti. I’m embarrassed to say that I’ve only read the Towles. I really should have read the Flaubert and Chekhov as well. I loved that you linked the Towles on that very funny wine scene.

    And while I haven’t read the others, I do have Madame Bovary and Some prefer nettles on my TBR.

    • Damyanti Biswas says:

      We all read what we like, come across and have the time for, Sue, no call to be embarrassed for not reading any of them. The important thing is we read, and it engages us. Thanks so much for stopping by.

  • Leigh S. says:

    Interesting concept, Damyanti. I like your reading choices. I should read Jackson’s novels like The Haunting of Hill House, but I’ve only read “The Lottery” and perhaps one other short story of hers. But, as to my current reading (I have a very bad habit of reading several books at once and inevitably not finishing most of them in their entirety), I’ll depart a little from the 6 degrees of written literature and make these connections. I recently binge-watched a Russian television series called “Gogol.” I’d read of (though not anything by) Gogol in George Saunders’ A Swim in the Pond in the Rain, which, sadly, left me kind of disappointed because (1.) I loved Saunders’ 10th of December and because (2.) I wanted to experience the literature myself first before reading explications on the stories, so I deliberately stopped myself only part-way through Chekhov’s “In the Cart,” then neglected to follow through and read that story elsewhere. So, anyway, back to present day–watching “Gogol,” which I really liked, inspired me to check out _The Overcoat and Other Tales of Good and Evil_ (by Gogol) from my local library. In that book so far, I have enjoyed the dark absurdity of “The Nose” but haven’t read beyond that because I’m also juggling several books on repressed memory and suggestibility, the legal ramifications of repressed memories, also meditations on the nature of human memory and creativity by people like Oliver Sacks, and then a book on forgetting by Douwwe Draaisma. This year, I have started far too many books and finished too few, which is better than reading none, but I still wish I could break myself of this terrible practice of not following through.
    Finally, I’ve seen your book news on social and am excited for you, Damyanti. I’ll be very interested to read your upcoming post(s) about it!

    • Damyanti Biswas says:

      Sorry to hear about your experience with A Swim–I absolutely loved it, though, to be fair, I’d read most of the stories in advance. I feel it is ok not to finish books that don’t hold you through. I’m reading three books at the same time right now–one an ebook, another on audio, and a hard copy–and I forgive myself if I don’t finish any of them. Right now, looks quite likely I shall finish them all, but we’ll see. This covid year has not been great for my powers of concentration.

      Thanks for the kind wishes–I hope to speak of it on this site tomorrow.

  • What a fun challenge! ^_^ Hm, I’ll have to give that some thought. My current read is making me draw a complete blank on related works. LoL …
    But I have read “The Lottery” and “The Cask of Amontillado” — both excellent! (I happen to be a big fan of Poe and Gothic horror.)

    • Damyanti Biswas says:

      The connections between the books can be pretty sketchy, Melody! And yes on those two–I read less Gothic stuff now, but the younger me was all about it lol.

  • I read each and every day. A woman I worked with had a stroke which not only took away her reading and writing abilities but also the capacity to relearn them. I would have been bereft.
    What an interesting meme.
    I read from such a wide range I am not at all sure that connections would be discernible…

    • Damyanti Biswas says:

      That’s scary–I don’t know what I would have done. I wonder if she can still enjoy audiobooks?

      The meme is fascinating, but the connections could be what you read in that year, or books people gifted you, or how you shelve your books, or what you read this year. I think the only connection you really need to make is the first one, the one from the prompt. The rest is pretty free and easy. I went the long route because it made me revisit old books, which was fun for me.

  • John Hric says:

    Hello Damyanti. Six books ! I would be in trouble. For one reason or another I am reading slower these days. And when I do read it is mostly science fiction. The one book I have read recently is Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir. A high school science teacher wakes up in space and gradually solves the puzzles of how and why he got there. He does it using a lot of the same science he taught in high school. And in spite of a very limited computer he gradually comes to understand what he needs to do. The author Andy Weir is the same author of the Martin. A story about and astronaut left behind on Mars. And with that it is time to go back to the garden. It is fall here and there are still plants to move. Be well.

    • Damyanti Biswas says:

      John, I’m reading slower these days as well. I plan to read and write all of this weekend and not open the computer.

      Andy Weir is an author I want to read–I haven’t read much scifi in general, but two that I read recently made an impression–a sort of literary scifi by Kazuo Ishiguro–Klara and the Sun, and another weird poetic scifi: This is How You Lose the Time War.

  • What a clever idea! I admit, I haven’t read the main book or any of the ‘separated’ ones. I’m not sure what that says about my reading!

    • Damyanti Biswas says:

      It says nothing about your reading, Jacqui, but more about mine. I used to pick up obscure stuff and read classics from all over the place, because I began reading in hinterland India where most of the books were secondhand, and difficult to find. I read what was there. There were no libraries where I grew up.

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