Six Degrees of Separation: Second Place to Woman on the Edge of Time

The last Six Degrees of Separation post I did was back in April; I’ve fallen out of the habit since then. But this month an idea seized me and I’m back! This time we begin with Second Place by Rachel Cusk, which is on the Booker Prize longlist. (See Kate’s opening post.)

When I saw Cusk speak at the online Hay Festival, I learned that Second Place (my review) was loosely inspired by Mabel Dodge Luhan’s 1932 memoir Lorenzo in Taos, about the time when D.H. Lawrence came to visit her in New Mexico. Thoughts of Lawrence in Taos inevitably take me back to my first (and only) academic conference in 2005, hosted by the D.H. Lawrence Society of North America in Santa Fe, with a fieldtrip out to his Taos ranch.

 

#1 One of the books I read ‘in preparation’ for attending that conference was Small World by David Lodge, a comedic novel about professors on the international conference circuit. I’ve included it as one of the Landmark Books of My Life.

 

#2 Flights and “small world” connections also fill the linked short story collection Turbulence by David Szalay.

 

#3 If you can bear to remember the turbulence of recent history, UnPresidented by Jon Sopel is a breezy diary of the 2020 U.S. election. We were lucky enough to have the author, a BBC presenter and brother of one of our members, join our book club discussion on Zoom.

 

#4 That punning title reminded me of A Sting in the Tale by Dave Goulson, his first and probably best work of popular science – all of his books since have been very similar, but that’s no problem because his enthusiasm for insect life is infectious and he writes with the wit and charm of Gerald Durrell.

 

#5 Goulson’s latest book, which I’ve recently reviewed for Shelf Awareness, is called Silent Earth, about the grave threats that insects face (pesticides, invasive species, climate change and much more). It’s the second book I’ve read in recent years (the first was Losing Eden by Lucy Jones) that is explicitly based on or inspired by Silent Spring by Rachel Carson. Like Carson’s book, these seek to effect real societal change.

#6 Carson, Goulson and Jones all conjure up dystopian scenarios of unimaginable natural loss to spur readers into action. A feminist classic my book club read earlier in the year, Woman on the Edge of Time by Marge Piercy, contrasts utopian and dystopian scenes experienced by a Latina woman who’s been confined to a mental hospital. Will society evolve into a utopian vision of subsistence living and absolute gender equality, or move towards further isolation and urban barrenness? It’s an unusual and fascinating novel with hints of science fiction, but grounded in the real world. I still haven’t managed to review it, but next month’s 1976 Club may be just the excuse I need. Do give it a try!

Cycling round from one feminist novel to another, I’ve also featured a couple of personal favourites, some recent works, and a classic of nature writing.

Where will your chain take you? Join us for #6Degrees of Separation! (Hosted on the first Saturday of each month by Kate W. of Books Are My Favourite and Best.) Next month’s R.I.P.-appropriate starting point is the short story “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson.

Have you read any of my selections? Are you tempted by any you didn’t know before?

20 responses

  1. Good to have you back! I loved the New Mexico landscape but Taos and Santa Fe were two curate’s eggs for me.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Those are the only places I went (apart from a bus ride in from the airport in Albuquerque), so they’re my sole impression of the Southwest. I loved it and want to go back.

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      1. We went back twice, visiting Arizona and Utah. Both spectacular!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. YEAH! You’re back. Goodness, I had that David Lodge book on my shelf for ages, and always meant to read it but… I just looked and it seems to have gotten lost when I moved house… hm… No matter; great chain!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you 🙂 Lodge used to be one of my favourite authors, but I haven’t yet managed to reread his work successfully. Small World is something of a sequel to Changing Places, which is also very funny.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Dave Goulson’s a very engaging writer so his book will get read by me. And isn’t it about time I read Silent Spring?

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    1. Silent Spring is of its time, but still worth a look. I think I’ve read or skimmed all of Goulson’s books now. His illustrated volume on gardening for insects is lovely for browsing.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I’ve had Woman on the Edge of Time on my TBR list for AGES! I’m determined to get to it sometime soon.

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    1. It’s an intriguing book. I hope this was the encouragement you needed!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. That’s an excellent first link (not sure many others can claim that experience!).

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Every year I say I should read Silent Spring. It never happens.

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    1. There’s always next spring!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. There’s every chance my chain next month will have an RIP theme too!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ooh, intriguing! I’ll have to start thinking about mine soon…

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  8. David Lodge and Rachel Carson in the same chain! Wow! I bow down to your greatness!! I loved Changing Places by Lodge and Silent Spring–greatness.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks! Lodge is one of my favorite authors. I need to read more from Carson.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. I really enjoyed Turbulence, but could have had more of it!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s a rare thing — a book that leaves you wanting more!

      Liked by 1 person

  10. What fun! And, since we last chatted, the library has gotten copies of Silent Earth on order, so I’m on the list now. Have read the Piercy, Carson (if that counts), and the Szalay, which is such a simple but rich concept for linking!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Brilliant! I often cheat by including a seventh book as a half-step 😉

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