Six Degrees of Separation: True History of the Kelly Gang to Geek Love

This month we begin with True History of the Kelly Gang by Peter Carey. (See also Kate’s opening post.) I feel like I still have an unread copy, but won’t find out now until after we move. I’ve read several of Carey’s novels; my favourite by far was Parrot and Olivier in America, a delightful picaresque set in the early 19th century.

#1 Flaubert’s Parrot by Julian Barnes was one of my most-admired novels in my twenties, though I didn’t like it quite as much when I reread it in 2020. Funnily enough, his new novel has a bird in the title, too: Elizabeth Finch. I’m two-thirds through and it’s feeling like warmed-up leftovers of The Sense of an Ending with extra history and philosophy on the side.

 

#2 My latest reread was Falling Angels by Tracy Chevalier, for book club. I’ve read all of her novels and always thought of this one as my favourite. A reread didn’t change that, so I rated it 5 stars. I love the neat structure that bookends the action between the death of Queen Victoria and the death of Edward VII, and the focus on funerary customs (with Highgate Cemetery a major setting) and women’s rights is right up my street.

 

#3 Another novel featuring an angel that I read for a book club was The Vintner’s Luck by Elizabeth Knox. It’s set in Burgundy, France in 1808, when an angel rescues a drunken winemaker from a fall. All I can remember is that it was bizarre and pretty terrible, so I’m glad I didn’t realize it was the same author and went ahead with a read of The Absolute Book.

 

#4 The winemaking theme takes me to my next selection, Cork Dork by Bianca Bosker, which I read on a trip to the Netherlands and Belgium in 2017. Bosker, previously a technology journalist, gave herself a year and a half to learn everything she could about wine in hopes of passing the Court of Master Sommeliers exam. The result is such a fun blend of science, memoir and encounters with people who are deadly serious about wine.

 

#5 I have so often heard the title The Dork of Cork by Chet Raymo, though I don’t know why because I can’t think of an acquaintance who’s actually read or reviewed it. The synopsis: “When Frank, an Irish dwarf, writes a personal memoir, he moves from dark isolation into the public eye. This luminous journey is marked by memories of his lonely childhood, secrets of his doomed young mother, and his passion for a woman who is as unreachable as the stars.” Sounds a bit like A Prayer for Owen Meany.

 

#6 Another novel with a dwarf: Geek Love by Katherine Dunn, about a carnival of freaks that tours U.S. backwaters. I have meant to read this for many years and was even convinced that I owned a copy, but on my last few trips to the States I’ve not been able to find it in one of the boxes in my sister’s basement. Hmmm.

To the extent that we have ‘a song,’ “Geek Love” by Nerina Pallot would be it for my husband and me. A line from the chorus is “We’re geeks, but we know this is love.” It’s from her breakout album Fires, which came out in 2005 and was almost constant listening fodder for us while we were engaged. We’ve seen her live three times and she always plays this one.

 

From a gang via dorks to geeks, linked by the fact of books being stuck in (Schrödinger’s) boxes. 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 starting point is Sorrow and Bliss by Meg Mason — perfect given that it’s the book my book group has been sent to discuss as we shadow this year’s Women’s Prize.

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

15 responses

  1. Great list Rebecca – The Dork of Cork? Never heard of it but a great title. I loved Geek Love.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree it’s a fantastic title! I’d give it a try just for that reason.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I love your concept of Schrodinger’s Boxes of Books! I couldn’t get into Geek Love a DNF for me, but remember enjoying Flaubert’s Parrot all those years ago.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I think Geek Love was a bit of a cult classic at the time. I’ll see how I get on with it (if I can find my copy!).

      Liked by 1 person

  3. The Chevalier appeals, the only title other than Flaubert’s Parrot that has registered with me.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Lots of great themes including death customs and suffragism.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I laughed loudly at how you cleverly slipped from #4 to #5, Beck! And Geek Love is the novel that finally made me realize I didn’t have to finish reading every novel I started. Great post.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! Hmm, another DNF of Geek Love — sounds like a divisive one.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Cork Dork and the Dork of Cork and geeks… well, what can I say? You are the mistress of strange coincidences and associations!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ha ha, I’ll take that title!

      Like

  6. What a shame The Vintners Luck didn’t work for you. It sounds like an interesting story.

    Fun chain!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Some love The Vintner’s Luck, so you could always give it a try anyway 🙂

      Like

  7. I read A Sense of an Ending and for the life of me, I can’t remember a thing about it. But, I loved his The Noise of Time a great deal. I guess Barnes is a hit-or-miss type of writer. And yes, that Chet Raymo book does sound a bit Owen Meaney. Hm… very interesting chain here! Thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The Noise of Time didn’t stand out for me. His earlier work is quite varied, but I feel like he’s been in a bit of a rut recently. I reread The Sense of an Ending for book club earlier this year and wondered why it was the work of his chosen to win the Booker Prize!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Well, maybe it was the best of the bunch. Who knows. But as they say, no two people read the same book so… matter of taste!

        Like

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