Six Degrees of Separation: From Notes on a Scandal to Belzhar

This month we begin with Notes on a Scandal by Zoë Heller. I remember reading it at around the time the excellent film came out; I bet I’d get more out of it on a reread. (See Kate’s opening post.)

#1 Heller’s novel came to mind as I was reading The Best Short Stories 2022: The O. Henry Prize Winners, edited by Valeria Luiselli. In the story “Clean Teen” by Francisco González, a junior high student who lives with his grandmother in Arizona has an affair with his English teacher, who’s unhappily married to a cop. These situations never end well, do they?


#2 I’ve not read anything by Luiselli, but the book of hers that most intrigues me is The Story of My Teeth.


#3 Speaking of teeth, Joshua Ferris’s To Rise Again at a Decent Hour is a comic novel about a dentist who falls victim to online identity theft.


#4 That novel won Ferris a Dylan Thomas Prize, as did Grief Is the Thing with Feathers for Max Porter.


#5 Porter’s creative response to bereavement draws on various forebears, including the poetry collection Crow by Ted Hughes.


#6 Most of you will know that Hughes was married to Sylvia Plath, author of The Bell Jar. I’m using that as my half-step to get to one of the books I’m currently reading, Meg Wolitzer’s Belzhar. We’re reading this YA novel for book club this week as Wolitzer is a reliable author for us.

The premise: troubled teens are sent to a Vermont boarding school. Jam is one of five chosen for a special literature seminar that each year focuses on just one author. This year it’s Plath. When writing in their journals, the teens find that they are transported back to the scene of their trauma and can be with their lost loved ones, or be their undamaged selves, once again. They call that magical space Belzhar. I’ll plan to review this one in full in the near future.


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 book is the classic cookbook The Naked Chef by Jamie Oliver.

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

15 responses

  1. I loved The Story of My Teeth.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Maybe I’ll treat myself to a copy with birthday money this year.


  2. I think a re-read of the Zoe Heller would be worth while – there were many undercurrents I’m sure I missed at the time

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree. One probably has sympathy with a different character on each read.


  3. Oh my gosh! I forgot about To rise again at a decent hour. I actually loved that book. So great to see it on your chain!

    The rest of your chain is also cleverly done. Have a wonderful October!

    Elza Reads

    Liked by 1 person

  4. The Worlitzer books sounds quite interesting! Great connections this month.
    Terrie @ Bookshelf Journeys

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Terrie! I’m enjoying Belzhar and I think it should give my book club a lot to talk about tomorrow.


  5. The Heller is worth a re-read I think, and I might give the Max Porter a go, as well as the Luiselli. A great chain!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! The Porter is excellent.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I do like Luiselli, although the Teeth one I haven’t read yet.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ve only read her introduction to the story anthology.


  7. A creative chain, although I’ve not read any of your books. But I did read and love Ferris’s first novel.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ve read a few books by Ferris now. I think I liked his short stories the best. He has a reasonably new novel out that I’ll need to try.

      Liked by 1 person

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