Posted by: Lisa Hill | January 5, 2019

Six Degrees of Separation: From The French Lieutenant’s Woman , to …

So… this month’s #6 Degrees starts with The French Lieutenant’s Woman, by John Fowles…

I haven’t read it, but it’s on my TBR courtesy of a 2009 sale of Vintage books at Readings: $12.95 each, if I remember correctly.  I bought quite a few, half a dozen of which are waving at me from the F-G shelf of the TBR.

I fancy Stella Gibbons’ Here Be Dragons might be the first of them I might eventually read. Here Be Dragons is set in Bohemian postwar London, in smoky jazz bars where the central character Nell searches for romance.

Music features as  a backdrop in Toni Morrison’s Jazz, also on my TBR. This quotation from two reviewers at Goodreads, suggests that the romantic idyll hasn’t happened for Morrison’s characters either.  (Not that we would expect them to, given Morrison’s confronting subject matter).

“I’m crazy about this City. Daylight slants like a razor cutting the buildings in half. In the top half I see looking faces and it’s not easy to tell which are people, which the work of stonemasons. Below is a shadow where any blasé thing takes place: clarinets and lovemaking, fists and the voices of sorrowful women. A city like this one makes me dream tall and feel in on things.”

Romanticism and its Discontents is the enticing title of Anita Brookner’s work of literary criticism, also on my TBR (though today it defies my efforts to find it.  But Goethe: A Very Short Introduction by Richie Robertson is in plain sight.  Goethe’s Sorrows of Young Werther is the quintessential sturm und drang story of a discontented romantic.  It’s ideal for young people mired in what they are yet to learn (hopefully not the hard way) is not really tragedy at all… Been there, done that myself!  The Sorrows of Young Werther is a story we grow out of, like the steamy novels of D H Lawrence and the falling-in-love-with-a-Black-Sheep theme of Gone With the Wind.  Apparently Goethe hated this book when he was older, but too bad, it’s the one that most of us begin with, I bet!

In his latter years, Patrick White was none too keen on his debut novel either.  But moi, his devoted fan, was delighted when Text reissued Happy Valley.  I am happy to read anything written by White, even his unfinished novel The Hanging Garden which was published by Knopf  in 2012.  I just hope it doesn’t turn out to be a disappointment like Beethoven’s much-hyped 10th Symphony was…

Next month’s book is Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk.  I’ve never heard of it, but that hasn’t stopped me before, has it?

Thanks to Kate at Books are my Favourite and Best for hosting, and to Sue at Whispering Gums for the reminder!


Responses

  1. John Fpwles, that’s a blast from the past! I think I loved it back then. And the film of his book The Collector with a gorgeous Terence Stamp and Samantha Eggar. with And Patrick White.. I’ve not read any..I tried. what would you recommend for a White novice?

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    • I think I have The Collector on the TBR too, bought at the same time because it was a 1001 Books choice??
      Re PW: can I persuade you with a book I haven’t reviewed on this blog? The Aunt’s Story was my first White, and I’ve read it twice but before this blog. It’s not very long, 299 pages in my tatty 1963 Penguin pbk edition: it’s so old – the author photo shows him smiling! What I found remarkable was his scathing portraits of domineering women, think of it as a more sophisticated and brilliantly satirical example of how they were lampooned on Mavis Bramston or Barry Humphries. Older women are not like that now because we have 50 years of feminism behind us, but some certainly were when I was a young woman combining motherhood and career and came in for their strong disapproval.

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  2. oh and Fight Club was made into an iconic film with Brad Pitt. it has the line ‘what happens in fight club, stays in fight club.’

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  3. Always happy to remind you Lisa. Enjoyed your links. Like you I read and loved Happy Valley but The hanging garden is still on the TBR – I fear it a little for the same reasons you do. I’ve read Jazz too, but a long time before blogging, and before I kept useful notes, more’s the pity.

    BTW Chuck Palahniuk’s Fight Club, which I haven’t read either, was adapted to that famous film Fight Club, which is regularly referred to in all sorts of media and cultural contexts. It’s aggressively masculine, but is, I think satirical in intent.

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    • There’s an ABC radio program called Fight Club, which pits politicians against each other in (what is meant to be) a polite difference of opinion. I guess that’s where the title comes from?

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      • Yes, it would be I’m sure — I haven’t heard that program.

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        • Ah, maybe it’s on 774…

          Liked by 1 person

          • Just googled and certainly it does seem that it was 774 so presumably still is.

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            • It can be good… it depends so much on the politicians and whether they behave or not.

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              • Just like Q&A really, though that’s best when there are no pollies.

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                • The design flaw in Q&A is that there are too many participants so it doesn’t give anyone a chance to mount a reasoned argument.

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  4. The French Lieutenant’s Woman is one of favourite books of all time. It dismays me that it’s considered gouache and out-of-fashion now because of its flights of postmodern fantasy. It is a remarkable achievement of book in IMHO.

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    • Hello Melanie:)
      Goodness, I’ve never heard that! It’s not criticism I’d take much notice of, either. The sort of people who arc up about postmodernism are either people who don’t understand it, (LOL often when they haven’t read it) or (weirdly) think it is part of a Leftie conspiracy. For me, it’s just another kind of interesting writing which can be well or badly done, or sometimes too difficult for me to understand – which is not the author’s fault. I don’t think authors have any obligation to write books that anyone and everyone can understand. It’s the reader’s responsibility to choose books that they can enjoy. (And there are so many book review options today, there’s no excuse for not knowing about a book IMO).
      Anyway, this is part of what 1001 Books has to say about TFLW:
      In TFLW, John Fowles set out to do what should have been an impossibility: to reconcile the scope and enthusiasm of Victorian realism with teh cynicism and uncertainties of a self-reflective experimental narrative. That Fowles realised his purpose in a novel that is a magnificent blend of story, history and literary critique is testament both to his skill as a writer, and to the ambition of his humanism. (p.610)
      Fashion and fads in books (as distinct from recognisable literary trends) is something new, I think, and usually dreamed up by marketers. (A current example is so-called UpLit, obviously a reaction to the depressing flood of memoirs and the preoccupation with sexual and domestic abuse in novels.)

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      • Interesting comment Lisa. I’m wondering whether today’s fashion or fad ends up as tomorrow’s literary trend? Not all will but the corollary may be mostly true ie most literary trends may have started as fashions/fads? Just wondering…

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        • I was thinking more of major changes like romanticism, social realism, modernism, postmodernism &c which frame the novel, rather than topics or genres…

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          • Yes, I guess my comment was that even they were possibly seen as fashions or fads at first before they settled into something more substantial? I don’t know, but your comment just made me wonder how “things” actually start? You know, like many people hated, say, Beethoven when his work first appeared. Did they see it as a fad? But then more composers liked what he was doing and gradually romantic music was born?? (I know he wasn’t THE only early composer in this genre – one person never is – but I see him as the significant figure in the development of Romantic music).

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            • I see what you’re getting at, but LOL I can’t see eating disorders and addiction ever becoming a lasting phenomenon in literature…

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  5. I was glad to read your comment about outgrowing Werther (and LCL). I read Werther for the first time in my mid-30’s and just wanted to throw it across the room in frustration! Like Wuthering Heights best read when young, naive and hopelessly idealistic oneself!
    I did love LCL in my very early 20’s but it didn’t survive an early 30’s reread either. I also tried my first (& only White to date) in my early 20’s (Voss). It was too much for me at the time – have been meaning to return to him now that I’m older and wiser :-)

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    • I don’t think I would have liked Voss then either, I only read it a few years ago. I was none too keen on The Tree of Man when we did it at uni, but I loved A fringe of Leaves and The Aunt’s Story, and that then set me up for enjoying the others.
      Werther just made me laugh:)

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    • I read Voss when I was 17 for my HSC. I adored it – and felt it was the perfect White for adolescence. All that mystical (and real) emotion! Right up my alley.

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      • Well, there you go, you can’t get a better recommendation than that!

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Liked the way you sidestepped from Fowles via your TBR shelf! I love lateral thinking links. I’ve never read PW – although my late mum was a fan and I inherited her copy of the Vivisector – I tried with it but failed I’m afraid.

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    • More lateral than logical, that’s me!

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  7. TFLW is a metafictional work, it can also be called a pastiche if you like, but…’postmodern fantasy’ ? It is one one my favourite 20th century books, alongside Belle du Seigneur, also published in 1969.
    I hope you didn’t mean we’re supposed to grow out D.H. Lawrence entirely ? :-)

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    • Well, I shouldn’t comment on what it is or isn’t, since it’s only on my pile to books to read at some time in the future. All I can say is that generally I have found 1001 Books’ recommendations to be sound advice:).
      DHL? I can’t see myself re-reading any of his. But I have fond memories of enjoying his writing.

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  8. grow out of…

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  9. I haven’t read TFLW either (it’s in the TBR stack) but I picked it because it kept cropping up in people’s chains – I figured there was a lot of love for it.

    I haven’t read Fight Club either – picked it because it was wildly different to the sorts of things I ordinarily choose (I have seen the movie though and ‘enjoyed’ it).

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    • It’s nice to begin with a book that has a lot of love. (I enjoyed last month’s A Christmas Carol).
      I can’t even begin to think of a book that will launch from Fight Club, but hopefully inspiration will arrive in good time:)

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      • I think I’ll begin with a book that I haven’t read but have seen the movie.

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  10. nice connections! I have not had time to do it this month. I loved so much Sorrows of Young Werther in my teens. So far, I have only read one book by Patrick White, The Tree of Man, and really really enjoyed it.

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    • I don’t have time to do it every month, and really, now that it’s taking off everywhere, it’s probably a good thing that we opt out every now and again, just to give people time to read them all!

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  11. You got me with that Here be Dragons link – its the name of novel by Sharon Penman about the conflict between the Princes of Wales and the English kings. I thought, at last wales gets a look in….. Sigh it was not to be

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    • But did you know there are seven Welsh authors reviewed on this blog? After Brexit, when it seemed to me that the UK might fall apart, I went back and as best I could separated the UK authors into Scots, Welsh, N. Irish and English. Easier said than done, of course, because Wikipedia tends to be my source and it usually just says British, but I have tried!

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      • All right you can claim your passport in that case …

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        • LOL I had a grandfather who was born in Wales, so maybe I might be eligible for Welsh citizenship if it comes to that…

          Liked by 1 person

          • Did I know this? My great grandfather was born in Wales. I have a Welsh middle name as a result – Erwyd.

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