Posted by: Lisa Hill | March 7, 2021

Six Degrees of Separation: from Phosphorescence, to

This month’s #6Degrees starts with Phosphorescence by Julia Baird.

I’m not keen on self-help books so…

I went looking among my titles for a four-syllable title and up came Dyschronia, by Jennifer Mills! Dyschronia (2018) is a bleak dystopia featuring a little girl called Samandra who foresees forthcoming disasters in visions.  Nobody believes her, just like they never believed the prophet Cassandra whose name echoes behind the text.  If you haven’t read Jennifer Mills yet, check the books that I’ve reviewed and then go shopping.

The sea creature on the cover of Dyschronia reminds me of the artwork depicting the shells of the opera house in Kristina Olson’s Shell. I am still mystified as to why this wonderful book escaped the attention of award judges because it was my Book of the Year in 2018.  I’ve put it on the shelf with my Miles Franklin winners anyway, because that’s where it deserves to be.

Talking of books that deserve more attention, Amanda Lohrey’s hypnotic The Labyrinth didn’t even get longlisted for the Stella. It’s the best thing that she’s ever written and it’s absolutely stunning, and I cannot take the award seriously when I see what has displaced a novel as good as Shell.  It looks as if Angry Young Women have got the stage and there’s no room for anything else.

Now I venture to Borges Labyrinths, and in particular to his short story ‘Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius’, (translated by James E. Irby).  I reviewed rambled about it here, but found that there was much I’d missed and misunderstood when I read an essay by Benjamin Widiss in Literary Wonderlands, edited by Laura Miller.  This is a marvellous book, masquerading as a ‘coffee-table’ book.  It spans nearly 4000 years of storytelling while exploring elements of fiction’s imagined worlds.  It’s more than the armchair guide promised by the blurb, and I still can’t quite believe that this beautiful hardback edition only cost me $34.99.

In the same book, Lisa Tuttle’s essay about The Handmaid’s Tale which I read decades ago reminded me of how much we lose when we settle for the film adaptation.  Film adaptations of 19th century classics are easy on the eye, but they rarely achieve the subtlety and sophistication of the originals.  But we know that any senior school reading list featuring these classics is an invitation to lazy students to skip the reading which is also why I’m very careful when I’m reviewing books on those lists.

And I would have written my review of Steven Amsterdam’s Things We Didn’t See Coming much more evasively if I’d knows it was on those lists!

 

Next month’s starter book is the 2020 Booker Prize winner, Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart.

Thanks to Kate at Books are my Favourite and Best for hosting:)


Responses

  1. What an interesting chain… really different. This one really inspired us to break out and find fascinating connections!

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    • I was super busy on Sunday, so I haven’t caught up with everyone else’s yet.

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  2. How did I miss yours come through Lisa. I decided that you hadn’t done it, but I would have received email notification.

    You made me laugh with your comment on Shell that “I’ve put it on the shelf with my Miles Franklin winners anyway, because that’s where it deserves to be.” But, regarding recent winners, I don’t really think it’s angry young women, though Tara June Winch is youngish and won it last year. You could call her an angry young woman, but what a one she is!! Melissa Lucashenko isn’t young and she won the MF the year before that, and then preceding her were Michelle de Kretser, Josephine Wilson and AS Patrić, none of whom are young women. I think it “looks” like they have the floor, but in fact if you analyse the shortlists and winners, they don’t. There are some there of course, but not in huge numbers.

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    • Sue, I wasn’t referring to the MF, I was referring to the Stella, and though I didn’t mention them, there are other prizes where Angry Young Women have got the stage.
      And I think whether we do it through books or in real life, if we spend too much time in the company of angry people, it creates a distorted view of the world.

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      • Ah, you mentioned Shell not winning the MF, so I made that jump. I take your point about spending too much time skewing your view – with any sort of people really, whether they are angry, cynical, miserable, happy. But even the last few winners of the Stella don’t really fit that mould… Jess Hill could, I guess, but then there was Vicki Laveau-Harvie (by no means young), Alexis Wright, Heather Rose, Charlotte Wood (yes angry but in her mid 40s) The shortlists over the last 5years have a share of your angry young women I agree, but a good selection of other books too.

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