Posted by: Lisa Hill | October 3, 2021

Six Degrees of Separation: from The Lottery, to….

This month’s #6Degrees starts with The Lottery by Shirley Jackson.  I read this short story years ago when I was studying Professional Writing and Editing, a course which I abandoned because the compulsory unit on journalism involved using Murdoch tabloids as models.  I didn’t like the Short Story unit much either, but at least The Lottery was memorable, which is more than I can say for the rest of the short stories we had to read…

So while the obvious link from The Lottery could be to another short story, I’m simply going to link to a book by another Shirley — Shirley Hazzard. She wrote four novels, and I’ve read them all (both The Transit of Venus (1980) and The Great Fire (2003) twice) though only two are reviewed on this blog. I’m going to choose The Bay of Noon (1970) which was shortlisted for the Lost Man Booker Prize.  It’s the story of Jenny, who abandons her annoying relatives in post-war London, and sets off by herself, for work as a translator for NATO in post-war Naples.

The Edith Trilogy by Frank Moorhouse also involves a young woman going to work for an international body. Books 1 & 2 of the series, Grand Days (1993) and Dark Palace (2000) trace a woman’s career in the failed League of Nations of the interwar years, while the concluding novel Cold Light (2011) features the expat returning home to Australia when the UN doesn’t want her. This was a wonderful series, and the Miles Franklin judges thought so too when they awarded the MF to Dark Palace.

It takes a certain kind of reading stamina to work through an author’s series.  My most ambitious effort was to read the entire La Comedie Humaine by Balzac, followed by Zola’s Rougon-Macquart series, but my favourite has to be Steven Carroll’s Glenroy novels. These novels, including the Miles Franklin winning The Time We Have Taken (2007),  are set somewhere like Glenroy, though the setting could be in any of Melbourne’s 1950s middle ring suburbs, really).  My favourite is The Art of the Engine Driver.

Another author who sets her novels in Melbourne is Andrea Goldsmith, who brings the inner city alive.  Reunion (2009) was described by The Monthly  as a ‘kind of inner-city intellectual counterpart to Christos Tsiolkas’s suburban masterpiece The Slap…a novel about how we live now, about the lifestyles and values of present-day Melbourne and, by extension, Australia.’

Having just read Belinda Probert’s Imaginative Possession, I have to quarrel with the last part of The Monthly’s summation which claims that Melbourne’s lifestyles and values are indicative of those in the rest of the nation.  As Probert makes clear in her discussion about the landscapes of Australia, our country is just too vast and diverse to have lifestyles in common across the continent, and it’s not just a matter of climate and landscape.  As an indication of our cultural values, Melbourne is a City of Literature, (the only one in Australia) and we have the best art gallery in the nation.  We are also proud to be leading the nation in developing a treaty with our Indigenous people.  Plus we have trams, and an obsession with coffee unmatched anywhere else on the continent!

Indeed, it’s the diversity of our cities and towns, lifestyles and values that makes Australia such an interesting place to live.  Reading our literature can take you anywhere.  Kim Lock’s road novel The Other Side of Beautiful takes the reader south from Adelaide to Darwin in the north while No One, by John Hughes unravels our sense of place in Sydney. Anita Heiss’s new novel Bila Yarrudhanggalangdhuray (River of Dreams) shows how the values of our towns can shift over time, so that now the people of Gundagai are ready to recognise the Indigenous heroes who saved 69 of the townspeople, a third of the population at that time.  The values which inform our novels with urban settings are entirely different to those which feature in the bleak wilderness of Cate Kennedy’s The World Beneath or the uncompromising isolation of Wildlight, by Robyn Mundy.

So there we are, that’s my #6Degrees for this month!

Next month’s starter book is Sigrid Nunez’s What Are You Going Through? I haven’t read it but I’ve got The Friend on the TBR, perhaps I might read that instead…

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


Responses

  1. Im so sad now reading your comments about Melbourne’s lifestyle that I never got to experience it for myself.

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    • I know, I was devastated for you, coming so far and not quite getting here. But thank goodness the NZ health system was able to care for your husband and you both got home again safely.
      I feel the same way about my 2015 European jaunt coming to an abrupt end when my father was gravely ill. A missed opportunity, but also a choice made because of the ones we love…

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      • I keep thinking that one day I’ll make it. Some choices take care of themselves don’t they – you wouldn’t have felt comfortable if you’d continued with the trip knowing how ill your dad was. It would have been on your mind constantly

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        • Yes, absolutely. The choice is more stark because it’s cost so much in time and effort and yes, money, to be so far from home when the crisis occurs. but at the end of the day you wouldn’t hesitate if you were at home, and you don’t hesitate when you’re not.

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  2. Nice!
    I also went with another Shirley.
    And I’m planning on listening to all of the Rougon-Macquart next year.
    My quirky chain is here: https://wordsandpeace.com/2021/10/02/six-degrees-of-separation-from-lottery-to-tides/

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  3. I don’t know these except the Lottery and I have read a different Shirley Hazzard. I think I’d like this one – will check my library.

    Here is my chain: https://perfectretort.blogspot.com/2021/10/six-degrees-of-separation-from-lottery.html

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    • I really like your chain, especially the Dickens and the Schama (which I must add to my shelves.)
      I like the name of your blog too, I am a Master of Staircase Wit!

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  4. I do love Shirley Hazzard – and she certainly knew her international organisations! I have an undying interest in any books featuring international UN type organisations, so the Edith trilogy sounds very interesting indeed. I have no idea how easy it is to find over here in the UK – I suspect not very easy.

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    • Hi Marina, what triggered your interest in UN-type organisations?
      *pause* I am now trying to remember something about the UN in Bosnia, two men from opposing sides trapped in a crater with a bomb that could go off at any time. What was that, a book or a film?

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      • Sounds like a film. I’m afraid I don’t know it, but I do recommend two other books about Sarajevo: Death in the Museum of Modern Art by Alma Lazarevska and Lie in the Dark by Dan Fesperman.
        My interest in UN is simple to explain: my father worked for UN in Vienna for most of my childhood and I lived in Geneva for 7 years recently.

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        • Ah, that does explain it!
          I’ve read Death in the Museum, but not the other one. I looked it up at Goodreads, it sounds a bit like the TV series Foyle’s War which is really about how crime does not stop and still impacts on people’s lives even during periods of condoned killing during a war.

          Liked by 1 person

          • Yes, exactly. It’s an interesting take on crime fiction, written by a journalist who experienced all of it first-hand.

            Liked by 1 person

  5. What an interesting chain – all books I’ve not read and all sounding so interesting!

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    • LOL #HandOnHeart I have only just realised that they are all Australian!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. The way you manage to include so many books, as you move from one to another, is a delight. (Funny to see The Lottery with a ‘Unicorn Frappuccino’ cover, and looking like an ad for Telstra.) Keep the Six Degrees coming.

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    • Ah, Carmel, you are an observer of covers as I am! The original of The Lottery that I read was in a ‘brick’, one of those massive A4 collections of reading materials that they issue to students. So I searched at Goodreads to see what editions there were, and this one seemed the least-worst. But I chose it really because I liked the imprint: Tale Blazers. Clever, eh?

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  7. I really ought to read Hazzard. I had a couple of hers in my TBR (in London) but just never got around to them. Must see what my library has.

    And I can attest that Melbourne has a lifestyle and culture VERY different to that of Perth, but I reckon Perthites give Melburnians a run for their money as far as coffee goes. This city is just as OBSESSED with loads of local coffee roasters (I live a minute’s walk from one).

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    • Hmm… Perth as a coffee obsession rival? Maybe, but LOL we have *international fame*. Let me offer an anecdote from my travels. On my second trip back to the UK we were in a B&B in York, when with memories of terrible coffee on the previous trip to the UK and France, and not really expecting an answer, I asked our friendly host if he knew of anywhere that we could get Melbourne coffee. Not only did he know what I meant, but he referred us to an Italian restaurant which had The Real Thing. Their secret? They had a Melbourne barista!
      BTW Any progress on getting your library home to Australia?

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      • Oh yes, everyone in UK knows about Melbourne coffee ☕️ People used to ask me about it all the time whenever they found out I was from Melbourne. 🤷🏻‍♀️

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  8. Enjoyed your links Lisa, especially from Hazzard to Moorhouse.

    As for coffee, I know Melbourne has a “reputation” for being our coffee-obsessed home, but I’m not sure it has a barista – like Canberra has – who has won the World Barista Championships! Coffee is huge here in the ‘berra, with surely more roasters and cafes per capita than elsewhere in Aus. (Actually I have no idea about that, but I do think we would give other cities a run for their money in the coffee stakes!)

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    • Ah no, *chuckle* you misunderstand me. It is not about the coffee (though that must, of course, be superb. That’s why Starbucks failed here.) It is about the obsession. It’s like wearing black. I’m sure people in other cities wear black, and not everyone in Melbourne wears black. It’s about the obsession with wearing black.
      We wear our obsessions proudly, and I suspect that if they are adopted by other cities, we will find something else to obsess about.
      The trams, however, are more than that. They are not just ‘iconic’. They say something about our values i.e. in that era when everywhere else people were jettisoning public transport in favour of the car, we didn’t.

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      • Ah yes, I didn’t quite get your ”obsession” focus, but I will still say that coffee IS an obsession here too. Starbucks barely started here before they were gone. But, true, we are not “known”for this obsession. Canberra wears its obsessions more quietly – haha – or, probably, the truth is that noone is interested enough to think we have any so only we know them!

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        • I don’t mean this unkindly, but isn’t Canberra obsessed with its own importance? Sydney masquerades as the nation’s capital, shoving Canberra out of the way. It would be no surprise if Canberrans felt miffed about Sydney taking its place on the world stage…
          (The funny thing about Sydney is that they’re obsessed with Sydney-Melbourne rivalry, whereas Melbourne isn’t interested in that at all. All those glossy mag articles about it come out of Sydney newsrooms.)

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          • I’m not really aware of that Lisa. It sounds like something other think we think. If there is one thing we are obsessed about it’s our utter frustration that journalists and commentators say “Canberra” when they mean the Federal Government, and thereby encourage others to misunderstand Canberra.

            I wouldn’t say that Sydney masquerades as the nation’s capital so much as that historically it was our first and largest city. That, plus that it’s the first place people have tended (again historically) to land in Australia, and has the Harbour and Opera House, mean that people have traditionally assumed that Sydney is the capital. There are other countries (and many states in the USA) where, for similar reasons – size, history, etc – people assume the capital is the best known city? I don’t think Canberrans are miffed about this. We expect it, are prepared for it. In fact, when we are overseas, we’ll often answer the question about where we are from with, “Canberra, the capital of Australia though most people think it’s Sydney”. That’s not to exert our importance as to encourage a conversation about Australia.

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  9. Hm… I like the sound of this Andrea Goldsmith. Really interesting chain here.

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    • I love everything I’ve read by Andrea Goldsmith. I will never understand why she hasn’t won the MF or the Vic Premier’s Prize. Hers are not shouty books but they have a long slow afterlife in the mind.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. I “discovered” Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery” while browsing in the library and read that first story while on a cross-town city bus, on an otherwise unremarkable commute, to my first “real job”. I still remember just how strange the world outside that window looked, on the other side of reading that strange, timeless story.

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    • I do so love it when that happens… in waiting rooms, on public transport, on planes… there we are in a different world that feels more like reality than the real world!

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  11. I haven’t read any of these, so I’m adding a pile to my TBR rightaway.

    Thanks for sharing these, and though I don’t think I’ll ever be able to read all the series, I’m going to attempt the ones that speak to me.

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    • Hi Damyanti, and welcome!
      *chuckle* Don’t worry, all of us who keep an eye on #6Degrees all end up with a wishlist we couldn’t possibly ever read in full!

      Like


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