6 Degrees of Separation: From Sorrow and Bliss to Lost and Found
Welcome back to the bookish version of Six Degrees of Separation, where we all start with the same book but end up somewhere different depending on the way our subconscious makes bookish connections.
This month’s starting book is Sorrow and Bliss by Meg Mason, which was shortlisted for the 2022 Women’s Prize for Fiction. One reviewer commented that it is both “charming and irreverently funny” and “sad, moving and hard-hitting”. Another appreciated that Mason “portrayed mental illness in its complicated and realistic light”.
First We Make the Beast Beautiful by Sarah Wilson also explores the subject of mental health, specifically about anxiety. Wilson’s book is a mix of memoir, exploration of ideas, research, interviews with others, all of which has the feel of both a series of fragments and the meandering of an extended lyric essay.
I’ve been reading this book not only because of its subject matter but because my current research is around the form and structure of life writing texts that explore social issues. It’s also the reason why I’ve just started reading Eating With My Mouth Open by Sam Van Zweden (in addition to a wonderful interview I heard of Van Zweden talking to Astrid Edwards on The Garret: Writers on Writing podcast).
In the first chapter, Van Zweden writes, “This isn’t a recovery story – God I’m so weary of recovery stories. I’m tired of ‘the journey’. In my experience things sometimes get better or they change shape, but they aren’t fixed … This is not a recovery story. Perhaps it’s a love story instead” (p. 2.).
Trent Dalton has written a collection of stories about the myriad, complex and messy expressions of love in his book simply titled Love Stories. He undertook this project by sitting on a street corner with his typewriter and asked those passing by, “Can you please tell me a love story?”
Sasha Wasley’s new novel, A Caravan Like a Canary, is a love story of sorts, but it’s about a lot more too, including the impact of traumatic childhood events, messy family relationships and a physical journey in the form of a road trip across the protagonist’s home state.
Whenever I think of road trips, I can’t help thinking about the picture book, Are We There Yet? by Alison Lester, which mirrors a road trip around Australia that I took with my family the year I turned 12. I kept a journal that year, which I still had until just a few years ago but now cannot find anywhere; I’m hoping it’s only lost temporarily.
Another book about things that are lost and found, which coincidentally involves a road trip is Lost and Found by Brooke Davis. After becoming lost in a department store, seven-year-old Millie Bird is found by Agatha Pantha and Karl the Touch Typist, who then drive across the country in an effort to reunite Millie with her Mum.
This month, I meandered between between fiction and non-fiction, touching on themes of mental health, love, journeys and road trips, but primarily within the context of contemporary Australia.
Over to You
Where will six degrees of separation lead you?
You can head over to booksaremyfavouriteandbest to see where it led other readers – or join in and pop your chain into the comments section of this post.
Next month’s chain will begin with Wintering by Katherine May.