Finally, it is time to jump on board the terrific #6Degrees initiative. Annabel Smith started it, but now it’s hosted by Kate at Books are My Favourite and Best. I have always enjoyed reading other posts on this, and thought it might help me with getting reegular content up here on my blog.
The starting point this time is Perfume by Patrick Süskind. Let’s see where it takes me.
Perfume was a big seller when it was published and for a few years after, everyone wanted to read about the serial killer-cum-parfumier, who has an exceptional sense of smell but exudes no odour himself. As well as featuring a protagonist who is a killer, the author’s given name connects to my next choice.
American Psycho is a book, maybe the only book, I really struggled to read at times because of the graphic violence, and even had to put down for respite (I couldn’t watch the movie and I am a robust film person). Patrick Bateman is riding high in the ’80s, living a life explosive with cash and luxury, drugs, alcohol, sex and terrible acts of depravity. As I was reading, though, I was struck by the idea that he was a very unreliable narrator – is it possible this is a man having a psychotic break but ‘only’ imagining the violence. Is it fantasy or is it real?
The slow-dawning realisation, while reading Sebastian Faulk’s Engleby, was a similar experience, and the reader wonders how much is true in this story of a young man at school and beyond, who seems tolerated at best, reviled at worst, by people and is always hovering on the outside of groups. You feel sorry for him, but when a girl of his acquaintance at university disappears and is found murdered – a girl he has been crushing on to a quite deluded and creepy point – the story becomes one of mystery. Sebastian Faulks is a writer who seems to range across genres and styles; I’ve read three of his novels; all have been different, and all satisfying.
Kazuo Ishiguro is another novelist who seems not to let genres or categories limit his work. The Buried Giant is noted for being a book entirely different to anything else he’s written before. I could add The Remains of the Day and Never Let Me Go as two other examples off the top of my head of his interest in writing across genres.
I haven’t read The Buried Giant, but I will. Another book I haven’t read – but am determined to, even though I’ve had a few failed cracks – is James Joyce’s Ulysses. One of the things that interests me about Ulysses is the location maps that can be found that pinpoint the wanderings of Joyce’s characters: Vladimir Nabokov’s is one (below). I find maps so interesting, especially if they are hand-drawn for some reason, which meant that when I saw Mapping Manhattan being mentioned on twitter a couple of years ago, I ordered it immediately, compelled by the idea that its author Becky Cooper had curated maps by 75 New Yorkers highlighting parts of the city they love and hate, places that have personal meaning for them, their histories and interests.