Daily Archives: June 6, 2020

Six Degrees of Separation: from ‘Normal People’ to….

normal-peopleUsually the first Saturday of the month passes me by and I miss out on the Six Degrees of Separation meme from Kate’s blog Books Are My Favourite and Best.  But I’ve caught it this time, even though I haven’t read the starting book, Sally Rooney’s Normal People.

On the first Saturday of every month, a book is chosen as a starting point and linked to six other books to form a chain. Readers and bloggers are invited to join in by creating their own ‘chain’ leading from the selected book.



Rather than normal people, I start off with D.J. Taylor’s Bright Young People: The Rise and Fall of a Generation 1918-1940. This is the story of the self-absorbed generation of London that ‘came out’ at the end of the war, partied their way through the 1920s, were brought undone by the Depression, then tended either to fascism or the idealism of the Spanish Civil War and Communism.

dancing-with-empty-pockets-australias-bohemiansAustralia had its own Bright Young People too, but they generally did not have the entrenched wealth of those in Britain, and they gravitated more towards the arts and the intelligentsia. Dancing with Empty Pockets by Tony Moore explores Australia’s Bohemians, switching the focus between Melbourne and Sydney, with chapters taking in a timespan of about twenty to thirty years, with the 1920s and 1950s given chapters of their own.

moraA real live Bohemian is the late Mirka Mora, whose biography Wicked but Virtuous takes her from WWII Europe as the daughter of a French Jewish resistance fighter through to Melbourne of the 1950s and 1960s. There she became a fixture of the contemporary art scene. More recently she became a puckish and mischievous stalwart of most documentaries of Australian cultural life.

bittoEmily Bitto’s The Strays is a coming-of-age novel set within the unconventional family setting of an artistic bohemian group.  The only child of a rather boring, middle-class family, Lily is treat as one of the ‘strays’ who circulate around the loud, bold Trentham family.  It is an exploration of the heady combination of sex, alcohol and freedom, and the lure of a transgressive lifestyle.


doveyWhen I think of strays, I think of dogs which takes me to Ceridwyn Dovey’s Only the Animals, which not only has a dog but camels, tortoises, apes, parrots and dolphins as well. A series of separate short stories, these animals are each caught up in a human conflict during the twentieth century. In each case, there is a connection with a writer who paid homage in some way to an animal in her or his work.


Hocking_DismissalDovey? Dovey? Where have I heard that name before? That’s right- Margaret Whitlam was Margaret Dovey before she married Gough. I haven’t yet got round to reading Jenny Hocking’s two-volume biography of Gough Whitlam. However I did read her The Dismissal Dossier, which should be read by those of us who think we remember the 1975 dismissal should read, as well as those who weren’t born at the time.


From a romance of two millenials from the same Irish town to the maelstrom of Australian politics – now that’s a journey!

I hear with my little ear: Podcasts 24-31 May 2020

Heather Cox Richardson. Her Politics and History video on 19 May looked at 1. the changing meaning of communism and socialism between 1850 and the present and the erroneous use of ‘socialism’ to decry any broadscale government initiative  2. the role of the inspector-general (did you know that there are 14,000 of them covering all facets of government?) 3. the World Health Organization.

Soul Search (ABC)  A couple of months back, I read Jill Roe’s Beyond Belief: Theosophy in Australia (my review here). With the republication of this book, Meredith Lake looks at Theosophy both historically and in its present form in a program following the name of Roe’s Book Beyond Belief. In many ways Theosophy as it is presented here is not unlike Unitarianism (which I follow) but many of its more contentious propositions are elided here, I feel. The podcast has an archived interview with Jill Roe (who died in 2017) and interviews with historian Wayne Hudson and Pedro Oliveira the Education Officer, Theosophical Society, Australia.

Rear Vision (ABC) What a weird, pugnacious guy Rudy Giuliani is. This episode Greek Tragedy or Farce: The Life and Career of Rudy Giuiliani traces through his career as a lawyer and public servant, then mayor of New York. Originally a Democrat, he shifted to the Republican party during the 1980s. The program suggests that had 9/11 not occurred, he probably would not have been re-elected as mayor of New York.

Southbank Centre (UK) On the 6 March – a lifetime ago- Hilary Mantel appeared at the Southbank Centre in London to talk about her most recent book The Mirror and the Light, the third in her Thomas Cromwell trilogy. I’ve just finished reading it (and have not yet written my review) and this program was perfect listening for someone who has read all three. She has spent 15 years on this magnificent trilogy. They had actors read from all three books, and it made me regret being a fast, non-vocalizing reader because they read aloud beautifully. So, if you’re a Mantel fan and have spent your lockdown with The Mirror and the Light, listen to this- it’s fantastic!

Dan Snow’s History Hit. I hadn’t realized that the Thames was so tidal until we were actually there, close to the Globe, walking along the banks of it. (Nor did I realize that if we picked anything up – which we didn’t- we would have needed a permit from the Port of London Authority). Picking along the banks of the Thames is called Mudlarking and in this episode Dan goes mudlarking, and talks with Lara Maiklem who has been scouring the banks for over 15 years.

The Documentary (BBC) In this program, they get listeners to record their own reports on how the coronavirus lockdown has affected their country. In Lockdown: Tales from Lebanon, Australia, Atlanta and India  from 19 May you realize (if you didn’t already) just how fortunate we have been.