Six degrees of separation: From ‘Hydra’ to…

First Saturday, so that means Six Degrees of Separation Day. This is a meme hosted by Kate at BooksAreMyFavouriteandBest, where she chooses a starting title, and you link six other books that are related in whatever way you choose. You can read the instructions for the meme here. It is a truth universally acknowledged that I have never read the starting book, and I haven’t this month either. It is Hydra by Adriane Howell, which was shortlisted for the Stella Prize in 2023.

So….. Hydra. There’s Hydra the island, and hydra the freshwater organism, but there’s also Hydra of the Greek myth, the monster with nine heads. I’ll go with the latter, which made me think of David Malouf’s Ransom, where Malouf takes a couple of lines from the Iliad, where King Priam travels to recover the body of his son Hector, which is being dragged behind a chariot by the crazed Achilles.

Thinking of Greece, I jump to Gillian Bouras’ A Stranger Here. Back in the 1980s Gillian Bouras used to write columns in the Age about her life in a Greek village, where she emigrated with her husband. A Stranger Here is a novel, but I suspect that it has strong autobiographical elements, where an older woman has experienced divorce and the chains of love for her son that keep her in Europe.

With an older woman as narrator, both chastened and emboldened by experience, it reminded me of Susan Johnson’s My Hundred Lovers (I bet that you thought I would go for Johnson’s biography of Charmian Clift instead).It is written as one hundred chapters, each very short consisting rarely of more than four pages, and sometimes as little as a paragraph. The hundred lovers here (such a daunting number!) are the spark between sensuousness and embodiment (in the sense of being in the body) and the whole range of a woman’s experiences.

A book with a similar title is Steven Lang’s 88 Lines about 44 Women, but the title does not refer to a countdown of lovers, but instead references a song by The Nails which I’d never heard of. There’s not 44 women it, either, just three and the main character is a washed-up rock singer, now living in a cold and isolated farmhouse in the Scottish Highlands.

Rock singers don’t come much bigger than Jimmy Barnes, although he grew up in Glasgow rather than the Scottish Highlands, before emigrating with his poor, violent family to Elizabeth in South Australia. I read Working Class Boy but I don’t seem to have blogged it, although I did see the documentary. They are both excellent.

Another boy from Scotland with a difficult childhood is in Douglas Stuart’s Shuggie Bain, although his life took on a very different trajectory than that of rock star. It’s set in Thatcher’s United Kingdom – later than Jimmy Barnes’ book- and much of it is about his relationship with his alcoholic mother and his own conflicts about his sexuality.

So, I seem to have rattled around between Greece and Scotland, between blinding sunlight and cold, dank Scotland. Next month we start with Friendaholic. Guess what: I haven’t read that either.

11 responses to “Six degrees of separation: From ‘Hydra’ to…

  1. I read My Hundred Lovers when it was first released and remember very much enjoying it (might have to go back to my review to refresh my memory).
    LOVED Shuggie Bain (and more recently read Young Mungo, which I also loved).

  2. I haven’t read any of the books in your chain, but I have read two books by Barnes. Nicely done!

  3. Such an interesting chain, most new to me. I spent some time in scotland with my chain this month which also included Douglas Stuart, Mungo rather than Shuggie, though.

  4. I have heard of Friendaholic either!

  5. This is such a varied chain, from which I only know Shuggie Bain. Perhaps Working Class Boy is the obvious place for me to go now?

    • residentjudge

      It is if you like Cold Chisel! I just admired Jimmy Barnes so much at the end of it. Have you been watching his YouTube videos singing with his family_

  6. Very interesting choices–I couldn’t take Shuggie Bain. Maybe Working Class Boy instead? Interesting to learn of so many new-to-me books.

    • residentjudge

      It´s not quite as relentless as Shuggie Bain, especially as you know it´s going to work out in the end.

  7. Of thee, I’ve read ‘Ransom’ and ‘Shuggie Bain’. I could be tempted to read more of your choices: especially ”Working Class Boy’ and ‘A Stranger Here’.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s