In 1929, Hungarian writer and poet Frigyes Karinthy wrote a short story called ‘Chains’ in which he coined the phrase six degrees of separation.
I’m excited to announce a new meme, based on the idea in Karinthy’s story. On the first Saturday of every month, Emma Chapman and I will choose a book, and link it to five other books in a chain. We will also be inviting our readers and other bloggers to join us by creating their own ‘chain’ leading from the selected book.
How the meme works
Books can be linked in obvious ways – for example, books by the same authors, from the same era or genre, or books with similar themes or settings. Or, you may choose to link them in more personal or esoteric ways: books you read on the same holiday, books given to you by a particular friend, books that remind you of a particular time in your life, or books you read for an online challenge.
The great thing about this meme is that each participant can make their own rules. A book doesn’t need to be connected to all the other books on the list, only to the ones next to them in the chain.
For example, imagine the selected book was Jane Austen‘s Pride and Prejudice.
I might link this to The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides – a contemporary novel which riffs on the idea of the marriage plot in 19th century novels.
One of the characters in Eugenides’ book goes on a spiritual odyssey to India, as does the protagonist in Drusilla Modjeska‘s memoir Poppy.
From Poppy, I make the leap to another favourite memoir: Joan Didion‘s The Year of Magical Thinking.
Also by Didion is the novel A Book Of Common Prayer, about a woman on the verge of a nervous breakdown in a banana republic.
This leads me to Ann Patchett‘s Bel Canto, the story of an embassy siege in an unnamed South American country.
As well as being an intense drama, Bel Canto is also a surprising and deeply felt love story, which calls to mind Yvette Walker‘s exquisite debut Love Letters to the End of Love.
Thus, we have moved six degrees of separation from Pride and Prejudice to Letters to the End of Love.
How to Join the Meme
Of course, your chain will look completely different. It doesn’t matter what the connection is or where it takes you – just take us on the journey with you. Don’t worry if you haven’t read the first book either: you can always find ways to link it based on your expectations/ideas about it.
We hope this meme will be fun, get your mind working, and give you lots of new book recommendations. As a blogger, you can join in by posting your own six degrees chain on your blog, and adding the link in the comments of our posts. If you don’t have a blog, you can share your chain in the comments of Emma’s or my post.
Our first post of the meme will be posted this time next week on Saturday 5th April and the book we will begin our chains with is Hannah Kent’s debut, Burial Rites, which has been shortlisted for the Stella Prize and longlisted for the Bailey’s Prize for Women’s Fiction (formerly the Orange prize).
We look forward to seeing which books form the links in your chain.
Your turn: Do you have any questions about the new meme? Fire away.