Six Degrees of Separation: from Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret to Fantastic Mr Fox

December’s here already, and the first Saturday of the month brings with it Six Degrees of Separation. At the start of the year, I decided that I would attempt to create a chain for the meme every month. And here I am, at the end of the year, with my twelfth chain. This month, we’re starting with Judy Blum’s 1970 classic Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret.

I have never knowingly read Are You There God? but I do remember extracts being read in assembly at my secondary school, which was an all girls’ school. I can’t remember much about it, so I wondered about doing a chain full of books about Margarets. Being something of a 1970 classic myself, though, I decided that I would explore books that were published in the year of my birth.

Are You There God? is about a girl on the brink of adulthood trying to work out who she should be against the backdrop of her parents’ interfaith marriage. Margaret sets off on a quest to visit the sacred spaces of a number of different religions to find the one that fits her. Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach has the titular seagull feeling different to others around him. He ends up an outcast from his flock and, in his alienation, discovers a new way of being, ending up a teacher of a philosophy not dissimilar to Buddhism.

Ken Kesey’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest also has a central character who believes himself to be different to everyone else and whose religion is himself and his own satisfaction. McMurphy has faked insanity in order to escape a prison sentence. His power struggles with Nurse Ratched lead to an extreme course of treatment for McMurphy, leaving him an utterly different person.

The Temple of Dawn is the third volume in Yukio Mishima’s Sea of Fertility tetralogy. Across the span of the four books, Mishima depicts the obsession of legal student and later retired judge Honda with his aristocratic school friend Kiyoake. In each book, Honda is convinced that he has found the reincarnation of his dead friend and must act to save him from another death, raising questions of whether a person can escape their fate. In this volume, Kiyoake seems to have returned to earth as an indolent Thai princess.

As The Temple of Dawn explores a variety of religious theories of reincarnation, so too Ted Hughes’s poetry cycle Crow: From the life and songs of the Crow explores a variety of mythologies, including humanism and Christianity. The copy I borrowed from the library had traces of 1970 all over it (see my review for what I mean).

Moominvalley in November is the final installment in Tove Jansson’s Moomintroll books. Moominvalley was a school library discovery in what was known in my day as Junior 3. I think it’s called Year 5 now. Moominvalley in November, I recall, was the saddest of the books. None of the family Moomintroll are present. Instead, other inhabitants of Moominland make their way to the Moomin family home, spurred on by the turn of the seasons and a feeling within themselves of change happening. They camp out in the empty house, waiting for the Moomins to return.

There’s waiting of a different sort in Roald Dahl’s Fantastic Mr Fox. The fox of the title has been outwitting a trio of local farmers and feasting on their livestock, so they attempt to dig him out of his burrow before deciding to besiege him and starve him in his own home. Mr Fox is joined by the other animals that live in the woods and hatches a plan to obtain food. The book ends with everyone living in an underground community together.

This month I started off thinking I’d just have a list of books that all happened to be published in the same year. Accidentally, I’ve linked together books that talk about what makes us different, what makes us unique, and what brings us together with other people. Death is a presence, as are the religions we follow that help us cope with death. Why not visit Kate’s blog to find out what books other people have chosen?

16 thoughts on “Six Degrees of Separation: from Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret to Fantastic Mr Fox

  1. EVERYONE was reading Seagull when I was a kid and… well… I have to say I hated it, but that’s just me. I read Cuckoo’s Nest in High School and thought it was a very powerful book. I haven’t read any of the others in your chain, but the Dahl looks interesting.

    Like

    1. I hated Jonathan Livingston Seagull, Davida! It seemed such a smug, patronising book. I also hated The Little Prince, in which feeling I seem to be alone! Fantastic Mr Fox is good fun, very much a story of the triumph of the collective over commerce.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. If I ever have grandchildren, I’ll remember that Dahl book. But I did like The Little Prince. No matter… as they say… no two people read the same book! (I also hate The Giving Tree, by the way. Refused to read it to my kids.)

        Liked by 1 person

  2. What an interesting way of linking your books. Somehow, I didn’t read Jonathan Livingston Seagull, which must be a first for someone of my generation, and nor do I know the Mishima. I wonder if I’ll put that right?

    Like

    1. I can’t honestly recommend Jonathan Livingston Seagull. I read it as a child and hated its smugness. My mum read it as an adult and loved it, though. Mind you, I still don’t have time for pseudo-spiritual banality, so maybe my childhood instinct was some kind of marker.

      As for the Mishima, he’s lauded for the work, but I found all four books a tough read because everyone is unpleasant and Mishima’s extreme nationalist views are more to the fore than in the other books I’ve read – The Temple of the Golden Pavilion and The Sailor Who Fell from Grace with the Sea. Those two also have unpleasant central characters, but for me work better as novels, because there are other, more sympathetic characters acting as foils to the unpleasantness.

      Mishima represents an uncomfortable aspect of Japanese culture and is worth reading for that reason, if you’re interested in Japan, but for reading pleasure, I’d go with Sōseki. He’s much more fun to spend time with!

      Like

      1. II was never attracted to reading Jonathan Livingston Seagull, and you are definitely saving m the trouble of putting Mishima on my TBR list. Any excuse, frankly. It’s miles too long already. But thank you for your considered response.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. There are some corkers on the 1970 list. I didn’t read Cuckoo’s Nest until I was at university, and I loved it even more than the film version – the words on the page felt more powerful than the visuals on screen.

      Like

  3. Books born in the same year you were: What an interesting way to construct your chain! I’m definitely going to try it sometime. And I seem to remember that, even back in the waning days of peace and love, Jonathan Livingston Seagull was looked at as a bit of a joke.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Was it really, Mary? That’s interesting. I’ve only known Jonathan Livingston Seagull as a book spoken of almost reverentially! I don’t remember exactly how old I was when I read it. Perhaps 10 or 11.

      And yes, I had fun looking through lists of books published in the year of my birth. There are many I’d never heard of, but a good selection of classics, too.

      Like

  4. Wow, your list really did seem to go ff on a philosophical bent. Way to pull it all together. I’d be honored if you’d take a look. My 6-Degrees chain

    Liked by 1 person

  5. A very eclectic list! I liked Jonathan Livingston Seagull a lot as a teenager, but never re-read it. I also like Cuckoo‘s Nest, although it was hard work. Dahl is a good one, although I only read his creepier short stories…

    Like

Leave a Reply

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

WordPress.com Logo

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

Google photo

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

Twitter picture

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

Facebook photo

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

Connecting to %s