Saturday, July 7, 2018

Six Degrees of Separation from Tales of the City to Gasa-Gasa Girl


The Six Degrees of Separation meme is hosted by Kate at booksaremyfavoriteandbest. The idea behind the meme is to start with a book and use common points between two books to end up with links to six other books, forming a chain. Every month she provides the title of a book as the starting point.


The starting point this month is Armistead Maupin's Tales of the City. I decided to read this book this month, it was even better than I expected and now I want to read other books in the series. It amazes me that I missed it when it came out in 1978, since I was living in California at the time. That was a transitional time in my life so I guess other things were on my mind. The book is set in San Francisco, California, and it was originally published in newspaper columns.


Another book set in San Francisco is The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan,  published in 1989, a story about four immigrant Chinese mothers and their American-born daughters. It is many years since I read that book, and what I remember about it was the exploration of the mother / daughter relationships. But the present day portions of each story are set in San Francisco, including Chinatown, and now I want to reread the book.

From there I move to a book set in another California city, Santa Barbara. Cutter and Bone by Newton Thornburg was a fantastic read but it was very, very bleak. The depiction of Santa Barbara is perfect and fits in well with the telling of the story of a Vietnam vet and his gigolo friend.

I don't read that many books that are dark and bleak, but even before I read Double Indemnity by James M. Cain, I knew it would be about greed and depravity and unhappy people. Even so, I enjoyed it; it is a  very short novel, almost closer to novella length. That book was also set in California, in Los Angeles.


Next I link to another book by James M. Cain, Mildred Pierce, set in Glendale, California, during the Great Depression. This one is about a single mother and her relationship with her selfish and narcissistic daughter.


Another mother / daughter relationship is the focus of Concrete Angel by Patricia Abbott. In this case it is the mother who is selfish and narcissistic and the daughter is victimized. The story is told from the daughter's point of view and is a mesmerizing read. A chilling story, dark but not depressing.


My last link is to a book whose theme is a difficult father / daughter relationship.  Gasa-Gasa Girl by Naomi Hirahara is the 2nd book in a series featuring Mas Arai, a Japanese-American gardener in Los Angeles. Mas is seventy years old and the book starts as he arrives in New York City on his first visit with his daughter and her family. They have not gotten along for many years, but now she is asking for his help.

This month I have read every book in my chain. I noticed that each one of the books, even Tales of the City, has elements of the effects of family relationships, although it isn't obvious in all of the descriptions. Next month the chain begins with Atonement by Ian Ewan. Another book I have not read, although I do have a copy in the TBR piles.

10 comments:

  1. You've got a few old favourites there - Mildred Pierce and The Joy Luck Club were big hits with me when I was a teenager.

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    1. I came to Mildred Pierce (the book) late in life, Marina Sofia. I assumed that Cain's books would be too dark for me. Joy Luck Club I read when younger but not that young ... I would have been early forties.

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  2. Love Naomi's books and am proud to provide the final link to it. And I have read every one of these books. That's unusual for me. I am sad her series is finished. (And thanks for the kind words!)The TV series of TALES OF THE CITY with Laura Linney was good too.

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    1. Yes, Patti, I am sad that the Mas Arai series is done and I have bought the newest one even though I haven't read all of the previous ones yet. I enjoy Mas Arai's attitudes and outlook on life. Concrete Angel stays in my memory and I will be rereading it some day.

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  3. You've got a really fine chain here, Tracy. I like it that so many of your choices are set in California. One of these days, I'll have to do a post on California-based crime fiction. The thing is, there's an awful lot of it...

    In any case, glad to see you include Concrete Angel. It's a well-written book, and really does show explore the parent/child relationship.

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    1. Thanks, Margot. I usually complain that too much crime fiction is set in either California or New York. But I guess those are just good settings.

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  4. Ditto what Margot said. BTW, I loved Mildred Pierce. I should re-read it. It was chockfull of drama. I literally couldn't stop turning the pages. --Keishon

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    1. Keishon, I think Mildred Pierce is one of those book that I will like better on a second read. Which I hope to do someday.

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  5. A great post, Tracy! I had not known about the Six Degrees of Separation challenge. I like that a reader can approach it many ways: thematically, geographically, or in plot or style or character. When I read your comment about mother/daughter relationships in The Joy Luck Club, and then saw the Double Indemnity cover, I thought, If you want to find a wild mother/daughter story... And then there was Mildred Pierce, just waiting for me to scroll down and discover! Cain's an interesting writer, more intrigued by relationships and morality than some of his crime writing counterparts, I feel. All best wishes -- JH

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    1. Thanks, Jason. I did not try Six Degrees for a while because I thought it would be too much work. It is not easy for me but it is worth the effort. I do want to read more by Cain. I have more on the shelves. Some may be a bit dark or gritty for me but also the effort.

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