From “Murmur” by Will Eaves to “A Contract with God” by Will Eisner.
This is a monthly link-up hosted by Kate at Books Are My Favourite and Best. Each month a book is chosen as a starting point and linked to six other books to form a chain. A book doesn’t need to be connected to all the other books on the list, only to the one next to it in the chain. The rules are here in this graphic.
This month (June 1, 2019), the chain begins with Will Eaves’s novel, Murmur, which was released on April 9, 2019.
I haven’t read this book so I had to look it up. On Amazon, I found the blurb for this book says that this “is a hallucinatory masterwork, [where] Will Eaves invites us into the brilliant mind of Alec Pryor, a character inspired by Alan Turing. Turing, father of artificial intelligence and pioneer of radical new techniques to break the Nazi Enigma cipher during World War II, was later persecuted by the British state for “gross indecency with another male” and forced to undergo chemical castration. Set during the devastating period before Turing’s suicide, Murmur evokes an extraordinary life, the beauty and sorrows of love, and the nature of consciousness.”
First Degree – With the mention of Alan Turing, my first thought was to go directly to “The Enchantress of Numbers,” but then, I thought… no, from what I can see, this is not so much about computers and numbers, and more about persecution of male homosexuality in England. So instead, I’m going to go with “A Place Called Winter” by Patrick Gale, where the main character is a gay man (based on Gale’s own relative) who has to leave London and his wife because of his homosexuality, and finds himself in the wildernesses of Canada. There, he finds a hard life that seems reclusive enough to allow him to love freely, but even there, he finds he cannot follow his heart without consequences.
Second Degree – for this one, I think I’ll go the Canada route. Now there are several authors I absolutely adore who live in or come from Canada – Michael Ondaatje, Margaret Atwood, and Ruth Ozeki to name just three. Ondaatje doesn’t put lots of the action of his books in Canada, except for his “In the Skin of a Lion” which I recently finished reading, but haven’t gotten around to reviewing yet. Atwood’s “Hag-Seed” is located in Canada, so that was another option. But I think I’ll reach a bit further back and go with Ozeki’s “A Tale for the Time Being” which switches between Canada and Japan, between a 16-year-old Japanese girl named Nao, who grew up in the USA, and is living a tortured life in Tokyo, and Ruth, the Canadian woman who finds Nao’s diary.
Third Degree – I don’t think I did myself any favors with my last pick since Ozeki’s book is so unique. However, there is a touch of magical realism in Ozeki’s novel, and there’s the aspect of Nao’s feeling out of place in Tokyo after growing up in America. This combination drew me to “The Time Traveler’s Wife.” This is probably one of the few books where I’ve welcomed the idea of something so absolutely unrealistic. I mean, seriously, a DNA anomaly causing them to suddenly time travel without any control over when or where or how they get from their natural chronological timeline to another time in their own past or present? Sounds ridiculous, right? And yet… it works, and it does so absolutely beautifully.
Fourth Degree – this whole business of absurdity and going from one time to another, and having an impact on lives of people just by showing up so unexpectedly, took me to another unique novel, “Jacob’s Folly” by Rebecca Miller. Stick with me here, because this is a bit strange. Jacob was a Jewish peddler in 18th century Paris, who dies and ends up reincarnated as a literal fly on the wall of 21st century America, where he begins to meddle in the lives of a very sick woman and a volunteer firefighter. This is the type of novel that will have you scratching your head while smiling at the same time.
Fifth Degree – I had a number of directions I could have taken this, but I decided I would stick with absurdity aspect combined with the Jewish aspect here. That means, the best connection I can think of is “The Puttermesser Papers” by Cynthia Ozick. In this novel, a 34-year-old woman, frustrated with her life, ends up conjuring a female Golem, hoping to bring into her life the daughter she never had. However, this being ends up impacting her life in ways she could never have imagined possible, not all of which are for the better, as she eventually finds out. Ozick perfectly combines the hubris of the original Golem stories with a modern twist!
Sixth Degree – now I’m sorry that I never reviewed Michael Chabon’s novel “The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay,” because that would have been the absolute perfect connection to Ozick’s book, since one of the character in that book, Josef Kavalier, smuggles himself out of Prague by hiding inside the box that contains their famous Golem. However, also in that novel, Josef Kavalier also goes on to write a graphic novel about a Golem. And the graphic novel aspect brings me to Will Eisner’s 1978 graphic novel, “A Contract with God and Other Tenement Stories.” This very Jewish book is considered the first modern graphic novel, which has a couple of figurative monsters in it as well, and isn’t a Golem a type of monster? I think so, and certainly the one in Ozick’s novel becomes one.
So, there you go! This took quite an unusual and unexpected turn, but certainly a fascinating one. Plus, if you go by the opinions of homophobes, some of them view homosexuality as something monstrous, and not a result of a certain DNA makeup for a person’s gender. So, if you think about it in this way, there are even more connections here among these seven books. Plus, the starting author and my last author have the same first names! Cool how that worked out, no? It certainly wasn’t intentional, I promise you that!
If you decide to join in on this meme, I hope you’ll give me the link to your post in the comments below, as well as on the linky page that Kate has on her blog for this meme.
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