It’s time for #6degrees, inspired by Kate at Books Are My Favourite and Best. We all start at the same place as other readers, add six books, and see where each ends up. This month’s starting point is How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy by Jenny Odell (2019), praised by the New York Times as “[a]n eloquent argument against the cult of efficiency . . . I felt both consoled and invigorated by it.” It is rare I completely miss hearing about an NYT bestseller but this is not the type of nonfiction I read.
The message of doing little is appealing, especially during the current heat wave, and inevitably leads to my first book, The Story of Doctor Doolittle, Being the History of His Peculiar Life at Home and Astonishing Adventures in Foreign Parts (1920), written and illustrated by the British author Hugh Lofting. It was the first of his Doctor Dolittle books, a series of children's books about a man who learns to talk to animals and becomes their champion around the world.
I always assumed he was an English vet but although British he actually spent a year studying engineering at MIT before returning to Britain to a military career. Interestingly, he turns out to have been Catholic. After WWI, he settled in New York and Connecticut, of all places! I remember getting a nice hardcover as a Christmas present when I was 7 or 8, which I think was the first two books combined. It was actually the sequel, The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle, which won the Newbery Award in 1932.
My third book is Piece of Cake by Derek Robinson (1983), which follows a fictional Royal Air Force fighter squadron through the first year of World War II and the Battle of Britain. It was made into a UK and Masterpiece Theatre miniseries in the late 80s and Bantam, where I was working at the time, did the novelization tie-in. I remember watching the TV series but having a hard time keeping the characters straight. Had the Internet existed then, I would have been grateful for episode recaps!
|Count Axel de Fersen|
Oddly enough, Count de Fersen turned up during the Revolutionary War in America and in a book by my beloved Margaret Leighton, Who Rides By? (1955), my fifth book. A Radcliffe graduate, class of 1918, who became an Army nurse in World War I, Leighton (1896-1987) married in 1920 and moved to Clarendon, Va., where she was raising her children when her husband died in 1935. She and her children then moved to Santa Monica to live with her parents. It was there that she sold the first of the 22 books, many of which were acclaimed and selections of the Junior Literary Guild. Some of her books featured characters based on her own four children.
I will return to the French Revolution for my sixth book, A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens (1859). This is the only Dickens I am really enthusiastic about. “It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known.” Do you have a Dickens favorite which I should give another chance?
For September, Kate has chosen Curtis Sittenfeld’s latest novel, Rodham, to start with. I do not approve of using Sittenfeld having used/abused Hillary in this way but will see you then, if not before!