It is the first Saturday in March, and that can only be a good thing, not least of all because it is time for 6 Degrees of Separation again! Yay! If you don't know what 6 Degrees is all about, go visit Booksaremyfavouriteandbest. Or just read on - trust me, you'll figure it out. It's not that complicated.
This month's 6 Degrees of Separation starts with Graham Greene's The End of the Affair, which I have never read. This might be considered odd, because Greene's Brighton Rock is one of my favourite books, but somehow I've just never gotten round to reading any of his other books. Probably something to remedy.
Anyway, I wasn't sure where to go with this one, but since the title is about endings, it got me thinking about books which give away the ending at the beginning.
Ok, it's not a full on novel, but one of the best examples I have ever read of this is undoubtedly Children on their Birthdays by Truman Capote. The story begins with "Yesterday afternoon the six-o'clock bus ran over Miss Bobbit." A killer first line if ever there was one (pun intended). The story goes on to tell all there is to know about the 10 year old Miss Bobbit, and how the town's children become rivals for her attention. Capote's writing is so good and so absorbing that you almost forget all about the bus until it smacks into her in the very last line: "That is when the six-o'clock bus ran over her." Genius.
Though I'm sure it was Miss Bobbit who was in the wrong place and not the six-o'clock bus, it immediately makes me think of The Wayward Bus by John Steinbeck. I haven't actually read this one, but I'm slowly making my way through all of Steinbeck's works because he is amazing (see East of Eden). So this one has been on my list for a while. Apparently not much actually happens in the book - it is called The Wayward Bus because at one point the driver deliberately drives it into a ditch. It focuses more on portraits of characters, linked by the bus. All sounds very Steinbecky. Which is now a word.
I don't know about you, but the first thing I think about when I hear the word 'wayward' is difficult teenagers. And so we come to The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton. Now, I haven't read this one either, but I have seen the movie (a very long time ago) and it is also on my list. S.E.(Susan Eloise) Hinton wrote most of the book when she was only 16, which is perhaps why it spoke so well to teenagers. In fact, she has been credited by some for introducing the Young Adult (YA) genre following the publication of The Outsiders in 1967.
Now here is an interesting thing - the narrator (Ponyboy Curtis) is an orphan because his parents died in a car crash. I'm not sure if this involved a bus or not, but it seems to be a theme this month. Another interesting thing - like Capote, the novel starts and ends with the same line "When I stepped out into the bright sunlight from the darkness of the movie house, I had only two things on my mind: Paul Newman and a ride home." I didn't know this before I started writing this chain - funny how things all tie themselves together.
So Paul Newman then. One of my favourite actors ever, and terrific in The Hustler written by Walter Tevis, which is our next stop. If you have never seen The Hustler, I urge you to remedy that asap. It is basically Newman brooding in smoky pool halls, and what more do you want really? Lots of pool trick shots? Well it has that too. And if you have never read the book, I urge you to pick that up as well. Sure, you don't get to look at Paul Newman, but it's a great read all the same because Fast Eddie is such a gloriously complex character.
Incidentally, the sequel novel The Colour of Money was also written by Tevis, 25 years after the publication of The Hustler. It was also made into a movie. Newman (Oscar winning this time) stars opposite a young Tom Cruise who was also in... The Outsiders.
But before The Colour of Money, Walter Tevis wrote a book about a different game, chess. I had of course heard of The Queen's Gambit from the TV series, but before I started this post, I had no idea that it was written by Tevis. I don't know a great deal about the plot, but based on the brilliance of the Hustler, I'm bumping both the book and the show up on my list. But one thing I do know is that the main character Beth Harmon is an orphan because, you guessed it, her mother dies in a car accident...
The last book on my list is a weird obscure little book called The Chess Set in the Mirror by Massimo Bontempelli. It is a funny little story about a boy who discovers a whole world on the other side of the mirror. He is able to have conversations with the reflected chess pieces, and can meet the reflection of anyone who has ever looked in the mirror. No car crashes in this one, but the beginning and the end are mirrored, in a sense 🙂
Bontempelli is quite well known in Italy and actually won the country's most prestigious literary prize (The Strega) in 1953 - yet remains very little known in the UK. As Hinton has been credited with creating YA, Bontempelli has been called (by some) 'the father of magic realism'. He was also a Fascist, albeit a rubbish one, as he was kicked out of the Party.
So there you have it. Lots of crashed vehicles and mirrored starts and endings. I really enjoyed this one! And not just because of Paul Newman.
If you enjoyed it too, you can read last month's 6 Degrees here. Or go check out some of this month's other entries. OR join in! I told you it wasn't complicated.