For the 6 Degrees of Separation Meme
So we start with Pride & Prejudice, a book I had to read in high school. I hated it then and don't especially like it now, although I've grown up enough to appreciate its importance in literary history.
(Cover is from the 1950 Signet edition--which may or may not be the one we read in the late 50s)
Austin just isn't my cuppa, but it takes me to another high school required reading which I did like...
...Les Miserables. I loved the book. Later I saw the musical when I was in grad school. I had a really cheap student ticket. My seat was in the back row of the balcony with little leg room. I was scrunched between two really tall gentlemen who had to sit spread legged thus considerably invading my space. We all tried to be nice--they actually stood up during much of the show. I stood through one long musical number so they could sit. There was much joking about how our situation gave a whole new dimension to the title of the play.
(None of the covers from the 50s fit any edition we'd have read in school so I went with this image from Amazon. It's a playbill and ticket--probably a better seat than I had--for the show I attended in Boston 1988.)
And that little story leads me to a book I read in another cramped circumstance...
...The Octopus: A Story of California written by Frank Norris in 1901. I am currently reading this on my Kindle so I decided to read it in the car while waiting for someone who was having a long appointment. This was just a few days ago. I have often read in the car with no problem but I have a new car. I love my car but a compact is no match for a standard sedan for getting comfortable with a good ebook and this book is just not that good. It's all about farmers vs railroads in the early days of rail transport in the San Joaquin Valley. A classic California novel which, for me, hasn't stood the test of time.
(Boring cover 'cause it's a Kindle freebee)
This leads to a classic set in the same region which has stood the time test...
...The Grapes of Wrath another California classic (from 1939) which is also set in the San Joaquin Valley. I've read this a ton of times. When the book first came out many farming communities banned the book from schools and libraries. By the time I was old enough to read it the ban was pretty much gone. In 2002 it was chosen for the California statewide reading program.
(This is the cover from the first edition, which my parents had and hid because they lived in rural California. It's my favorite of all the covers for the book.)
And, staying in the valley, with still another California classic with a great cover...
...My Name is Aram, a 1940) book of linked short stories by William Saroyan about an Armenian immigrant family in Fresno. I read this during the summer between grade school and junior high.
(Love these original covers!)
This leads me another California classic I read in the summer (different summer)...
...Joan Didion's Play It As It Lays (cover for first edition, which is the edition I read). This one is set further south and more recent (1970)
When I think of this book I vividly remember the character Maria Weyth aimlessly driving the freeways.
freeways lead me back north to Sacramento (Didion's and my hometown)
for a step into the art world and an artist who was getting noticed in
his field at the same time Didion was getting noticed in her field...
Wayne Thiebaud was painting cakes and ice <--cream cones when Didion wrote Play it as it Lays, but he later moved on to landscapes often featuring freeways.-->
And all of this can circle back to---
---Pride & Prejudice---
Because while I was reading P&P at Didion's alma mater, Didion was beginning her career at Vogue and Thiebaud was teaching at the college which was to become one of my alma maters. Although I knew some of her family I've never met Didion. I did know Thiebaud (but not well) back in the day.