Six Degrees of Separation – from How to do Nothing to The Memory Pool

It’s time for #6degrees. Start at the same place as other wonderful readers, add six books, and see where you end up.

This month we begin with How to do Nothing by Jenny Odell (a book that many readers may not have come across, although Odell is ‘appearing’ at the Melbourne Writers Festival this month). I have started reading How To Do Nothing – the sentiments Odell is promoting are similar to those Julia Baird reflects on in her memoir/essay collection, Phosphorescence – both authors go further than the concept of ‘mindfulness’, and speak to the intrinsic value of time and nature.

I am halfway through another memoir/essay collection by an Australian author – The Details by Tegan Bennett Daylight. In her book about ‘love, death and reading’, Daylight devotes a chapter to Helen Garner’s ‘classic’ novel, Monkey Grip.

I wasn’t a huge fan of Monkey Grip, although deeply admired the scenes at the swimming pool – Garner’s words around the heat, the water, and the other swimmers are stunning. I have a bunch of books about swimming in my TBR stack, one of which is The Chronology of Water by Lidia Yuknavitch.

Yuknavitch is described as a ‘lifelong swimmer and artist’ – Leanne Shapton fits the same description, and her memoir, Swimming Studies, is a book that I think about frequently, primarily because of the inclusion of her simple watercolours of pools.

Am I obsessing over pools and swimming? Yes! Swimming is the thing that I have missed most in lockdown and I’ve never gone six months without a dip in the sea or chlorinated water. So I’m finishing with a title that is poignantly relevant – The Memory Pool by Therese Spruhan (it’s a collection of Australian stories about summer, sun and swimming).

I started with ‘doing nothing’ and moved straight to swimming. Where will other chains go? Link up below or post your link in the comments section.

Next month (September 5, 2020), we’ll begin with Curtis Sittenfeld’s latest novel, Rodham.

44 responses

  1. Here’s my very different chain Kate:

    My reading group will read Phosphorescence in a couple of months. I wasn’t really interested in reading it. I’m hoping it’s going to be one of those books you wouldn’t have read that make reading groups valuable (besides all the other things they are good for.)

    BTW if there’s one thing I don’t miss it’s swimming. I usually end up throwing out swimming costumes because they deteriorate in the cupboard. Last one I bought was in 2014 for a trip to Thailand for a family celebration. I wore it once then, and maybe, though I’m not sure, once since! I am no water baby!!

    • I have been ridiculously slow writing my review of Phosphorescence but that’s because I enjoyed it so much. I think it might be one of those books that will surprise you. It’s not perfect, and it’s not an even collection but the first chapter on awe is spectacular and the chapters on friendships are beautiful and never more meaningful than right now.

      I laughed about your bathers – I’m the opposite and have a drawer full of bathers and associated swimming accessories. There is no promise of swimming on the horizon. The longer this goes on, the more likely I’m going to become one of those mad ‘cold-water swimmers'(which I am very seriously considering).

      • I haven’t worn a pair of bathers since I was in Indonesia in 1996. The hotel had aircon, but the university didn’t and neither did anywhere else so to try to acclimatise I didn’t use the aircom. Instead, at night, after I’d finished my homework at about 11pm, I swam round and round the pool in the dark until my core temperature was cool enough to sleep. The hotel staff thought I was crazy.

    • I like the idea of swimming, but don’t do it often, mainly because of the doing it in public aspect of swimming! Once I am in the water though, it takes a lot to get me out.

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    • I read a third of The Details in one sitting – she writes with such conciseness, yet is still ‘descriptive’. Confident if you liked the Baird, you’ll like the Daylight.

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    • If you’d told me a year ago that I wouldn’t swim for 6+ months I wouldn’t have believed you… I’m hanging out for summer already, although slightly fearful that if current restrictions continue, we’ll be stuck at home still.

  4. I’ve got The Details on my TBR and I’m going to try to read it before her session at the MWF. But alas, I’ve said the same about all the books associated with events I’ve booked in for at the MWF, so we shall see how I get on!

  5. What an interesting chain. I’m not much for swimming but before this virus, I knew I’d be retiring, and I had been looking into some exercise classes at my local community center, and the idea of water aerobics really interests me. I’m not a good swimmer myself, but I wouldn’t mind doing that. Hope we can both get into the water soon!

  6. We have just had our hottest day of the year in the UK and how wonderful it would have been to go swimming. Reading about it is the next best thing I guess! What would be your all time top favourite swimming book if you had to pick? Meanwhile, a great chain as always. I have started reading How To Do Nothing as well – it is much more engaging than I expected! Here’s my chain:

    • My favourite swimming books: the Shapton I’ve mentioned here and Jessica Lee’s Turning, which tells of her time swimming in the lakes that surround Berlin. It is stunning. Do you have a favourite swimming book?

      • Ooh, will definitely check out those two – particularly the Lee because it sounds very similar to the title I would suggest as my favourite: Roger Deakin’s Waterlog, which is subtitled ‘a swimmer’s journey through Britain’ and is totally magical.

  7. I don’t really enjoy swimming, so that is one thing I haven’t missed this year – or even thought about doing, but I do like the sound of your books, particularly Swimming Studies with its watercolours of pools.

  8. Here’s mine:

    I hate swimming… it’s a psychological thing tied up with bad experiences of swimming lessons/sports days at school & poor body image. I haven’t gone for a swim in at least three years 🙃

    That said, I do like books about swimming (Barracuda, springs to mind, and that one by Deborah Levy about the girl who breaks into a holiday home to go swimming…)

    Glad to hear I’m not the only one who did not much like Monkey Grip…

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  10. Some really interesting sounding books here, Kate, I like the sound of all of them! I am a lapsed swimmer. I love being in the water, I don’t love the faff of British swimming pools and I’m not brave enough to swim outdoors having experienced being underwater for too long in a river as a small child, capsizing in a canoe as a teenager, and being stung by a jellyfish as an adult.

    The author of one of the books on my list is a wild swimmer. He makes it sound simultaneously liberating and awful!

    Here’s my chain for August

  11. I am not familiar with any of these books but love the water theme, especially as it has been 90 degrees or more for days. I like looking at water but not necessarily going into it. Here is my chain:

    My sisters really liked Prep but I have not read any of Sittenfeld’s books. Rodham seems very exploitive and I feel Hillary has been attacked more than enough, so I don’t think I want to read it.

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  13. Pingback: #6Degrees of Separation: August 2020 – findingtimetowrite

  14. I’m not much of a swimmer (although I am supposedly a Water Sign in astrology), but this year I’ve been missing going swimmming – although I always imagine a completely empty pool or a sea with no uncomfortable shingles/pebbles to cut open the soles of my feet or a crystal-clear mountain lake that is not of a glacier type temperature… so impossible things.

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  16. I love your watery theme this month — perfect for the mini heatwave we’ve been having (in the UK, at least). Even though I have not been a swimmer since childhood swim lessons, I love reading swimmers’ memoirs, too.

  17. Some books here which really grab me, Kate, particularly Phosphorescence. I like the idea of swimming much more than the actual doing. I’m not a fan of pools and much as I love looking at the sea, swimming in it in much less appealing. A paddle maybe …

    Added my chain to the linky

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