Using a fellow writer’s suggestion of six degrees of separation connecting books, authors, and articles, I started with the travel section of the New York Times and found 1) an artist, who led to 2) an author, 3) a new book, 4) a reminder of a novel reviewed, 5) an obituary, and ended with 6) a slight deviation off course to books on psychology.
Starting with Suzanne MacNeil’s description of Vancouver Island’s lush beauty, I found Canadian artist Emily Carr, whose famous work documented the beauty of the region. Her book Klee Wyck (“Laughing One”) was published in 1941 to document her efforts to sketch and paint the totem poles found on the Queen Charlotte Islands.
“And, who, you might ask is Emily Carr?…Painter, writer, admirer of forests and totem poles…environmentalist before the word was popular…an ardently independent woman at a time when women weren’t necessarily applauded for striking out on their own…Besides the statue and all the things named after her, including a university in Vancouver, she has been the subject of biographies, films and a novel (by an American, no less — the late Susan Vreeland). “
I wondered about the mention of a novel based on the artist, and found Forest Lover by Susan Vreeland, historical fiction based on Carr’s life as a Canadian artist. The book includes some of Carr’s paintings. Had I read anything by Susan Vreeland? Why did her name sound familiar? A quick search led me to my review of Clara and Mr. Tiffany. MacNeil referred to the author as “the late Susan Vreeland”? Her recent obituary from this past August noted her breakout novel in 1999 – The Girl in Hyacinth Blue, and another I’d read – Lisette’s List.
MacNeil described Carr as “an ardently independent woman at a time when women weren’t necessarily applauded for striking out on their own…” diverting me to Penelope Green’s article in the Style section on Gretchen Rubin’s new book The Four Tendencies. Rubin’s theory proposes that everone falls into one of four personality types (the new Myers Briggs categorization), depending on their answers to a short quiz asking how they respond to expectations. I wondered how Emily Carr fit into Rubin’s classifications. Would Emily Carr be a Questioner, an Upholder, an Obliger, or a Rebel? Maybe a little of the first and last, or maybe leaning to the label I received after taking Rubin’s test – Questioner.
Rubin’s mention of the Harry Potter sorting hat led to Carol Dweck’s Mindset, a book advising readers of their possibilities when they change their view about themselves – “rigid thinking benefits no one, least of all yourself.” According to Dweck, everyone has the ability to change their minds about what they can do and who they are, no matter what the personality test label or the sorting hat has identified them as, and Bill Gates’s review of the book offered more insights.
The article in the Style section was right above an article by Gabrielle Zevin. Hadn’t I just read snd reviewed her new book Young Jane Young? This article had a funny and inviting title – The Secret to Marriage is Never Getting Married.
And so I ended my degrees quest connecting with:
- Klee Wyck by Emily Carr
- Forest Lover Fby Susan Vreeland
- Clara and Mr. Tiffany by Susan Vreeland
- The Four Tendencies by Gretchen Rubin
- Mindset by Carol Dweck
- The Secret to Marriage is Not Getting Married by Gabrielle Zevin