Six Degrees of Separation (Library Edition)

March 6, 2013 | Winona

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This week, Hollywood actors Kevin Bacon and Kyra Sedgwick, who have been married for 25 years, discovered that they're actually related: they're ninth cousins once removed.

Kevin BaconNow, if you think about it, this really shouldn't come as much of a surprise. You might even expect them to be more closely related. After all, thanks to the the trivia game "Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon," we know that everyone in Hollywood is connected to Kevin Bacon by no more than six people.

For example: Joseph Gordon-Levitt is two degrees removed from Bacon because Gordon-Levitt was in Killshot with Mickey Rourke, who was in Diner with Bacon. In fact, according to Google, Kevin Bacon and Kyra Sedgwick are actually removed by just one degree (they were both in Lemon Sky).

The "Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon" game is based on the concept of "six degrees of separation" which was first put foward by the writer Frigyes Karinthy and later popularized by the play by John Guare. The basic idea behind the theory is that any person in the world can be connected to any other person in the world by six or fewer relationships. The concept has captured the imagination of those who work in the field of network theory and you can see its influence in popular social networking sites like LinkedIn and in Kevin Bacon's own charitable association

Six degrees of separation wiki image

I thought it would be fun to try out the "six degrees of separation" theory using items from the library's collections and see if I could connect something from our shelves back to itself in six moves. As a starting point, I chose one of my favourite movies, Adaptation. Want to play along? Here goes... 


1. Adaptation is a feature film adapted by Charlie Kaufman from Susan Orlean's non-fiction book The Orchid Thief


The Orchid Thief by Susan Orlean

2.  The Orchid Thief is based on Orlean's article "Orchid Fever" which was originally published in The New Yorker.

The New Yorker cover February 1925

3. The very first cover of The New Yorker featured a cartoon illustration of a satirical character, a fictional monocle-wearing dandy named Eustace Tilley, who was created by humourist Corey Ford. Ford also famously parodied another fictional monocle-wearing dandy, a sleuth named Philo Vance, who was created by S.S. Van Dine.  

  The Canary Murder Case by S.S. Van Dine


4. S.S. Van Dine's Philo Vance appeared in several of the author's once highly popular crime novels and was referred to by Raymond Chandler as "probably the most asinine character in detective fiction."


Raymond Chandler and Taki


5. Raymond Chandler's noir novel The Big Sleep was made into a film starring Humphrey Bogart, who also starred in the film Casablanca.


Casablanca movie poster


6. Casablanca is screened on the final day of a popular three-day workshop conducted by Robert McKee, writing instructor and author of Story: Substance, Structure, Style, and the Principles of Screenwriting, whose persona, book, and workshop all appear in the guessed it: Adaptation!