Saturday, October 20, 2012
The Most Dysfunctional Families in Literature
By Jami Attenberg | PW
We Need to Talk about Kevin/The Khatchadourian/Plaskett family.
Oct 18, 2012
photo: Michael Sharkey
Neuroses run rampant across three generations of the Middlestein family in Jami Attenberg's sublime new novel, The Middlesteins. Who better to recommend great books about profoundly imperfect families?
In literature, as in life, every family is pretty much dysfunctional in one way or another. So what makes one dysfunctional literary family more memorable than the next? Personally, I prefer a little wit with my disaster, not to mention a little soul; it makes the pain go down easier. But every once in a while I like my families extra wicked and dark. I guess it makes me feel like I'm not that terrible after all.
By the way, these aren't in order of my favorites, because it is impossible for me to pick a favorite! I love all these troubled souls -- siblings and parents, husbands and wives alike -- equally.
The Corrections/The Lambert family. As a Chicago girl, I do love a repressed Midwestern family story, and Jonathan Franzen's The Corrections is a masterpiece of dysfunction. This is a hilarious and impeccably architected portrayal of paranoia, depression, and denial amongst those who know each other best/worst
Lionel Shriver toys with us in this enjoyably troubling novel about the family of a teen
sociopath. Every dark secret seems more terrifying than the last, and yet this family is still identifiable, a testament to Shriver's precision as a writer.
More titles at PW