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“All happy families are more or less dissimilar; all unhappy ones are more or less alike,”
November 19, 2011 4:18 AM   Subscribe

Family Dysfunction: Some Tense Literature for Thanksgiving (Plus a Playlist) In honor of the holidays, here’s a dysfunctional family reading list and playlist to celebrate those good people who you just can’t get away from.
posted by Fizz (20 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

 
No "Merry Christmas from the Family" on the playlist? Bah.

(and Harper Valley isn't about a dysfunctional family, but rather a single mom and a dysfunctional community. And it ain't from the 70s.)
posted by notsnot at 4:28 AM on November 19, 2011 [5 favorites]


Very nice; thanks! But, of course, I have to point out one egregious omission (since that's the true fun with such collections, right?): "We Have Always Lived in the Castle" surely belongs on this list, because, hey – there's a nice family dinner to give one pause.
posted by taz at 4:49 AM on November 19, 2011 [3 favorites]


While I never finished The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen, I feel like it should be on this list. The first 150 pages I managed to get through was a hodge-podge of every dysfunctional family cliche (drug-abusing Stepford house-wife, alcoholic children, repressed broken father who is unable to share his feelings, etc). To be fair it was written well, I just didn't care about the characters. Wait...why I am recommending anyone read this book?
posted by Fizz at 5:09 AM on November 19, 2011 [4 favorites]


"All happy families resemble one another, each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way."

This is the first line in Ana Karenina by Tolstoy. It is a great read about an unhappy family, although most of the unhappiness is centered around Ana. She suicides at the end. Also there was a BBC miniseries you might like if family conversation drama is your thing.
posted by bukvich at 5:57 AM on November 19, 2011


Ana Karenina by Tolstoy ... She suicides at the end.

Thanks for not spoiling it for anybody.
posted by localroger at 6:03 AM on November 19, 2011 [9 favorites]


That playlist really should include The Thanksgiving Filter.
posted by dortmunder at 6:11 AM on November 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


I recently read Rachel Sontag’s terrifying memoir House Rules about growing up with an insanely controlling father. (Her dad put together a deranged rebuttal website that ends up confirming a great deal of what his daughter wrote about him.)

Whoa, she isn't kidding.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 6:25 AM on November 19, 2011 [3 favorites]


Thanks for not spoiling it for anybody.

Look, I hate to contribute to a derail, but we've had a lot of discussions recently about spoilers, and you absolutely do not have any right to complain about spoilers for a 130-year-old novel. If you want to avoid spoilers for entertainments more than a century old, you really should just avoid the internet. And other people.

On topic: Pretty much everything on that list is new to me, and I do love the literature of dysfunction. Thanks for the link!
posted by Frobenius Twist at 6:52 AM on November 19, 2011


If you want to avoid spoilers for entertainments more than a century old, you really should just avoid the internet. And other people.

Pilgrim: So thanks for the turkey dinner. Here's a book you should read.
Indian: Holy Bible?
Pilgrim: Yeah, the Holy Bible. It's pretty good. About half way through there's a drastic POV shift, and you meet this really awesome character, he's the reason you should read this book: he walks on water, can heal people, and he can even come back from the dead.
Indian: "Dude....SPOILERS!"
Pilgrim: Happy Thanksgiving!
posted by Fizz at 7:00 AM on November 19, 2011 [5 favorites]


Fun. yes. But the reality is that most families are dysfunction, each in its own way and we point out the egregious ones because we would like to believe there is a normal family somewhere. But where is it? Do you have a truly fully functional family?
posted by Postroad at 7:23 AM on November 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


Frobenius: Sorry, I seem to have forgotten to include the snark tag.
posted by localroger at 8:28 AM on November 19, 2011


The Rachel Sontag rebuttal site is a gem. Check out copies if Rachel's "apology letters," written circa 1990, which were clearly not coerced AT ALL, not even a little.
posted by selfmedicating at 9:07 AM on November 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


The Rachel Sontag rebuttal site is a gem.

Indeed. Her dad is bonkers. This, especially, struck me:

We once brought home two dozen boxes so that you would be free to carry out your threats to move out of the house.

We thought you would be happy – especially with the tough, sturdy new cardboard boxes that would repel rain.

But no. Instead of being appreciative of the strong handsome boxes, you just gave us one of your looks and returned to your room.


Bullying disguised as concern, belittling, power games, smug superiority. The site as a whole has the same theme.
posted by Leon at 9:20 AM on November 19, 2011 [3 favorites]


I was gonna say what Fizz did, that The Corrections should be one here for sure.

Had never heard of that whole Sontag fiasco - fascinating.
posted by Lutoslawski at 12:23 PM on November 19, 2011


Frobenius: Sorry, I seem to have forgotten to include the snark tag.

Aaargh! Apologies. Clearly I need to be reading this.
posted by Frobenius Twist at 1:56 PM on November 19, 2011


I think Jernigan by David Gates would fit this list.
posted by chavenet at 2:33 PM on November 19, 2011


I recently read Rachel Sontag’s terrifying memoir House Rules about growing up with an insanely controlling father. (Her dad put together a deranged rebuttal website that ends up confirming a great deal of what his daughter wrote about him.)

Whoa, she isn't kidding.


That site is crazy enough that I wonder if it's not a stunt to drive book sales. But since it reminds me of all the reasons I don't go home for Thanksgiving myself, probably not.
posted by winna at 5:06 PM on November 19, 2011


I had never heard of Rachel Sontang, will definitely be picking up her book. How sad, it sounds like she really tried to save her mother (who is subject to the same belittling, contemptuous tone on that website). Thanks for the link!
posted by saucysault at 8:51 PM on November 19, 2011


How is Flowers in the Attic not on this list? Or My Sweet Audrina?
posted by SisterHavana at 2:14 PM on November 20, 2011


Just ordered the Rachel Sontang book for about $5 on Amazon after reading the first pages. I've never ordered a book so fast.
posted by qsysopr at 3:01 PM on November 21, 2011


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