The Books That I blame

A list of books that decided how I would view the world

This is a reading list for a person who wants to spend their life chasing a story that isn’t there, choosing isolated (and orchestrated) moments of perfect destruction over unlaboured happiness.

White Oleander, Janet Fitch
Beauty in decay, night magic, broken girls. The personal connotations of a brand name standing in for a weak and limiting adjective. Excusing the mundane with determined poetry.

Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov
Ironic Americana, fragile precocity, literary lies. Poorly-applied lipstick on a bitten mouth. Mistaken blame on a painted innocent – projection.

Crime and Punishment, Fyodor Dostoyevsky
The interest of human destruction. The descent into madness and loss of person despite complete introspective preoccupation. Abandonment of normal behaviour in a fog of grey depression and obsession.

Summer Sisters, Judy Blume
How compelling and fleeting the naive affectations of a child. Bare knees in the dust. Red nail varnish on a sticky hand. All-consuming love that  fades to an embarrassing scar in the memory, tender when pressed.

Fear of Flying, Erica Jong
Second-guessing one’s own mind, constant cross-examination of self, fascinating emotional damage. Purposeful vulgarity and ugliness that builds a wild, unpolished glamour.

Gone with the Wind, Margaret Mitchell
Oh, drama. Oh, poverty. Losing the princess in harsh reality.

Jane Eyre, Charlotte Brontë
The epic storm of a lost girl walking lonely hilltops, despairing. Saved by a father figure who is violently in love, yet cruel and unreachable.

Memoirs of a Geisha, Arthur Golden
The delicate beauty of small things easily shattered. The arched instep of a foot. A single gold thread through raw silk. Suffering, but beautifully. A caged bird.

She’s Come Undone, Wally Lamb

A child’s guilt at the handsome trespasses against her. Grateful for the attention, ruined by the attention. Obsession again, and worthlessness. That tarnished Americana.

Lord of the Flies, William Golding

The horrendous distortion that can occur in a child: boy soldier, sadist. The predisposition for cruelty that can mutate into evil when left unwatched. But vulnerability – the child would take salvation in a heart beat if offered a mother to lift the burden.


Seeing them all laid out like this makes me realise my obsession with human suffering – the driving of a vulnerable person (particularly a young girl) to destruction, or climatic change. I am the bitter-beauty endings. The endings that are not happy because of the torturous past that led to the now. You can subside, awakened, but you’re left weak by what has come to pass and can never be entirely whole again.

Fragility, you see. The broken wrist of my imaginary girl.

3 responses to “The Books That I blame”

  1. […] you know what is incredibly interesting though? I just found out that one of my favourite authors, Janet Fitch of White Oleander magic, studied Russian history and loves Dostoyevsky. That is so clearly why she is my perfect […]

  2. amanda clement-hayes Avatar
    amanda clement-hayes

    … but, no D. H Lawrence!

    Hope you’re feeling better.


    Date: Tue, 4 Mar 2014 16:00:22 +0000 To:

    1. I don’t think Lady Chatterly’s Lover had a big effect on me – I’m sure I only read it once for a start. The others are books I read over and over.


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