My Literary Collection of ‘Demented Girls’


We ask fellow TPMers to share their personal reading recommendations: books they love or that have shaped their lives.

Comment below with some of your favourites! Also, you can always purchase any of the books by visiting the TPM Bookshop profile page.

Reporter and co-host of the Josh Marshall podcast Kate Riga is going up this month. Check out her literary collection of “Crazy Girls”.

My addiction to Shirley Jackson’s writing is like physical hunger – I tear up her short stories, devour her novels, and forget to chew on her letters.

As she weaves worlds through malice and dread, she fills them with characters, usually women, whom she adores. They are extremely tense, intuitive, neurotic, emotional and inextricably intertwined inside their heads.

Jackson’s mother, often cruel and demeaning towards her work, dismissed in rhetoric Jackson’s overuse of these “crazy girls” in her stories.

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As the pandemic enters its second winter amid a cloud of malaise and apathy, all I find myself wanting to read are the stories of women—crazy, difficult, turbulent, malicious, and strange. Here are some of my latest favourites:

We have always lived in the castle By Shirley Jackson

While Jackson’s short stories were closest to my heart, I return to this quintessential novel over and over again. Dwarfed Mary Catherine “Merricat” Blackwood lives with her angelic older sister and uncle on their property. An incident came into focus when the slim novel faded, leaving them trapped and ostracized by the surrounding village.

A book about social isolation and the culture of cancellation in good faith, this chilling story takes on a whole new twist as we continue to live at arm’s length from the people around us.

Shoji Bath by Douglas Stewart

The narrator in this novel is a boy, but the real main character is his mother: the charming, self-obsessed, destructive, vengeful alcoholic who revolves around him. The family lives, until the older children escape mother Agnes’ black hole of misery, in dilapidated public housing in Glasgow, Scotland in the 1980s.

Shoji, the narrator and the youngest in the family, is credited with his sexuality and their poverty, as his mother’s hurricane and addiction keep his life in constant and violent instability.

It’s a violent novel, in a way that still retains warmth and compassion, and captures the tremendous power that parents have over their children.

Nothing you see here by Kevin Wilson

The novel’s gorgeously odd protagonist, Lillian, is an aimless and apathetic 20-year-old when she receives a letter from her former roommate (who has since married a US senator) offering her a job. The job ultimately requires taking care of the senator’s children from a previous marriage – who, unfortunately, flare up automatically when upset.

This book is a mixture of scattered families and the powerful and often unspoken dynamics of female friendship. Even better, it made me laugh out loud.

Detland by Sarai Walker

where is wilson There is nothing to see here weird Detland angry. It’s the story of a fat woman bent on undergoing weight-loss surgery, who stumbles upon a cabal of radical feminists that changed her life.

It is the extreme darkness, a barbaric obstacle of anger and pain to which all women, especially women who are not considered beautiful, are exposed in a patriarchal society. It is the journey of a woman’s acceptance of herself in a society that hates her and tries to punish her for doing so.

I tore up this book in one sitting, and it was bound up with a very deep rage that I think many women share, but that they have to make for the day to pass.

Where are the wild ladies by Oko Matsuda

This short collection is a re-imagining of traditional Japanese folk tales, many of which have feminist leanings. Ghosts of ancient stories permeate the modern world, working in factories, bathing, urging people to buy their products.

Many stories intertwine and overlap, with characters in one story occupying the fringes of the next.

I found this read thoroughly enjoyable, and a perfect escape from winter boredom.

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