If you (like us) have procrastinated on purchasing a Father’s Day gift for your dad this year, let this list of literary Bad Dads inspire you to remember that yours is probably awesome and totally deserves that expensive power tool that he’s been dropping hints about.
- Lola, California by Edie Meidav: Unless your dad is Charles Manson, he’s probably cooler than protagonist Lana’s father, Vic Mahler, who has been sentenced to death. Is it possible to be an inspirational father figure when you’re on death row?
- The Patrick Melrose Novels by Edward St. Aubyn: Throughout the course of the four novels in this omnibus, themes of drug addiction and abuse run rampant, largely thanks to the sadistic presence of Patrick’s father, David Melrose. Only after his father’s death in book two (spoiler alert!) does Patrick have some hope of recovery.
- The Man Who Loved Children by Christina Snead: Jonathan Franzen wrote a revelatory review of this book in the New York Times Book Review in 2010 that says more about this book better than I ever could:
At its most basic level, the novel is the story of a patriarch, Sam Pollit — Samuel Clemens Pollit — who subjugates his wife, Henny, by impregnating her six times, and who seduces and beguiles his progeny with endless torrents of private language and crackpot household schemes and rituals that cumulatively serve to make him the sun (he is radiantly white, with yellow hair) around which the Pollit world revolves.
- A Wolf at the Table by Augusten Burroughs: Burroughs’ memoir of his father tells the dark and twisty tale of his haunted childhood. “Broken” is a shockingly insufficient word to explain the devastating relationship the two shared.
“As a little boy, I had a dream that my father had taken me to the woods where there was a dead body. He buried it and told me I must never tell. It was the only thing we’d ever done together as father and son, and I promised not to tell. But unlike most dreams, the memory of this one never left me. And sometimes…I wasn’t altogether sure about one thing: was it just a dream?”
- Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel: This Man Booker prize winning book is the first in a trilogy about Thomas Cromwell’s rise to and fall from power. In the opening pages, a young Thomas is being pummeled by his drunken father, Walter, a figure who lurks in the pages long after Thomas’s departure from his hometown of Putney. Though Walter may not be an ideal father, Mantel delicately demonstrates how their dangerous relationship factored into Thomas’s rapid political ascent, as he ultimately becomes one of King Henry VIII’s closest advisers and friends.