Friday, 25 March 2016

Abebooks’ ‘Bad to the Bone: The Worst Children in Literature’

Today, Abebooks, a very valuable book site for the old books I collect – old Wisdens most especially – have asked its readers to compile a list of the “worst children in literature”. I know about these thoughts of stories more as allegory than reading, but with a little if by no means much of the wider context needed, I will give basic look. The list is divided into a top ten and “dishonorable” mentions, like the Intercollegiate Studies Institute’s 50 Worst Books list.

The Top Ten:

  1. Flashman from Tom Brown’s School Days by Thomas Hughes
    • Flashman, the notorious bully of Rugby School is Tom Brown's nemesis. He also got a redressing care of George MacDonald Fraser.
  2. Missie from The Innocents by Nette Hiltons
    • Three words: “psychopathic child killer”.
  3. Pandora and Marmaduke from Who Was Oswald Fish? by A.N. Wilson
    • A pair of nine-year-olds blackmail their elders to the point of causing their suicide.
  4. Mary Tilford from The Children’s Hour by Lillian Hellman
    • She may not murder but is “quite a piece of work”.
  5. Frank from The Boy who Followed Ripley by Patricia Highsmith
    • He murders his father then seeks out career criminal Tom Ripley.
  6. Noboru from The Sailor who Fell from Grace With The Sea by Yukio Mishima
    • The son of Ryuji, who belongs to a savage gang of boys who believe in “objectivity”
  7. Angelo Saint from Wicked Angel by Taylor Caldwell 
    • Cherub-faced youngster with no moral compass or remorse
  8. Josephine Leonides from Crooked House by Agatha Christie
    • Manipulates her family by saying she knows who killed the family patriarch.
  9. The Girls of St. Trinians in Hurrah for St Trinians by Ronald Searle
    • The girls of this boarding school would make Angela Brazil faint in horror.
  10. Cathy Ames from East of Eden by John Steinbeck
    • She ages through the book, but this is a terrible child who becomes a worse adult

Other Children Gone Wrong:

  • Veda from Mildred Pierce by James M. Cain
    • This daughter is the queen of blackmail and deceit.
  • Frank from The Wasp Factory by Iain Banks
    • It’s hard to describe Frank and his rituals – he’s very, very twisted.
  • The Baby in Rosemary’s Baby by Ira Levin
    • This infamous child is every parent’s worst nightmare.
  • Rosalind from In the Woods by Tana French
    • As the older sister of a murder victim, Rosalind becomes entwined in the investigation.
  • Vernon Little from Vernon God Little by DBC Pierre
    • While not evil like some on the list, this foul-mouthed reprobate has few virtues.
  • Regan MacNeil from The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty
    • It wasn’t Regan’s fault that a demonic spirit possessed her.
  • Rhoda from The Bad Seed by William March
    • It’s nearly impossible for a parent to see that their child was born bad.
  • Pinkie Brown from Brighton Rock by Graham Greene
    • The seventeen-year-old Pinkie is a merciless thug in this classic.
  • Rynn Jacobs from The Little Girl who Lives down the Lane by Laird König
    • Rynn is a mysterious child with an absent poet of a father and a nose for trouble.
  • Christine Hargensen from Carrie by Stephen King
    • “Chris” is the mean-spirited snobbish teenage girl who leads the torment of Carrie.
  • Leading William from ‘All Summer in a Day’ by Ray Bradbury (found in The Stories of Ray Bradbury)
    • He enacts terrible psychological punishment on classmate Margot.
  • Matilda from The Monk by Matthew Gregory Lewis
    • Samuel Taylor Coleridge said Matilda was “superior in wickedness to the most wicked of men.”
  • One of the “Twins” in The Other by Tom Tryon
    • A boy whose twin brother is intertwined with a series of deaths in a rural community.
  • Ben from The Fifth Child by Doris Lessing
    • This grotesque, violent and hateful child is tearing a family apart.
  • Kevin from We Need to Talk about Kevin by Lionel Shriver
    • Kevin is a sociopath who murders several classmates in a school massacre.
  • Jack from Lord of the Flies by William Golding
    • He epitomises the worst aspects of human nature in this must-read.
  • Damien from The Omen by David Seltzer
    • This child from hell turns out to be the Antichrist.
  • Regina Afton from Some Girls Are by Courtney Summers
    • After terrorising others she is cast out of her clique to become the victim of her own bullying.
  • Gage Creed from Pet Sematary by Stephen King
    • Another example of demonic possession ruining a childhood.
  • Nick from Hate List by Jennifer Brown
    • In order to impress his high school sweetheart, Nick goes off the rails.
  • Jacob from Before and After by Rosellen Brown
    • A family struggles after their teenage son murders his girlfriend.
  • The boys from Boy A by Jonathan Trigell
    • “Boy A” and “Boy B” were both convicted of murdering a young girl.
  • The Children in Let’s Go Play at The Adams by Mendal W. Johnson
    • A group of children are left alone and run amok in ways you would never imagine.
  • Mary Katherine “Merricat” Blackwood from We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson
    • She cares for her sister Constance but something is not right with this 18-year-old.
I do know vaguely about The Exorcist – the 1973 movie based upon the book was the source for the title of Pantera’s 1992 breakthrough album Vulgar Display of Power – one seminal album for that generation coming of age in today’s Enriched World. Rosemary’s Baby was during the same period turned into a film of a similar genre, aiming to show to adults of the era the wickedness of children. I do know about several authors here, such as Steinbeck, A.N. Wilson, Highsmith, Christie, Greene, Lessing and Golding, but have never read any books here.

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