Jane Flett. Credit: Anjula Schaub
Jane Flett. Credit: Anjula Schaub

The Good Books, Jane Flett: ‘Marcy Dermansky writes my favourite female characters ever’

Jane Flett on reading in the bath, being inspired by The Hungry Caterpillar and her favourite books of the year. 


The first book I remember reading:

The Very Hungry Caterpillar. A brilliant meditation on what it is to want too much and the transformative power of desire, which has inspired me ever since. How I loved that caterpillar.

A book I recommend to everyone:

Bunny by Mona Awad. It’s ostensibly about a clique of writers in an MFA program but that description does little justice to this absolutely deranged novel, which takes a rapid left turn into weird witch covens and truly monstrous rituals, all viewed through a hot pink sheen. I’m deeply fascinated by cult dynamics—the mechanisms by which we include and exclude people in group situations, and the lengths people are willing to go to remain on the inside—and Awad writes about this better than anyone I’ve ever read. She’s also an absolute delight with language and very, very funny.

The best three books I have read in the last year:

Chen Chen’s poetry collection Your Emergency Contact Has Experienced an Emergency broke my heart and filled me with delight and turned me on all at the same time. His writing about queer joy is the most perfect thing.

Sam Cohen’s Sarahland, a short story collection populated by a melange of characters named Sarah, is a glorious and unexpected cavort through different experiences of womanhood. Feminist, disgusting, girlish and profound, I loved everything about it.

A Certain Hunger by Chelsea G Summers was technically a re-read, but I’m including it because I’m obsessed with this book. Narrated by a former food critic turned cannibal, the voice is so confident in its own monstrosity, she somehow makes slaughtering your lovers for dinner seem like a delicious proposition.

A book I didn’t finish or enjoy:

The Fake by Zoe Whittall was a book I absolutely did not enjoy reading. It’s about a compulsive liar/scammer, and I read it in the aftermath of my own breakup with someone who turned out to have been lying about all manner of things: large, small, and bizarre. Zoe Whittall so brilliantly captures the utter disorientation of that experience—the vertigo of realising a foundation you took for solid was anything but. I hated reading it. And yet, the moment I finished it, I turned back to the beginning and started again. 

An author who has inspired me:

Marcy Dermansky writes my favourite female characters ever. She writes women who act on their worst impulses, make terrible decisions, do whatever they like—and somehow things work out. Her characters turn towards happiness, even in the most fraught situations. I love how she subverts a message we’ve been fed our entire lives—that the moment a woman steps out of line, she’ll be punished by the world—and makes room for a revolutionary optimism instead.

My favourite place to read:

In the bathtub. During the first covid lockdown, I bought a bath shelf with one section for candles, one for a glass of wine, and a little stand to prop a book against. It might be the best purchase I’ve ever made. I like to start out with the water so hot it’s almost unbearable and stay in the bath wallowing until I’m entirely pruned. When I’m in there, I can shut out all of the outside world, and it’s just me and the book, and it’s perfect.

Jane Flett is a Scottish writer who lives in Berlin. Her fiction has been commissioned for BBC Radio 4, featured in Electric Literature’s Recommended Reading, Highly Commended in the Bridport Prize and performed at the Edinburgh International Book Festival. Freakslaw is published by Doubleday on 20 June and can be purchased here


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