Transgressive Fiction II

My second book, Necropolis, is a humorous work of dark fiction about a psychopath, who works for the Burials and Cemeteries department in his local council.  Necropolis could be described as Transgressive fiction, and it is for this reason that I have dedicated two blog posts to the subject.

Transgressive literature is a genre that focuses on characters who feel confined by the norms and expectations of society and who break free of those confines in unusual and/or illicit ways.

Protagonists in Transgressive literature are in one form or other rebelling against society.  Due to this they may appear to be anti-social, nihilistic or even sociopathic.  Transgressive literature deals with potentially controversial subjects such as sex, drugs, crime, violence and paraphilia.

Last week we looked at a number of early and mid 20th Century authors, who wrote books that could be labelled as Transgressive.  The authors were James Joyce, D.H. Lawrence, Vladimir Nabokov and William S. Burroughs.  This week we continue in the same vein with:

Charles Bukowski

Charles Bukowski August 16th 1920 – March 9th 1994

Notable Transgressive Works: Post Office, Factotum, Women, Ham on Rye

Charles Bukowski’s writing could best be described as Dirty realism and/or Transgressive literature.  Heavily influenced by his home city of Los Angeles, Bukowski wrote about disillusionment, alcohol consumption, women, a loathing of authority and the dehumanising nature of low-level work, all presented in his unique visceral writing style.  His seminal work, Post Office, is a semi-autobiographical account of his years of drudgery at the post office prior to writing the book by the same name.  Bukowski is a cult figure, whose writing remains popular to this day, despite the fact that he has been accused by some of being misogynistic.

Click here to read my blog post about Charles Bukowski

Click on the links to read my reviews of Post Office, Factotum & Pulp

Hunter S. Thompson

Hunter Thompson July 18th 1937 – February 20th 2005

Notable Transgressive Works: Hells Angels, Fear And Loathing in Las Vegas, The Rum Diary

Hunter S. Thompson was a controversial author and journalist with a penchant for alcohol, drugs and guns.  The Gonzo Journalist’s most famous work, the cult classic, Fear And Loathing in Las Vegas, is about a journalist and his attorney consuming a vast array of pharmaceuticals in Las Vegas.  First published in nineteen seventy-one against the backdrop of Vietnam, and President Nixon’s declaration of war on drugs, the book can be viewed as a savage indictment of a corrupt, violent, ignorant, polarised and disillusioned nation, hell-bent on a path to self-destruction.

Click here to read my blog post about Hunter S. Thompson

Click here to read my review of Fear And Loathing in Las Vegas

Irvine Welsh

Irvine Welsh Born: 27 September 1958

Notable Transgressive Works: Trainspotting, The Acid House, Skagboys, Filth, Porno

As the titles of many of the iconic Scottish writer’s books suggest, Irvine Welsh’s controversial themes include, drug abuse, soccer hooliganism, sexual perversion, inner city poverty and brutality.  His first book, Trainspotting, about Scottish housing scheme dwelling heroin addicts, disgusted some in the literary world, was later adapted for the cinema and is now regarded as a cult classic.  Perhaps Welsh’s most controversial book, Filth, has a tapeworm afflicted, misanthropic, corrupt policeman as its protagonist, whose pastimes include sexual abuse and gorging on junk good, alcohol and cocaine.

Bret Easton Ellis

Easton-Ellis Born: March 7th 1964

Notable Transgressive Works: Less Than Zero, American Psycho, Glamorama, The Informers 

Disillusioned, nihilistic and even sociopathic characters are the staple of cult author Bret Easton Ellis’s books. His most famous work, the infamous American Psycho, caused outrage even before it was published, as many in the literary establishment were disgusted with the sexual violence and what some viewed as the misogynistic nature of its contents.  American Psycho went on to become one of the most influential books of the nineties and secured the author his legacy as an important literary figure.

Click here to read my reviews of Less Than Zero, American Psycho, Glamorama & Lunar Park

Chuck Palahniuk

ChuckPalahniuk Born: February 21st 1962 

Notable Transgressive Works: Fight Club, Haunted, Choke, Snuff

Palahniuk has constantly courted controversy with the content of his books.  Fight Club, which remains to this day his most celebrated effort, was viewed as extremely controversial when the film version was released in 1999, only six months after the Columbine school shootings.

Palahniuk’s dark and disturbing fiction has continued to scandalise ever since.  His book Haunted is often voted in polls as one of the most disturbing books ever written.  In Turkey, the translator of Palahniuk’s book, Snuff, was detained and interrogated by the police over what the authorities regarded as the book’s offensive content.

Click on the links to read my reviews of Choke, Damned, Fight Club & Haunted



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  • I must admit that I am not really that familiar with transgressive fiction but I enjoy trying a variety of different genres in literature. If you were to recommend one book that might appeal to a female reader out of all those named above, which would it be? Bear in mind that I’m not too easily shocked. 🙂

    • I know you are not easily shocked Diane. Not sure Fight Club or American Psycho really stick out as appealing to a female reader, but I would recommend them anyway. The book, Fight Club, is almost identical to the film. Have you seen the film?

    • Bukowski has a book called women, surely that one must be ok for a women. For a transgressive started the rum diary is the gentlest and haunted would be the most transgressive on the list above.

  • I think I may have done but my memory is so bad with films that I tend to forget them until I am part-way through a second viewing. I may give the book a try, thanks. 🙂

  • Another interesting blog series. I like all these authors, with a particular fondness for Burroughs. Palahniuk’s work probably best embodies the definition of the genre. Will Self’s My Idea of Fun is another fitting example, as is Crash by J G Ballard. It’s difficult to know which book would appeal to a female reader – Fight Club is probably the right choice, and one of Palahniuk’s best. Andre Gide’s The Immoralist is another early transgressive classic. I’m sure Necropolis will be a fine addition to the canon.

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