10 Transgressive Novels

This week’s post is devoted to 10 works of Transgressive Fiction by 10 different authors, all of which I have reviewed here. As followers of this blog are aware, Transgressive Fiction is one of my favourite genres. My second book, Necropolis, is a transgressive, black comedy about a psychopath who works for the Burials and Cemeteries department in his local council.

Definition: Transgressive Fiction 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 Fiction are in one form or other rebelling against society.  Due to this they may appear to be anti-social, nihilistic or even sociopathic.

The following books are presented in chronological order:

 

Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller (1934)

Tropic of Cancer

About: Sexuality, freedom and the human condition are themes in this groundbreaking work of Transgressive Fiction. Tropic of Cancer was banned from being imported into the United States after its publication in France in 1934. 

My Review: Set in the late 1920s and early 30s, Tropic of Cancer is a semi-autobiographical first-person account of a young, struggling American writer living in Paris, and for a short period Le Havre. His is a seedy existence, characterised by a shortage of money… (More)

 

Novel with Cocaine by M. Ageyev (1934)

Novel with Cocaine

About: Novel with Cocaine is a nihilistic and philosophical novel about adolescence and addiction that could be described as Dostoyevskian. Since the time of its publication in book form there has been intense speculation over who wrote it.

My Review: Set in the years immediately before and after the Russian Revolution, Novel with Cocaine follows the life of Vadim, a Moscow adolescent and student. Vadim is prone to self-loathing and disdainful of others, none more so than his mother, whose… (More)

 

Savage Night by Jim Thompson (1953)

Savage Night 

AboutSavage Night is a suspenseful crime novel written in its author’s trademark stark, pulp prose style. Protagonist Carl is a paranoid, pensive and perplexing character, who suffers poor health, and is convinced that he is disintegrating.  

My Review: A shadowy crime boss known as ‘The Man’ sends contract killer Carl Bigelow to a small town, on a mission to kill a man, by the name of Jake Winroy. Jake is a key witness in a forthcoming court case. Carl, whose ruse is that… (More)

 

Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov (1955)

Lolita

AboutThe story is about a man named Humbert Humbert, who falls in love with a twelve-year-old girl, Lolita, the daughter of his landlady. Banned in a number of countries Lolita continues to cause controversy to this day.

My Review: The protagonist, Humbert Humbert, is an intellectual with an all-consuming craving for young girls, or nymphets as he refers to them.  After his wife leaves him for another man, Humbert Humbert becomes a live-in tutor for the Hazes, a family consisting of a… (More)

 

A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess (1962)

A Clockwork Orange

About: First published in 1962, A Clockwork Orange is a ground-breaking and controversial book with an intriguing and intelligent narrator, which leaves many questions to ponder concerning behaviourism and the role of the state. 

My Review: Alex is an eccentric 15-year-old delinquent with a penchant for classical music and drinking milk. He and his fellow ‘droogs’ assault, rob and rape with impunity, that is until a serious incident sees him arrested and incarcerated. Our anti-hero is anticipating… (More)

 

Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut (1969)

slaughterhouse-5

About: Slaughterhouse-Five’s anti-war rhetoric has resulted in it being banned from numerous US schools and libraries. The story is about the exploits of Billy Pilgrim, a survivor of the notorious firebombing of Dresden in World War II.

My Review: Narrated in a non-linear order, the story follows protagonist Billy Pilgrim’s journey through life. A married optometrist with two children, Billy is a veteran of World War II, and a survivor of the notorious fire bombing of Dresden. Billy is also a time traveller… (More)

 

Ham On Rye by Charles Bukowski (1982)

Ham On Rye

About: Ham On Rye is a coming-of-age story, in which the protagonist views himself as an intruder, refusing to adhere to society’s expectations. This is a sad and moving work written in the author’s trademark economy of prose style.

My Review: Ham On Rye is a semi-autobiographical account of Bukowski’s formative years in his home city of Los Angeles. The story follows the early life of the author’s alter ego, Henry Chinaski, starting with his earliest memories, then through his school years… (More)

 

Queer by William S. Burroughs (1985)

Queer

About: Autobiographical in nature, the book is an account of Burroughs’s life in Mexico, during a troubled time in his life shortly after accidentally shooting wife Joan Vollmer dead. The author adeptly portrays a deep sense of longing and loss. 

My Review: Queer is an unreciprocated love story, in which the protagonist Lee craves love and attention from a young American by the name of Eugene Allerton. Set in the American ex-pat scene of hedonistic, lawless 1940s Mexico… (More)

 

Less Than Zero by Bret Easton Ellis (1985)

Less Than Zero

About: Less Than Zero is about a privileged group of L.A. youngsters, who appear on the surface to have an idealistic life, but in reality live unrewarding existences. Unrelenting in its bleakness, this is a must read for all Easton Ellis admirers.

My Review: Set in nineteen-eighties Los Angeles, the story follows eighteen-year-old Clay, returned home for Christmas from college in New Hampshire.  Clay immediately falls back into the L.A. social scene, spending his time hanging-out with various wealthy teenagers… (More)

 

Rant by Chuck Palahniuk (2007)

Rant

About: This is a challenging book, employing an innovative interview format. Rant adroitly challenges our own traditions by demonstrating how we contort our recollection of events in accordance with our desires, motives and beliefs.

My Review: Rant is the oral history of Buster ‘Rant’ Casey, recounted by an array of people including his relations, friends, enemies and lovers. Rant’s childhood companions from the small rural town where he spent his formative years remember… (More)

 

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