Let’s get refreshed with a tall glass of what transgressive fiction actually is:
Transgressive fiction was originally coined by Michael Silverblatt in 1993. The entire genre consists of authors who “deliberately include unpleasant content–taboo sex, violence, and drug use–solely to provoke the reader” (Mookerjee).
In the whole genre, there are only seven authors but that doesn’t mean they’re the only author’s of transgressive fiction (huh?). The seven authors in transgressive fiction are Chuck Palahniuk, Bret Easton Ellis, J.G. Ballard, Hubert Selby Jr., Elizabeth Young, Robin Mookerjee, and Lucia Adams. However, there are several other authors who have dabbled in this genre as well–they just aren’t placed in the genre because it’s not solely their expertise (they’re more satirical than transgressive). By definition, some books are included and the authors were lucky enough to make it into the top ten list of transgressive fiction books.
1. Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk (1996)
A novel following an unnamed protagonist who suffers from severe insomnia and finds solace in a variety of support groups. Throughout the novel, the narrator tells his story about interactions with Marla Singer – another insomniac, and Tyler Durden – the mysterious man behind Fight Club and Project Mayhem. Based on true events from a simple vacation Chuck Palahniuk went on during his time at Freightliner, it’s no wonder this book made it to number one on several Top 10 lists online. Filled with several plot twists, graphic details, and psychological factors, I believe Fight Club should be on everyone’s “To Be Read” lists.
2. Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess (1962)*
Burgess tells the story of a fifteen-year-old who experiences Burgess’ view of the future. The main character, Alex, speaks in informal slang and brilliantly shows him and hisfriends’s social pathology. This novel shows another version of good and evil, while also pointing out the meaning of human freedom. “When the state undertakes to reform Alex–to “redeem” him–the novel asks, “At what cost?” (Burgess)
3. American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis
American Psycho had a rough start before it was published. With the media trying to prevent it from being published, the book almost didn’t make it on the shelves. The main character, Patrick Bateman, lives the “American Dream,” in this novel. He’s 26-years-old, handsome, intelligent, and he works on Wall Street during the day. At night, that’s a different story. Filled with murder, dark comedy, and several other taboo subjects, Ellis
recognizes the things we don’t want to confront in the world.
4. 1984 by George Orwell*
Published in 1949, Orwell writes about what he believes the world will be like in 1984. Orwell accurately depicts his version of a nightmare. There’s an increase in the use of technology, distorted languages, and the world he creates is totalitarian and bureaucratic. In 1984, Orwell created such a thorough version of hell that it’s ranked as one of the most terrifying novels ever written. (Orwell)
5. Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger*
Salinger’s novel is about a sixteen-year-old named Holden Caulfield who lives in New York and goes to prep school in Pennsylvania. However, eventually, he decided to leave his prep school to underground for three days in New York. Holden wasn’t just born into this world strongly attached to beauty, he was hopelessly impaled on it. Holden actively searched for it. This novel is so complex, yet so simple. It contains several different voices: children’s, adult’s, underground voices-but Holden’s stood out the most. He kept his pain to himself, and articulated the perfect voice of pain and pleasure. With this novel, Salinger created one of the top-100 best English novels of the 20th century. Full of teenage angst and rebellion, it was the novel every boy in the 1950’s and 60’s wanted to read. (Salinger)
6. Trainspotting by Irvine Welsh*
In the form of short stories, Trainspotting is a novel set in Edinburgh. The residents of Leith are either on heroin, associated with people on heroin, or participate in destructive activities that are portrayed as addictions. Set in the late 1980s, Trainspotting has been deemed the voice of punk with its unique style and setting. Welsh also includes a lot of Scottish slang, so at the end of the book–there’s a glossary of terms.
7. Invisible Monsters Remix by Chuck Palahniuk
Originally published in 1999, Invisible Monsters takes a twist in this magazine themed novel. Palahniuk moved the chapters around to create a more “thrilling” ride and to make the read just a little more interesting than it already is. Invisible Monsters Remix follows the story of a model who’s suddenly been deformed. With the inability to speak for herself, her face deformed, and her self-esteem destroyed, the main character meets Brandy Alexander, Queen Supreme. She’s one operation from being a bona-fide woman and she guides the main character through her struggles. Included in Invisible Monsters Remix, Palahniuk offers memoirs and more scenes in this version and he was finally able to create his original vision.
8. The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
According to the society of 1890, The Picture of Dorian Gray was a corrupting influence with terrible morale. In fact, Wilde even admitted it. This story is about a “fashionable young man who sells his soul for eternal youth and beauty,” and this book eventually led to Wilde’s imprisonment due to his homosexual liaisons (Wilde). The corrupted influences became an issue when Wilde went to trial, and he later noted that, “Basil Hallward is what I think I am: Lord Henry what the world thinks me: Dorian what I would like to be–in other ages, perhaps.” (Wilde)
9. The Stranger by Albert Camus*
Originally published in French back in 1946, Camus wrote this novel about a man who commits a murder on an Algerian beach after he attended his mother’s funeral. He’s eventually tried for prison and sentenced to death. The Stranger is ranked as one of the top 100 books of the century and is considered a classic of the 20th century. It’s been translated four times into English and several other languages and has been adapted twice into the films Lo Straniero and Yazgi.
10. Choke by Chuck Palahniuk
Victor Mancini was supposed to pay for his mother’s elder care. To do so, he came up with a scam. Mancini pretended to choke on pieces of food in restaurants and then, after being saved by fellow patrons who felt responsible for his life, he received checks for “support.” When he’s not running scams he’s working at a colonial museum, visiting his mom, and attending sexaholic anonymous workshops for “action.” This novel is also written by Chuck, which makes this his third novel in the top ten list of transgressive fics. Choke was commonly ridiculed for it’s strong sexual content and it still made it to film–which ended up not doing so well. Palahniuk even had his own cameo, but the casting wasn’t correct and neither was Chuck’s state of mind with his mom being hospitalized.
*books by authors who aren’t in the genre
Burgess, Anthony, et al. “A Clockwork Orange.” By Anthony Burgess, http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/227463.A_Clockwork_Orange.
Orwell, George, et al. “1984.” By George Orwell, http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/5470.1984.
Salinger, J.D., et al. “The Catcher in the Rye.” By J.D. Salinger, http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/5107.The_Catcher_in_the_Rye.
Wilde, Oscar, et al. “The Picture of Dorian Gray.” By Oscar Wilde, http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/5297.The_Picture_of_Dorian_Gray.