Transgressive Fiction

I will often do general research on Wikipedia in order to get a thread of information about something I may need for use in a story.  By chance (and that’s how it usually goes) I came across an article for a literary genre called Transgressive Fiction.  It deals with characters who feel confined by social norms refelcted by modern consumerism and attempt to break free from these restrictions.   Often these attempts are violent, anti-social, and involve sex, drugs, and depravity.

The article mentioned the roots of this form in writers such as Knut Hamsen (“Hunger”)  and Dostoyevsky (“Notes From the Underground”) as early 20th century examples; Hubert Selby Jr. (“Last Exit From Brooklyn”) and William S Burroughs (“Naked Lunch”) from mid-century; and Bret Easton Ellis (“American Psycho”) and Chuck Palahnuik (“Fight Club”) as contemporary proponents.

My recent novel Weekend Getaways or Adventures in Contract Killing seems to fit into that genre although I don’t consider myself to be a genre-centered writer per se.  My overwhelming interest is in noir fiction, the hard-boiled dark side of society as perpetuated by Hammett and Chandler,  Jim Thompson and Ross Macdonald, James Ellroy and Andrew Vaschss.

There is a tendency though with the advent of technology and the “cleanliness” of our darker instincts that “rain-soaked streets” don’t have the impact that they used to have, especially if you are attempting to place the noir model in 21st century settings.

Perhaps this Transgressive Fiction is the New Noir.  The narrator is the character we are forced to identify with since it is usually first person in nature.  Therefore we are forced to accept that they are inherently the “good guy”.  When that character commits bizarre and heinous acts, we are either revulsed or are forced to follow along, having no other character to associate with and are therefore forced to analyze our own baser instincts. 

The Continental Op and Phillip Marlowe were tarnished, as the expression goes.  But never in the 20’s or 30’s would they have openly expressed the degree of perversion exhibited by this new genre.  You wonder what they would be writing today if they were around.


  1. jenniferneri said,

    May 29, 2009 at 9:44 am

    Have you read The Immaculate Conception, by Gaétan Soucy?
    And I’m not just asking because he’s from Montreal 🙂


    • tikiman1962 said,

      May 30, 2009 at 1:01 pm

      Not familiar with the author or the story. I will investigate, purchase, read, and report.
      That is, after all, what we do.
      Thanks for the feedback


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