Updated: Sep 25
Everybody who loves dark fiction knows American Psycho and Fight Club, but after a certain point most readers' familiarity with transgressive fiction falls away. This genre of social rebellion by protagonists with self-destructive tendencies is in so many ways the perfect genre for our time, and in other ways a record of how we got to here. This is a list of five transgressive fiction titles—four short novels and one short story collection—that will add some variety to your boundary-pushing diet and make you think a little more critically about the way you live your life.
1. WILLIAM S. BURROUGHS – JUNKY
I thought it was almost impossible to pick a favorite transgressive fiction novel, but then I thought of Junky, which is one of the few books I find myself reading again and again—usually in audiobook format, the version read by Burroughs. His junk-fried drawl really brings the book to life, and this invaluable look into America just before and at the very beginning of the drug war tells not just an intimate story of addiction, but the story of America's criminalization of it.
2. HUBERT SELBY JR. - THE ROOM
How can you possibly pick a favorite Selby Jr. story? This is the author of Requiem for a Dream, after all. There is something about his protagonists that is just very different from other transgressive authors'. His writing is unapologetic but also unpretentious—he lays out these thoughts and tells us these stories about people who have been violated by society and violate others in turn. That's what a Selby Jr. story really is about in the end—it's about cycles. The cycle of crime, the cycle of violence. And the most cyclical and violent of Selby Jr.'s works is by far The Room, a grotesque story about the fantasies of a criminal locked in solitary confinement as he paces around and contemplates the pustule festering on his face. This book has some moments you'd better brace yourself for, but just remember…it’s all in the narrator's head. Unless it turns out to be memory. Who knows with a guy like this one?
3. SUPERVERT – POST-DEPRAVITY
If you wanna be my lover, you gotta read Supervert. I’m straight-up not even kidding. The man is a genius not just of erotica literature but of challenging social conventions and your perception of your own sexuality all in the same story. He’s got many great books to pick from by this point, but of them all, my personal favorite has to be Post-Depravity. Like many of the books on this list it’s one that’s really something special, but the unique formatting, the surreal plot, and the cast of characters filling the hospital in a world where all human beings are completely numb to the concept of depravity all serve to put it over the top. I called Junky the best book on the list, but if you want to talk about the book on this list that I truly love the most, it’s got to be Post-Depravity.
4. MICHAEL GIRA – THE CONSUMER
I won't lie to you: this one is rough. Capital-r, Rough. There's some stuff in here that you might even regret reading, but that's probably to be expected from the auteur behind the bands SWANS and Angels of Light as well as the label Young God Records. Michael Gira proves in The Consumer that he's not just bold as a musician—he's also a daring author, one whose fiction works manage to reach a black pitch uncompromising in their vision of evil in the world and the human inclination to permit it out of sheer self-absorption.
5. J. G. BALLARD – ATROCITY EXHIBITION
I don't even know what to say about this one except that I feel like it should be read in schools—either in history, or psychology. Maybe in both. If you want to try Ballard but couldn't get into Crash, check out Atrocity Exhibition instead.
Regina Watts is a multi-dimensional entity operating from outside of spacetime through a strange loop disguised as a flesh portal. With a growing library of titles that range from cannibal horrotica to standalone transgressive novels like Industrial Divinity (available now!), Watts is an author no extreme horror fan should miss. Check out her depraved body of work HERE or Amazon, and don’t miss Industrial Divinity: a woman discovers she’s immortal but not invulnerable and become a sadomasochistic performance artist called “The Degenetrix” in this transgressive fiction novel published by Painted Blind Publishing.