In recent years it feels like a greater overall focus has been placed on exploring and understanding social constructs, in an attempt to essentially decipher why is it we make up imaginary rules and expectations which end up being a source of suffering to countless people. Slowly but surely, we’re becoming aware of just how much we impede ourselves for no tangible reason.
I think at one point or another in time, many, if not all of us have felt confined and even oppressed by the norms we were expected to meet, by the people we were expected to be. We now live in an age where breaking free from society’s shackles has become a common occurrence, if not an actual standard.
In literature, characters have been defying society and charging proudly against its norms for longer than anyone could guess, and in the past few decades transgressive fiction has seen the kind of surge in popularity few genres have ever enjoyed. I believe this speaks volumes on the general opinions people hold in regards to their own societies.
Here I’m going to be looking at various works of transgressive fiction, both older and modern, in an attempt to really dig out the gems in the ocean of published books. These are books about characters doing, in their own and often self-destructive ways, what we’d all like to do: to break free from the invisible compactor of society crushing us a bit too often.
Chuck Palahniuk has found no shortage of ways over the years to comment on the absurdity of human society and expose its virulent side to the light. With his novel Adjustment Day he returns once again to do what he does best, presenting a story of many intertwining narratives taking place in a society which seems to fall apart at the seams with the publication of a strange book heralding the titular day.
Jim Thompson had the uncanny ability like few others to pump out dark, mystifying and surreal crime thrillers capable of defying anyone’s expectations. His stories could never be categorized as ordinary, and this goes double for one of his slightly lesser-known works, Savage Night. In it, we follow a five-foot-tall womanizing hitman tasked with killing a man scheduled to testify in court by posing as a tenant at his residence. However, the target’s beautiful wife and attractive young housemaid complicate the matters to no end, turning a routine job into something akin to a nightmare.
Eryk Pruitt has shown through both his novels and movies to have a commendable capacity for storytelling, especially when it comes to multi-layered and convoluted plots such as the ones found in his novel Hashtag. In it, we follow a kidnapping case which happens to be far from what it seems, a lazy deputy who can’t seem to sweep it all under the rug, and a runaway college student in a stolen car and a gun.
Guy Portman has always distinguished his novels with his unique sense of humour, and in Necropolis he returns to his forte once again introducing us to Dyson Deveraux. Intelligent, witty, recently appointed as head of the Burials and Cemeteries department, and a sociopath. Just when his life seems like it might turn stale, an interesting opportunity for personal betterment comes along when he begins to suspect one of his co-workers of being a wanted Serbian criminal.
Greg Levin has never been short of mind-twisting premises to impart on his readers, and his first novel, The Exit Man, was very much an early testament to this. The story follows Eli Edelmann, a man who comes back home to take over his family’s supply store business, only to find himself falling down the rabbit hole of the illegal euthanasia business. With a volatile new girlfriend who is also possibly a serial killer and the police breathing down his neck, it’s only a matter of time before the noose tightens around Eli’s own neck.
Greg Levin has a true aptitude for coming up with unique and original premises to drive the stories of his books, and Sick to Death is a perfect example of his outside-the-box thinking. In this book, we follow a trio of unusual vigilante superheroes: terminally-ill support group patients. They take to the streets and declare war on all the criminal scum, now blindly fleeing them in terror. However, when one of the trio takes their crime-fighting prowess to questionable lengths, hundreds of people are suddenly in mortal danger.
Greg Levin definitely has a way of tackling somber and heavy subjects in his books, a tendency which was certainly well illustrated in his novel titled In Wolves’ Clothing. In it, we are introduced to Zero Slade, an agent working undercover in the world of human trafficking trying to save young girls who are ceaselessly led to their doom. Recently, the youngest girl Slade and his team ever rescued got kidnapped from her safe house, and to find her again the agent will have to go deeper than ever into the bowels of depravity to find her.