My Top 13 “Transgressive” Novels to Read Before You Die by Stephen J. Golds

Punk Noir Magazine

Wikipedia says that “Transgressive fiction is a genre of literature which focuses on characters who feel confined by the norms and expectations of society and who break free of those confines in unusual or illicit ways.”

A good friend of mine, and a probable literary genius, once told me that it’s debatable if transgressive literature even exists anymore. What’s transgressive in 2022? He calls it “Alternative Literature”.

Maybe, he’s right. I don’t know.

What I do know is “Transgressive” literature is certainly hard to define.

Everyone has their own definition.

For me “transgressive” authors are writers who write how they want to write, without worrying about what genre or box they may fit into. They have a story to tell and they bleed their words onto the page until the story is done. They’re artists who blend poetry and prose effortlessly whilst writing about things that could/would still be considered taboo in today’s society. Mental health, suicide, sexuality, poverty, addiction, abuse and trauma being just a few prime examples.

You’ll never see these books on a supermarket shelf, but you’ll likely see them on the shelves of readers who live and breathe books. These books never made the New York Times Bestseller lists, but they’ve remained cult favorites and probably always will do.

These are my top 13 “Transgressive” books to read before you die.

Yeah, I know, I missed out a few. But these are mine. Feel free to add your own in the comments below. There’s nothing better than discovering a great book you never knew existed.

Okay, so here we go. My top 13. Chosen because they’ve remained with me, carved into the very fabric of my soul like the drunken tattoo I woke up with that one long, crazy weekend in Osaka…

13: Digging the Vein by Tony O’Neill

12: Hating Olivia by Mark SaFranko

11: So the Wind Won’t Blow it All Away by Richard Brautigan

10: Girl, Interrupted by Susanna Kaysen

9: Chump Change by Dan Fante

8: When I was Five I Killed Myself by Howard Buten

7: Nothing Important Happened Today by Will Carver

6: Suicide Casanova by Arthur Nersesian

5: My Fault by Billy Childish

4: Leaving Las Vegas by John O’Brien

3: Ask the Dust by John Fante

2: Ham on Rye by Charles Bukowski

1: 4:48 Psychosis by Sarah Kane

Or if you’re looking for some “transgressive” crime noir spanning the 1920’s to the 1960’s 😉 Please give my own novels a read

Stephen J. Golds was born in North London, U.K, but has lived in Japan for most of his adult life.

He writes loosely in the noir/crime genres, though is heavily influenced by transgressive fiction and dirty realism.

His three novels are a trilogy of connected but stand alone novels that deal in themes of mental illness, trauma, betrayal and twisted love.

He enjoys spending time with his daughters, reading books, traveling the world, boxing and listening to old Soul LPs. His books are Say Goodbye When I’m Gone, I’ll Pray When I’m Dying, Always the Dead, Poems for Ghosts in Empty Tenement Windows I Thought I Saw Once and the story and poetry collection Love Like Bleeding Out With an Empty Gun in Your Hand.