One of the most distinctive identifying characteristics of transgressive fiction has to do with how it treats descriptions of the human body, specifically the processes and functions that are not often discussed in polite society. Sometimes this treatment is exaggerated and hilarious, as is the case with much of Chuck Palahniuk’s work, and sometimes it’s chillingly precise and realistic, as with Bret Easton Ellis. Either way, it’s almost always just plain gross. The willingness of the author to test the reader’s limits by being what I would call “exquisitely disgusting” is how you can tell that the writer is purposefully exploring the territory of the transgressive. In other words, it doesn’t happen by accident.
Different strains of transgressive fiction experiment with how to ignite the greatest level of recoil in the reader in different ways. Transgressive fiction that falls into the genre of crime/thriller/suspense will most often detail the gory reality of what it takes to dismember and dispose of a human body, while transgressive fiction that is more fantastical or experimental might describe murder or massacre with vivid beauty, painting it as an artistic scene. What I have noticed though, is that most transgressive fiction explores the theme of violence when the author begins to experiment with the power of repulsion and what it can do to a brave reader.
Most transgressive fiction, it should also be noted, is written by men.