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Burnt Tongues Paperback – August 12, 2014
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Despite its little-heralded status in literary circles, the counterculture genre known as transgressive fiction, wherein the author and/or protagonist bucks social conventions by violating one or more taboos, actually has a rather illustrious history. Classic novels such as Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment, featuring the murderous Raskolnikov, for instance, can be categorized as transgressive fiction. In this collection of 20 contemporary short stories, lead editor Palahniuk makes certain each piece qualifies as an example of both first-rate craftsmanship and something that pushes the envelope of social acceptability. In Neil Krolicki’s opening tale, Live This Down, three humiliated high-school girls plot their suicides using a poison-gas recipe gleaned from the Internet. An animal-shelter technician in Chris Lewis Carter’s Charlie recognizes the tortured cat someone drops off as one he himself abused when it was a kitten. Matt Egan’s A Vodka Kind of Girl recounts the sad fate of a calorie-counting, bulimic woman. Anyone looking for boundary-breaking tales that also pack a haunting, powerful punch will find hours of entertainment here. --Carl Hays
Stephen Graham Jones, author
"Burnt Tongues' 20 stories "are as eclectic as the authors themselves", said Titan Books, which has just acquired the book in the UK, with titles ranging from Zombie Whorehouse to Mind and Soldier."
"Anyone looking for boundary-breaking tales that also pack a haunting, powerful punch will find hours of entertainment here."
Carl Hays, Booklist
Fans of transgressive fiction authors such as Palahniuk will enjoy this selection. . . .”
Brooke Bolton, North Manchester P.L., IN, Library Journal Review
Dark, subversive and disquieting fiction for readers ready to go all the way down.
Within the covers of this wonderfully disturbing, squirm-inducing collection, you’ll find all the mortifying, self-inflicted scars you go through great pains to hide from even our closest intimates. . . . Sometimes you’ll want to avert your eyes or silently close the book, never to touch it again, but stay with it. There’s real soul and humanity lurking under all the fluids and scars, and you’ll emerge all the better for tackling it head on, albeit in want of a shower or two afterwards.”
Dino Parenti, Pantheon Magazine
The off-the-wall subject matter is balanced well with pathos and compassion, and the end result is a powerful bunch of stories that you won’t soon forget.”
Josh Black, Hellnotes
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Top Customer Reviews
More risqué in nature than the gothic and noir, yet skating the rim without slipping fully into the empty literary doldrums of all-out pornography, transgressive fiction deals in marginalized characters seeking redemption and identity within the bizarre and grotesque. Violence, incest, body horror, and drug abuse are just a few of the taboos the genre uses as vehicle by which to explore the human condition, in the process unveiling some nasty truths that many people would rather keep chained and out of view in the labyrinths of their hearts and minds.
In an effort to further legitimatize and codify the genre, Palahniuk, along with neo-noir writer Richard Thomas and filmmaker Dennis Widmyer, have amassed twenty festering, bruised tales dredged up by some of the hardest rising authors working in the field today. The result is Burnt Tongues: An Anthology of Transgressive Stories—“Burnt Tongues” being a phrase Palahniuk has used to describe the deliberate misuse of words in awkward, interesting ways to jumpstart the reader into seeing them anew.
Within the covers of this wonderfully disturbing, squirm-inducing collection, you’ll find all the mortifying, self-inflicted scars you go through great pains to hide from even our closest intimates; the highway blood-smears you can’t help rubberneck; the snarling undulations behind doors left ajar, just enough for your curious but tentative eye to squeeze through.
Burnt Tongues wastes no time kicking you into the deep end, opening with Neil Krolicki’s Live This Down. Three teenaged girls, having endured torment and embarrassment of the worst kind in school—including an especially pulpous miscarriage in a hot-tub full of students—form a suicide pact and find a drug cocktail recipe online to do the trick. Soon after taking the concoction, they learn that it can be harder to leave the world as it is to live in it, and suffer the final ironic consequence of failing even at death.
In Paper, by Gayle Towell, an actuarial research analyst employs toilet paper as a means to explore her own self-worth between comparing the sexual nuances of her new lover against her ex-husband.
Love advice is sought and given in Phil Jourdan’s Mind and Soldier. After a young man solicits his neighbor—a wheelchair-bound war veteran—for pointers on approaching a crush, he’s promptly given an honest crash-course in all manner of monstrous self-loathing and masculine inadequacy.
A mute building inspector in Detroit finds an overdosed, limbless junkie in a condemned building, and takes her on an unorthodox ride with him in Adam Skorupskas’s Invisible Graffiti, a modern fairytale about the brain’s ability to create normality out of the most unorthodox situations.
And in the anthology’s final story, positioned ideally to administer the coup de grace to whatever remains of your sensibilities, Daniel W. Broallt pulls all the stops with Zombie Whorehouse, a tale of an undercover journalist investigating a secret brothel where the objects of lust are the titular undead. It’s the ultimate exploration of sexual limits and the shapes they can take; the realization that you’re only made aware of your most warped proclivities only after they’ve been thrust upon you.
In the remainder of this compendium of deliciously vile behaviors and actions, you’ll find lonely criminals, violent youth, abused animals, bulimic prostitutes, the wretched and disfigured taking desperate—and in some case, final—aim at normalcy and acceptance. Sometimes you’ll want to avert your eyes or silently close the book, never to touch it again, but stay with it. There’s real soul and humanity lurking under all the fluids and scars, and you’ll emerge all the better for tackling it head on, albeit in want of a shower or two afterwards.
Tales of teen suicides in fancy hotel suites, voyeuristic videos passed around the school, kids who really torture animals, bored employees in corporate cubicles, body torture to pass the time by retail clerks, a love affair with a girl named Melody, undercover reporters with few places to hide their recorders, being mistaken for someone famous, a high-heeled lady who just appears in an alley, a vodka kind of girl, a beauty queen and her new diet, girls without arms, abandoned homes in Detroit, special needs students, and more.