"In these tight, sexy fictions that make up One Dead Tree, David Menear’s stories and characters uncover hitherto unexplored aspects of the Canadian urban experience." Mark McCawley, Urban Graffiti

Liz Worth

Liz Worth

DHP: What is your definition of transgressive?


LW: Something that has the capacity to disrupt, disturb. Something that makes the audience uncomfortable, or that unsettles them just as they start to trust what they're consuming.


DHP:  What was the first text you read that made you question accepted societal tenets or values or the way in which the world works?


LW: Wow, this is a great question. You know, I read a lot of great books growing up - I still read a lot of great books - but I think the first book I read that really made me question the world on those terms was the Satanic Bible. Anton LaVey's brand of Satanism isn't something I've gone on to identify with, but as a teenager being exposed to LaVey's work for the first time, it raised a lot of very interesting points for me at the time, as I'm sure it has and continues to do for kids the world over.


DHP: Give an example of a transgressive work & explain why you felt it was transgressive? The work could be literature, film, visual art, theatre, graphic novels or something else.


LW: There were two novels that I read when I was in my teens that made me go, "wow - this is really fucking weird," and those novels were 'A Clockwork Orange' and 'Obsessions' by Toronto's Daniel Jones. The way they used language, their surrealism, their grit - it could inspire a physical reaction as much as a mental one. They were books that I thought about for a long time after reading them and books that at first I wasn't even sure I could say I actually enjoyed because they twisted my head so much, but in the end I realized I loved them. Through those books I started to realize that literature could be something more than a story, that it could be an experiment and a challenge for both the author and the reader.


DHP:  Name a historical transgressive role model & tell us a bit about this person.


LW: Lydia Lunch's 'Paradoxia' is another novel that had a huge influence on me when I was younger. A lot of people associate her with New York's no-wave scene but my first introduction to her was actually through her writing. 'Paradoxia' is another novel I think about a lot, even though it's probably been close to 15 years since I read it. I picked it up in a bookstore because I recognized her name and was shopping for a new book to read, and from there I wanted to know more about her. I discovered her poetry and her spoken word recordings and fell in love with the way she spits out words, either into a microphone or on the page.

 

She's a woman who makes ugly music and guttural literature. It's still very subversive for women to make anything that is as ugly or raw but Lydia Lunch has definitely broken a lot of ground in that way, and her career has been so varied. She's really mastered the ability to bend genres and mix media while maintaining her voice and style and opinions no matter what it is she's doing.


 

DHP: List a few transgressive fictional works from your personal library.


LW: Okay, so we've already covered 'Obsessions', 'A Clockwork Orange', and 'Paradoxia' so let me see what else is kicking around to give some examples:


'Whore' by Nelly Arcan

'Four Texts' by Antonin Artaud

'Last Exit to Brooklyn' by Hubert Selby Jr.

'Jesus Saves' by Darcey Steinke

everything by Kathy Acker.


DHP: In what ways are you trying to create or publish work that is transgressive according to your definition?


LW: I do try to push my own boundaries and challenge myself with my writing, which I feel I've been struggling with a bit lately because I've been writing long enough now to start to notice the mannerisms I've slipped into - certain words I tend to choose more often than others, phrasing and rhythm I tend to rely on. I guess part of that goes with developing a style but at the same time I like unpredictability and I like to see what I can do that I haven't done before. So I guess that's something I'm currently working towards - breaking my patterns early before they become habits.


Continuing to explore surreal, dream-like elements is also important to me. I feel that those are deep areas to work within that can create some startling scenes and storylines.


One way I measure whether I'm on track with a project is whether I feel uncomfortable as I'm writing something. If I'm writing something unsettling and I am able to scare myself in the process, then that's a happy moment for me.

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