"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

Philip Quinn

Philip Quinn

DHP: What is your definition of transgressive?

PQ: That which pushes on the boundaries (sometimes awkwardly), so the first reaction to a truly transgressive work is usually shock or at the very least surprise. ‘Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.’

If I’m still in Kansas, then I’m usually bored and skipping pages or fast forwarding.

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?

PQ: My first experience of that feeling of dislocation occurred while reading Isacc Bashevis Singer. His short stories captivated me as a young reader and gave me that sensation of having stumbled into a kind of parallel universe filled with dybbuks and tayvils and other elements of Yiddish mythology. 

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.

PQ: Again it’s that sense of having one’s assumptions completely overturned and that alternative worlds exist and that it’s possible to enter them.  After seeing the movie The Stuntman I felt that even though the film had officially ended, I was still participating in it, waiting for both the actual director and the fictional director Peter O’Toole to give me my next cue.

I have had other experiences similar to that, and it’s why I often write about films in my short stories, particularly with an emphasis on the pre-digital world of movie making.

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

PQ: The writer who immediately comes to mind in terms of creating alternative worlds is Borges.

The level of detail and the precision of the writing makes it all very convincing and I’m often left with the feeling that everything is fiction, and that I’m just another piece of fiction reading fiction, and that this endlessly repeats, kind of like in an Escher drawing.

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

PQ: As I’ve mentioned above, there’s Singer and Borges, and some other writers I’d include: Franz Kafka, J.G. Ballard (his early short stories), and H.P. Lovecraft. In terms of the living, I’d have to say that I’ve found transgressive elements that I’ve really liked in the work of Ken Sparling, Tony Burgess, and Derek McCormack.

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


PQ: The first time that Mark McCawley (the capo to those of us working outside the margins) applied the adjective transgressive to my writing; I immediately and falsely assumed it had to do with my preoccupation with transsexuals, aggressive maniacs and those who fuck them. But what Mark was really telling me was that I naturally pushed on the boundaries of the traditional forms of storytelling.  That comes from the demands of the so-called narrative often trying to convey the unconveyable, so the stories vary quite dramatically in tone, in length, in paragraph structure and even in the style of the individual sentences.

I also try to use humour and satire as a way of knocking down assumptions and removing inhibitions. The cosmic distortion created if one expertly jests. That’s what I want to become better at, and explore more fully. And of course, each effort reveals a new kind of failure but in that Beckettian sense we have to at least try.

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