"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

Sylvie Hill

Sylvie Hill

DHP: What is your definition of transgressive?


SH“Transgressive” is shooting an old man dead for attempting to have sex with a nympho.


Transgressive expression is often considered defiant or “fucked up,” but I prefer the more charitable and richer definition; it is what is true and beyond. Going to the dark side for instruction. Like good ol’ Hunter S Thompson. Or my tattoo by artist Sergius Hruby called ‘Instruction’ featuring a woman dancing with a devilish satyr. A transgressive art form (literature, film, etc.) extends what we know into a deeper truth by going beyond a normal pattern, or predictable treatment of the subject. Take the “subject” of female desire in the film, “Nymphomaniac” by Director Lars von Trier. Charlotte Gainsbourg tells her sexual tales to a helpful old man, only to kill him when he pumps his cock toward her as she’s sleeping. “But you’ve fucked thousands of men,” he says. Bang, bang. The transgressive film reinforces the autonomy, freedom and ethics of a female nymphomaniac in a very just way that saves her from a body crime.


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?


SH: Island by Aldous Huxley


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.


SH: James Joyce’s Ulysses is a transgressive work for its substance and style. Ulysses, published by Sylvia Beach in Paris (1922), was banned for years because it was considered obscene. In his text, Joyce included scenes of a man wiping his arse with newspaper after taking a well-described dump and masturbating to a lame girl on a beach; characters indulging in sado-masochism and drunken debauchery fucked off their tree on absinthe; and a woman speaking of her period and thinking of fucking her lover in very plain-language. The story was set to the Homeric structure of the epic Odyssey. Joyce’s modernist “avant-garde” treatment of the everyday transgressed the Victorian styles of writing a book and spoke of things we find shocking to read about it public like sex, racism and small-mindedness.



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


SH: Serge Gainsbourg. Called a pervert, this provocateur was a genius who subverted, mashed, mixed and challenged heroically numerous musical styles and social norms with his writing and film-videos throughout his long career – exquisitely. Like many transgressive authors, a lot of his music was considered obscene and banned. He playfully told Whitney Houston in public with a studio audience that he wanted to fuck her while seemingly contradictorily calling hardcore porn French actress and singer Catherine Ringer a slut. On the surface, a man of shock and awe, but in deep, Gainsbourg was a tender and shy soul and outcast Jew branded with a yellow star and a big ugly set of protruding ears and nose. The guy cultivated an image that the dumb(m)asses reacted to, a mask behind which he could cleverly hide and later, the Gainsbarre persona through which he defied more than social and artistic expectations but his own health limitations!


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


SH: Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov

The Awakening, Kate Chopin

Unbearable Lightness of Being, Milan Kundera

Notes from the Underground, Dostoyevsky

Must-find: Evguenie Sokolov, Serge Gainsbourg


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


SH: In the words of Yoda, when it comes to my own writing, ‘there is no try, only do.’ I cannot try to create a particular kind of writing; I’m at the mercy of what comes through me. For example, my personal values are against hormonal contraception so safe lovemaking in a trusting union for me will always be vital and when that goes bust, the story of my book Russell Square Station: mine the trash (2014) emerges. I see that work as transgressive but not because I write about my London Muse coming inside me and pair these poems with x-rated, provocative art by Juan Carlos Noria (aka dixon). Another example: the observation that we must respect our elders is absolutist bullshit to me. Earn it, Grandma. When I face crotchety old bags mistaking me for a student thug, and I defend myself against this with my list of degrees, credentials, salary and home ownership, essays about the value of money, status and self-identity erupt.


If going against the grain is choosing to not fuck all men facilitated by a little pill I can pop like a Flintstones vitamin absolving men of any and all responsibility, and telling a senior to hop on a rolling donut, are “avant garde,” then I suppose I am transgressive and publish work that exposes truths and goes beyond the status quo. As a writer, I remain rebellious in my sexual respectfulness and aversion to injustices. One need not be fucked up to fuck it up. 

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