"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

Tom Walmsley

Tom Walmsley

DHP: What is your definition of transgressive?


TW: I don't have a radical definition of the word. Crossing the boundaries of acceptable norms, whether in life choices or artistic objectives, blah, blah. My problem with the word started when it was employed a couple of decades ago when examining the 'transgressive' elements in popular TV shows such as I Love Lucy.


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?


TW: The last section of Ulysses, when Molly Bloom is thinking about her husband licking her ass and how she feels like shouting "Lick my shit!" or (to paraphrase) "any mad thing". That was a shocking and thrilling idea to me. I thought sex had been thoroughly covered by Henry Miller.


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.


TW: The first book that opened up the world for me was Naked Lunch. It transgressed the rules of narrative and none of it was an academic exercise. I'd never read about drug addiction except as a predictable, cautionary tale and the idea that the society itself was a system of addictions and control was a new and exciting idea. Burroughs wrote " Cut in anywhere . . ." and you *could*. The Ticket That Exploded made Naked Lunch seem almost mainstream by comparison and it took the whole notion of a novel to dizzying heights. His work in cut-ups astounded me then and now and I've had to fight mimicking his style since the day I discovered his work. Burroughs is the perfect example to me because he was transgressive in both form and content.


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


TW: I don't work from role models, but I would put forth Muhammad Ali. He broke the established rules of boxing, which is why so many 'experts' derided him in his early career. He held his hands at waist-height, pulled back from punches instead of ducking or blocking them and he led with his right, which is common today but verboten back when. That was his fighting style. When he took his stand against the war and lost his title and the ability to make a living, he exposed the hypocrisy of the entire system. And he became the most famous man on earth. How many non-sports fans know who the Heavyweight Champion is today?


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


TW: Why don't I list what I think of as my own transgressive work instead? Too immodest? Honeymoon in Berlin is the pick of my own work. While I was waiting for a liver transplant and there was serious doubt I'd get one, I made a link between death and eating shit. I didn't even make the link, really. It fell out of the sky. I don't know if it is genuinely transgressive or not but it crossed my own personal boundaries about what to share and what to keep to myself. And I've been honestly shocked ever since by the reaction of fellow writers who have a sense of decorum I thought we'd all outgrown.


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


TW: I think that emotional and sexual honesty (if a distinction can be made) is a transgressive as I can get. I don't have a deep political philosophy and religion has been hammered into a meaningless lump. I'll amend that: writing about belief in God can either be an anti-intellectual, conservative exercise in nostalgia or it can be a fuck you to myopic intellectuals. I am not a conservative.


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