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Burnt Tongues: An Anthology of Transgressive Short Stories Paperback – 5 Sep 2014

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Product details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Titan Books (5 Sep 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 178329552X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1783295524
  • Product Dimensions: 19.8 x 2.1 x 12.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 25,715 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


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, Booklist

Anyone looking for boundary-breaking tales that also pack a haunting, powerful punch will find hours of entertainment here. --Booklist

This is a book of spores. These stories, you breathe onto the page and they float up into your mucous membranes, their spiky edges lodging characters and voices in your head that shudder to life when you least expect it. Just when you think you ve closed the book, it opens up all over again, inside you. --Stephen Graham Jones, author

"These stories run the gamut from horrific and fantastic to humorous and touching, but each leaves a lasting impression. Some may say, even a scar." ----Fantastic Fiction

"If you are looking for a jet black book that will put you off your lunch then Burnt Tongues is a great collection. Just don't say you were not told." --The Book Bag

"A collection of powerful stories that are definitely not for the faint-hearted." ----Books Monthly

Anyone looking for boundary-breaking tales that also pack a haunting, powerful punch will find hours of entertainment here. --Booklist

This is a book of spores. These stories, you breathe onto the page and they float up into your mucous membranes, their spiky edges lodging characters and voices in your head that shudder to life when you least expect it. Just when you think you ve closed the book, it opens up all over again, inside you. --Stephen Graham Jones, author

About the Author

Chuck Palahniuk's novels include the bestselling Fight Club, which was made into a film by director David Fincher.

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By stewinBristol on 16 Sep 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I bought this as I am a fan of Chuck Palahniuk. These are very well written short stories and are brilliant. Very original.
If you read Chuck then you'll like this I would think.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 29 reviews
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Her eyes were big as exit wounds and just as wet. 26 Aug 2014
By Dino Parenti - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Though earlier examples have existed, only to end up banned or destroyed, transgressive literature is often cited as germinating with the Marquis de Sade in the late 1700s, before spreading (some would say “metastasizing”) with the works of Emile Zola, Henry Miller, and William S. Burroughs, and more recently, trafficked throughout the novels of Irvine Welsh and this very anthology’s co-editor, Chuck Palahniuk.

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.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Best Anthology Of The Year 8 Aug 2014
By Dakota Taylor - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition
This review was originally published on www.litdemon.com

The first story I read in the workshop where the Burnt Tongues anthology was conceived was “Heavier Petting.” It’s featured in this collection, naturally. After reading it, my innocence was forever ruined. I caught the infectious writing bug. The one that makes you read and write sick and twisted stories like “Heavier Petting.”

The introduction by Chuck Palahniuk isn't something to skip if you don't like reading introductions. This is one of those rare cases where the introduction is as entertaining as the stories. And don't pass this book by if you aren't a fan of anthologies, short stories, transgressive fiction, or damn fine reading. This long anticipated book is the best one I've read all year.

Some of these stories echo the style and techniques present in Chuck Palahniuk's work. These stories were crafted on a Chuck Palahniuk website so this isn't a huge surprise. Even if you aren't a fan of Palahniuk's work, though, these stories stand on their own as very freaking awesome and transgressive. These guys are almost in a genre of their own due to their talent and boldness.

These stories are disturbing and addicting. They range from the subtle but baleful to gut swirling, mind raping tales of despair. So if you compare them to Bret Easton Ellis’s books, they would respectively be roughly equivalent to something between The Informers and the gruesome scenes in American Psycho.

Take for example the story "Mating Calls." The story revolves around a vet student's sexual frustrations, his disappointments, and existential crises. The story ultimately delves into the emotions and psychology of a character so human that it reads like a diary. There is no disembowelment, decapitations, or anything else so commonly associated with the genre of this book.

"Day and night, the dominate male protects his nest, and all his labor finally pays off when a female shows up to spawn. Soon as the deed is done he kicks her out and goes right back to defending his territory, all while fanning his tail to aerate the freshly fertilized eggs.
"Only one thing ever lures him away. Another hot female to spawn. The second he leaves his nest all his hard work goes down the drain when a weaker male zips in and re-fertilizes the eggs. Nature's equivalent to a drive-by shooting. They call these fish sneakers."

The writer cleverly reminds us throughout the story that we are not as evolved as we like to believe and that a hierarchy still exists, that we are animals and only the strong survive to go on to reproduce.

On the other end of the spectrum we have a less subtle story titled "Engines, O-rings, and Astronauts."

"I didn't kill Mrs. Alphabet, but I helped."

The writer of this story shows us that even our darling children aren't free from primal instincts and the dark side of human emotions and behavior. They are more susceptible to these things.

"And Freddy came to class twenty minutes late, his daddy's old shotgun swinging at his side."

Every fan of dark fiction should have this one leering from their bookshelf.

And I will leave you with a teaser for “Heavier Petting":

"When she tells it her way, with all the graphic finery and ruined upholstery and crawling and bucket of generic lube, half the room empties before the part where she straps on the spiked collar."

"The last time I heard her tell it there was this torso guy listening in--just a head and rib cage. He'll lie on the floor at goth/industrial nightclubs and pay gals to walk across his chest in stiletto heels. Pinned down, he looked up Redemption's skirt and said, 'Now that's twisted.'"

"At one party we ditched out to avoid the looks while Redemption told her tale. He told me that contrary to popular belief the human egg can actually be impregnated by canine sperm."
5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Brilliant collection of thought-provoking and unnerving stories 16 July 2014
By Wazoo - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Get this book! I'm a huge fan of short story anthologies and of Chuck Palahniuk, so when I saw this was coming I pre-ordered with high expectations. Those expectations were met and exceeded. Each author has a distinctive, strong, yet different voice. Some are definitely disturbing, but in totally different and unexpected ways. Some made me sad, some made me angry, they all made me feel something, which is how I judge whether a story is worthwhile or not. All of these stories are definitely worth checking out. The history of this book is that the stories selected were first work-shopped on chuckpalahniuk.net and the best stories were sent to Chuck Palahniuk to read and critique. I'm assuming that the finished product were those already strong stories edited with Mr. Palahniuk's suggestions. If so, Mr. Palahniuk should open a writing school and use this as his advertisement. I'm definitely going to look for more stuff by each of the authors.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
amazing! 3 Sep 2014
By Alexandra Macias - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book exceeded my expectations! There were some stories that shocked me, others that brought tears to my eyes, some that changed me, and some that I had to read twice! If you don't have a strong stomach, or a wild imagination, this book is not for you!
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Awesome 3 Sep 2014
By Lauren Sisson - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Burnt tongues was great. Every story was completely different. Not even on the same spectrum. If you're looking for some quality short stories then get this book!
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