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X by Davey Davis review: A lesson in depravity to cleanse the soul

X is a debauched odyssey that takes transgressive literature to new, gruesome places, writes Barry Pierce

Transgressive literature has been in a bit of a sorry state lately. Back in the ’90s it felt like everyone was fumbling over themselves to make books more shocking, more disturbing, to really make the reader squirm.

As a result we received some real masterpieces: Irvine Welsh’s Trainspotting, Bret Easton Ellis’s American Psycho and Dennis Cooper’s George Miles Cycle series of novels. Recently, however, tastes have changed and truly transgressive literature has been pushed to the fringes of publishing with only smaller, indie presses having the gall to publish it. And thank god they do, because then we get novels like Davey Davis’ X.

Set in a near-dystopia where ‘undesirable’ members of society are ‘exported’, our narrator Lee is a wanderer through the grungy, sex-fuelled clubland of Brooklyn. Searching for a mysterious figure known as X, who Lee believes is next to be exported, we journey through warehouses and darkrooms, alleys and dungeons, on a debauched odyssey that would have even the most hardened dominatrix clutching her pearls. 

Where Davis succeeds is in their masterful blending of noir, dystopia, and sadism, as if James M Cain met the Marquis de Sade at a very strange party. Davis employs an unabashedly queer register in their writing and they are so blissfully blasé in their narrative voice that you hope nobody glances at what you are reading on the bus. There is always a catharsis present in transgressive writing. The feeling that you are experiencing such utter degradation that it almost cleanses your soul when it is finished. X feels like a soul cleanser. You’ll put it down and feel like you can breathe more deeply than ever before.

X by Davey Davis

X by Davey Davis is out on October 27. You can buy it from The Big Issue shop on Bookshop.org, which helps to support The Big Issue and independent bookshops.

This article is taken from The Big Issue magazine, which exists to give homeless, long-term unemployed and marginalised people the opportunity to earn an income.

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