Books

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

Nightclub

Photo: Colin Lloyd / Unsplash

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.

To support our work buy a copy! If you cannot reach your local vendor, you can still click HERE to subscribe to The Big Issue today or give a gift subscription to a friend or family member. You can also purchase one-off issues from The Big Issue Shop or The Big Issue app, available now from the App Store or Google Play.

Support the Big Issue

For over 30 years, the Big Issue has been committed to ending poverty in the UK. In 2024, our work is needed more than ever. Find out how you can support the Big Issue today.
Vendor martin Hawes

Recommended for you

View all
Top 5 books about the British seaside, chosen by crime writer William Shaw
Books

Top 5 books about the British seaside, chosen by crime writer William Shaw

The Other Valley by Scott Alexander Howard review – the moral conundrums of coming of age
Books

The Other Valley by Scott Alexander Howard review – the moral conundrums of coming of age

From castle walls to Banksy: How graffiti has given us the writing on the wall throughout history
Graffiti

From castle walls to Banksy: How graffiti has given us the writing on the wall throughout history

Fragile Animals by Genevieve Jagger review – a captivating and original gothic novel
Books

Fragile Animals by Genevieve Jagger review – a captivating and original gothic novel

Most Popular

Read All
Renters pay their landlords' buy-to-let mortgages, so they should get a share of the profits
Renters: A mortgage lender's window advertising buy-to-let products
1.

Renters pay their landlords' buy-to-let mortgages, so they should get a share of the profits

Exclusive: Disabled people are 'set up to fail' by the DWP in target-driven disability benefits system, whistleblowers reveal
Pound coins on a piece of paper with disability living allowancve
2.

Exclusive: Disabled people are 'set up to fail' by the DWP in target-driven disability benefits system, whistleblowers reveal

Cost of living payment 2024: Where to get help now the scheme is over
next dwp cost of living payment 2023
3.

Cost of living payment 2024: Where to get help now the scheme is over

Strike dates 2023: From train drivers to NHS doctors, here are the dates to know
4.

Strike dates 2023: From train drivers to NHS doctors, here are the dates to know