Shock and Awe

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There’s a misconception about what is truly shocking – that the shocking is the purely explicit. It seems to me that’s easy, and it’s been done in literature for centuries. What’s problematic, the real way to be shocking, is to have an unstable tone, or to use the wrong tone, the tone that’s not appropriate or that’s deemed inappropriate.

Two-time Granta best young novelist Adam Thirlwell talks to the Guardian about his third novel Lurid & Cute, confessional writing, and how to be truly shocking.


Claire Burgess’s short fiction has appeared in Third Coast, Hunger Mountain, and PANK online, among others. Her stories have received special mentions in the Pushcart Prize and Best American anthologies, but haven’t actually made it into one yet. She’s a graduate of the Vanderbilt University MFA program, where she co-founded Nashville Review. She lives in Pittsburgh by way of the deep South and says things on Twitter @Clairabou_. More from this author →