What's the dirtiest book?
May 9, 2006 12:53 PM   Subscribe

What is the most profane novel ever written? I'm talking about the absolute dirtiest work of fiction. And by "dirty" I don't really mean sexual content, like a de Sade book. I'm more interested in sheer volume of swears. Thanks!
posted by ktoad to Writing & Language (36 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Trainspotting is up there, I'd bet.
posted by docgonzo at 12:54 PM on May 9, 2006

Or his lesser-known work, Marabou Stork Nightmares, which features a nearly unreadable climax.

posted by docgonzo at 12:55 PM on May 9, 2006

Oh, and Filth lives up to its name, too.
posted by docgonzo at 12:55 PM on May 9, 2006

I don't know how it ranks in terms of language, but Philip Roth's Sabbath's Theater is pretty obscene.
posted by josh at 1:00 PM on May 9, 2006

The Fuck-Up?
posted by nitsuj at 1:01 PM on May 9, 2006

To be clear, all you are looking for is volume of swear words - not a book of profane acts? Such as Lautreamont's Maldoror , who despises God, who describes fucking a whale and murdering children? Just to be clear...
posted by vacapinta at 1:03 PM on May 9, 2006

Maldoror is one of the few books I've read that I would describe as downright evil.
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 1:25 PM on May 9, 2006

Probably not at #1, but William S. Burroughs has some pretty foul passages, children being molested and eaten by gigantic centipedes and things like that.
posted by sonofsamiam at 1:29 PM on May 9, 2006

American Psycho? As far as disgusting descriptions go, that's the only book that I've had to walk away from for a while before I could finish a chapter or two. The swear content is pretty high too, but it definitely won't be grabbing the title for the most F-bombs.
posted by educatedslacker at 1:34 PM on May 9, 2006

If you want sheer quantity of swearing, The word 'fuck' appears 672 times in this Miles Davis Autobiography.
posted by horsewithnoname at 1:37 PM on May 9, 2006

I am not sure about the dirtiest book, but Wikipedia has a list of the Dirtiest Movies (at least by their usage of the f-word)
posted by bove at 1:38 PM on May 9, 2006

For sheer volume of swears, you might consider crime fiction, hard-boiled, urban lit, that kind of thing. Many of those books are very dialogue-heavy.
posted by box at 1:39 PM on May 9, 2006

"Kinski Uncut" is pretty insane, you should check that out anyway, Klaus Kinski was one bizarre guy.
posted by vkxmai at 1:42 PM on May 9, 2006

Chuck Palahnuik, author of Fight Club among others, wrote a short story called Guts, which is... well, obscene is the word, really.

It's available online in many places, so I won't bother linking to it.
posted by unixrat at 1:46 PM on May 9, 2006

I was about to suggest the Kinski book, too! Man, even the dust jacket on the original hardcover was filthy. I remember a pull quote on the back cover having something to do with Kinski's desire for stinging fire ants to pour out of Werner Herzog's asshole. I wish I'd bought a copy before the publisher recalled it!
posted by maryh at 1:48 PM on May 9, 2006

My first reaction was to suggest James Kelman's How Late It Was, How Late, which won the Booker Prize in 1994 and caused one of the panel to resign in disgust. But I can't find reference online of how many swears it has in it, and I'm not in the mood to go through and count them all.
posted by nylon at 1:50 PM on May 9, 2006

vacapinta, that's correct! I'm interested in offensive word count rather than vulgar acts.

Great answers everybody, keep 'em coming!
posted by ktoad at 1:53 PM on May 9, 2006

If you want sheer quantity of swearing, The word 'fuck' appears 672 times in this Miles Davis Autobiography.

I'll second that. Profane, but an amazing book.

(My brother took a poetry class at UCSD a few years ago with Quincy Troupe, co-author of the Miles Davis book. When he told me that I quipped, "So, what are you learning in there... the number of ways you can rhyme the word 'motherfucker?'")
posted by the_bone at 2:06 PM on May 9, 2006

The Fermata, Nicholson Baker.* Lit-porn. Notable especially for its lengthy and inventive list of synonyms for semen.

*If "offensive" includes moral offense, such as the feelings some readers might have about a hero who can stop time and uses his talent to get his freak on in myriad ways with unsuspecting women.
posted by sacre_bleu at 2:07 PM on May 9, 2006

Something by Irvine Welsh, Alan Warner or James Kelman.
posted by fire&wings at 2:27 PM on May 9, 2006

Here is another vote for filth!!!
posted by Deep Dish at 2:38 PM on May 9, 2006

What, no Henry Miller? Try Tropic of Cancer.
posted by anotherpanacea at 3:03 PM on May 9, 2006

The Story of the Eye by Georges Bataille has lots of swear words.
posted by Aghast. at 3:22 PM on May 9, 2006

James Ellroy ("L.A. Confidential", "American Tabloid") has got to be up there somewhere. Very cynical, hard-boiled, and foul-mouthed.
posted by hwestiii at 3:23 PM on May 9, 2006

I wouldn't call Ellroy foul-mouthed in comparison to many of the works referenced here.

And Nersesian's The Fuck-Up is not profane in the slightest, that I can recall. Good book, though.
posted by dobbs at 3:27 PM on May 9, 2006

Leonard Cohen's 60s novel were particularly smutty (and particularly bad) as I recall.
posted by docgonzo at 3:41 PM on May 9, 2006

"Tropic of Cancer" by Henry Miller. I dunno if it's the absolute dirtiest, but apparently ol' Hank was paid by the "cunt".
posted by arto at 4:11 PM on May 9, 2006

Irvine Welsh's 'Filth'.

(oh, I mean "nth vote for Filth)
posted by pompomtom at 4:55 PM on May 9, 2006

Not a book, but James Joyce's love letters to Nora Barnacle are some of the most poetically dirty things I've ever read.
posted by painquale at 5:42 PM on May 9, 2006

Over the Rooftops of Paris by Henry Miller.I needed to wash my eyes after reading it and I am a construction worker !! Fascinating read though.
posted by plumberonkarst at 6:42 PM on May 9, 2006

BTW, Maldoror's love object was a shark, not a whale.
posted by Scram at 6:46 PM on May 9, 2006

Is there a novelisation of Deadwood? Because that would have to be in the running.
posted by AmbroseChapel at 7:10 PM on May 9, 2006

Rabelais' Gargantua and Pantagruel:

One of them would call it her little dille, her staff of love, her quillety, her faucetin, her dandilolly. Another, her peen, her jolly kyle, her bableret, her membretoon, her quickset imp: another again, her branch of coral, her female adamant, her placket-racket, her Cyprian sceptre, her jewel for ladies. And some of the other women would give it these names,--my bunguetee, my stopple too, my bush-rusher, my gallant wimble, my pretty borer, my coney-burrow-ferret, my little piercer, my augretine, my dangling hangers, down right to it, stiff and stout, in and to, my pusher, dresser, pouting stick, my honey pipe, my pretty pillicock, linky pinky, futilletie, my lusty andouille, and crimson chitterling, my little couille bredouille, my pretty rogue, and so forth.
posted by Falconetti at 8:12 PM on May 9, 2006

I know you are looking for breadth of foul vocabulary, but what is more profane, the word "motherfucker", or finding, to your horror, that a love scene between an academic with a smegma fetish and his homeless, incontinent young gentleman caller (culminating in them pissing all over a bookcase full of books) brought a sympathetic tear to your eye?

That would be "The Mad Man" by Samuel Delany.

It also says motherfucker a few times, if I recall.
posted by Sallyfur at 9:43 PM on May 9, 2006

Sorry, but the profanisaurus or the big book of filth has you all beat.

Not much plot in these though!
posted by lalochezia at 10:40 PM on May 9, 2006

In that case, may I draw your attention to these volumes of Maledicta?

I'm fond of Volume X.
posted by Sallyfur at 12:34 AM on May 10, 2006

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