Blue Streaks: 10 Writers of Profane Prose

By now, you’ve probably heard about Nicholson Baker’s controversial new novel, House of Holes, which is an incredibly dirty, madcap adventure which details the lives of sexual deviants. (If not, find a brief excerpt here.) As you might imagine, the language that Baker uses is pretty colorful — but it’s certainly nothing groundbreaking. To prove our point, we decided to round up a few authors who broke boundaries when swearing wasn’t as common as it is today. So read on, dear readers, and tell us what “vulgar” reads we missed.

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain (1885)

This novel has recently been the subject of much controversy in schools because of the use of the “n-word.” As Publishers Weekly reports, “for decades, [Huckleberry Finn] has been disappearing from grade school curricula across the country, relegated to optional reading lists, or banned outright, appearing again and again on lists of the nation’s most challenged books, and all for its repeated use of a single, singularly offensive word.” An alternate, edited edition by NewSouth Books, replaced “nigger” with “slave” and was published this past February. We wrote about this controversy in our redacted texts post this past May.