Friday, July 6, 2007
Penguin brought out a series of little books in the early 90s; they were a set of 60 small books in celebration of Penguin's
60th anniversary. In Britain they were priced at 60p. They where about eight inches high and covered all manner of authors from William Blake , F Scott Fitzgerald, to Hemmingway and Pinter. I started to collect handfuls of them, reading them with gusto when journeying to and from the city where I worked. For 60p they where a steal and a great introduction to many different genres. They also introduced 60 for the american market also, so I tried to collect as many different titles as I could. One I particularly warmed to was a little novella titled ‘ His mouth will taste of wormwood and other stories’ by Poppy Z Brite. They where simply 4 little horror stories that where, for want of a better word ,’enchanting’ in a dark way. So I searched for more of her works and the first actual book I bought of hers was the collection entitled Swamp Foetus.(Ive recently learned that the title of the book was changed due to the fact the publishing house was getting so many complaints of the word foetus, they re-published the book under the new title of ‘wormwood‘) it had the four original stories that I had previously read in it . My favorite two though which stand out in my mind where ’his mouth will taste like wormwood, firstly because it had a vampire and voodoo theme to it and Poppy Z. Brite’s writing style was elegant , fluid ,grim and manages with a few words to conjure up decadence, decay and forbidden empty pleasures in a steamy New Orleans setting. She masters her style to write some truly horrific scenes with a few simple words especially with her descriptions of Howard and Louis’s grave robbing activities in Wormwood. The second tale that I loved was the Sixth Sentinal - basically about a stripper in a bar in New Orleans who is befriended by a Ghost that haunts the bar where she works, enamoured with her , he proceeds to try and push his unrequited love to the edge resulting in a great plot twist. All of the stories in this collection are spun with a dark thread and there should be no comparisons to Anne Rice.I remember hearing that Poppy Z Brite was going to be giving a Q & A at Trinity College here in Dublin, at the time I was living in Dublin but also doing a comic strip for a ‘Goth Zine‘ in London. Stuart, the editor (who is now an editor for a very popular vamp/goth mag called ’bite this’) squeeled with delight when I mentioned this to him and told me to get down there for an exclusive interview. The woman was pixie in size and features and resembled a 12 year old with her sparse make up and short tight hair. After the Q & A I did a short interview with her and she and another author travelling with her , Caitlin Kiernan asked me to bring them / direct them out of the massive grounds of the campus and back to her hotel which wasn’t too far away really. As we walked she asked about the history surrounding the college, irish landmarks and a few recommended places that I thought she may be interested in visiting. She was warm, open and generous as most writers are I suspect. And I left with an armful of signed copies of her books , photos and an exclusive interview. Not much more I could have asked for really.
Although Poppys finest hour is the vampire novel ‘lost souls’ (which incidently I would love to see on film). When she wrote ‘Exquisite corpse’ ( a story about a correspondance between a jeffrey dahmer character and a Denis Nielson character) I feel she began to loose her way or rather in hindsight I outgrew her. There is only so much bisexual dark love I can handle (And I mean that in a non homophobic way) up until then, her books captured that strange fixation of the late 80s and early 90s with vampires, ghosts and gothic horror, mixed with the emerging internet age. It was very exciting to read her and still is up to the point of ‘drawing blood’ novel. I know this does not seem like a good review to the lady and her works, but believe me when I say they are good they are or else the would never grace the FFF slot but there is a point to where my personal tastes stop and the masse does not. Wormwood is a refreshing and elegant piece of work without being pretentious or of the romantic dark love so many goth kids go for. For me she blossomed for about 3 books, Wormwood, Drawing blood, and Lost Souls. Before I started to write this I was fired up with great admiration for these but I found it hard to praise her when I feel her new direction although sometimes repetative with the gay slant , just nosedived in quality , plot and theme. I promise to do next friday justice..