I sailed right through Poppy Z. Brite’s new book Liquor. My early prediction was true – I do like this the best of any of her books that I’ve read. I’ve read most of her novels and much of her short fiction (and even the Courtney Love biography), so I have a lot of data points here. Liquor is an absolute treat. It is imbued with her love of New Orleans, of its food, and of the young people (mostly men) who spend most of their lives working hard in kitchens to prepare that food, partying hard to forget their days and wind up used up and old before their time.
She’s undergone a stylistic shift in the way she writes from her early fiction, not just in the subject matter. In the days of Lost Souls and Drawing Blood her prose was very florid and circuitous. Even though it was frequently brilliant and beautiful, it was at a remove, the kind of thing you appreciate with your intellect. Liquor is more visceral, a book you appreciate with your gut. The language is simple and direct (except with respect to the food and the sometimes complicated restaurant terminology), and the dialog is much more like what I can imagine overhearing real yats say to each other on Magazine Street. Almost immediately, I got sucked into this story, the setting, the characters and the food. The books is almost plotless other than “two guys start a restaurant with a wealthy chef backing them”, and really if the plot elements that exist were excised, it would be just as good a book. The only conflict that mattered to me was “will these guys fuck up before they can open this place?” I enjoyed watching Rickey and G-Man transform from slacker potheads into grown up businessmen. That was enough drama for me. Really, I’d be happy reading another book of just their adventures running it.
I don’t exactly share her love of New Orleans (I interviewed for a job there and got offered it, and finally decided to myself “I just can’t live in this shit hole every day”) but I have spent a fair amount of time there and appreciate the place. There can be something magical about walking through the streets in the middle of a summer day when the tourists are elsewhere and eating somewhere just because you like the whiff of the kitchen from a block away. She really tapped into that feeling and distilled it into a novel. I know she’s worried that all her previous fans of her horror writing will hate this book. I think that whether or not they do, this book should have much wider appeal well out in the mainstream. She’s doing the right thing, doing extra work to get it into the hands of the food press. I guarantee that all of them will love it. This is a book that is so full of food and the love of food that it leaves olive oil stains on your bookshelf. I suspect that as popular as her other work has been in the genre, the audience for this book is much larger and I really hope it sells well.
I cannot possibly recommend it more highly. I like it nearly as much as the Contortionist’s Handbook and the regular readers of this blog know how nuts I went for that. Read this book. I’ll make the offer I do for things I really and truly love – Dave’s money back guarantee. If you buy the book and don’t like it, send it to me and I’ll buy the book from you. Read it, and keep some munchies handy because it will make you hungry and it will make you head to the kitchen to cook something yourself.