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~生まれた町で夢見てきた...~
"In the city of my birth, I had a dream..."
From cannibals in love to four star chefs in love... 
28th-Jul-2005 08:30 am
Siesta
What with the recent collapse of horror as a pulp fiction genre and her obvious interest in New Orleans and the restaurant scene, I can see how Poppy Z. Brite got from the gourmet eating of human beings in Exquisite Corpse to the gourmet eating of less reprehensible food and drink in her most recent prose endeavors:

Liquor by Poppy Z. Brite
The premise of the book is quite simple: Longtime friends and lovers Rickey and G-man open a New Orleans restaurant whose menu consists entirely of selections that include alcoholic ingredients. Allies include Lenny, a big name restauarant owner, and their main enemy is Mike Moulon, a drugie whose uncle had been murdered many years before on the premises of what will eventually become our heroes' restauarant. Though I'm sure some will appreciate all of the very authentic and detailed information about restaurant life and food preparation, I was more intrigued by the way Brite was representing the relationship between Rickey and G-man. Though she had written a novel previously that explicated their relationship and early years, I had not read it, so I spent a bit of time in the beginning trying to figure out if they were "just friends" or "lovers." The latter, actually. They even act like they're married. Total fidelity, PLUS they have only ever slept with each other! *And* they go for long stretches where sleeping together means just that. >_< Err...am I convinced? Still trying to decide on that one. I'm really torn about Brite's representation because, on one hand, she never labels them as gay in any way within the context of her prose save through dialogue. And even then, obliquely. It's refreshing to read about characters whose "otherness" isn't paraded before me, as happens quite often even in so-called gay fiction. On the other hand, I was having a bit of trouble convincing myself that these two comfortably gay characters could be so divorced from the gay scene of New Orleans; it just didn't seem realistic, and that lack of realism was jarring when taken in the context of everything else in the novel, which was painstakingly real. I mean, BL or speculative fiction fantasies are one thing, but...yeah, so I'm torn. In any case, the novel is quite easy to read and quickly-finished, though I found that the book was also VERY easy to put down, which is not a good thing. Read if you like books abour restaurants, cooking, food, or New Orleans. Give it a pass if you're looking for great characters or an intriguing love story.
Comments 
28th-Jul-2005 01:09 pm (UTC)
It's refreshing to read about characters whose "otherness" isn't paraded before me, as happens quite often even in so-called gay fiction. On the other hand, I was having a bit of trouble convincing myself that these two comfortably gay characters could be so divorced from the gay scene of New Orleans

Ever get the feeling she's not writing for Gay men?

^_^
Gynocrat
28th-Jul-2005 01:17 pm (UTC)
Ever get the feeling she's not writing for Gay men?

*snorts* I'm starting to think that this might end up being a continuation of the thoughts I was having over on your LJ.

In this case, because the book is supposed to be Serious Literature(tm), and she's going for realism, I think things should be consistently realistic. So, it shouldn't matter whether or not gay men are her primary audience. I'm not a gay man, yet I was having trouble suspending my disbelief.

Still, I have to give her her props. She does not do that BL "We're not gay, we're just in love!" nor does she turn her story into a narrative of prejudice, discrimination, and intergroup relations. Their sexual orientation is just a fact that requires no more remark than the color of their eyes. And ultimately, I can't see that as anything less than a good thing.
28th-Jul-2005 01:56 pm (UTC)
I'm not sure what it is, but I just can't seem to get into Poppy Z. Brite novels. It's not something I can put my finger on, really. I've read several, starting with the older stuff like Lost Souls. They were fast reads and good for in a pinch, but I just don't LOVE them the way some people do. I thought they were just merely alright.
28th-Jul-2005 02:01 pm (UTC)
I tried reading Lost Souls a few years ago and just couldn't get into it. The first and last book of hers that wowed me in any way was Exquisite Corpse, and I think it was due to the shock value of the whole cannibals in love thing than anything else. Have you read that one?

It just so happened that I stumbled upon her newer work while browsing the bookstore a few months ago, and, as I am very interested in representations of gender and sexuality, I decided to pick Liquor and Prime up--just to see. Otherwise, Brite really isn't my all-time favorite author either.
28th-Jul-2005 02:31 pm (UTC)
I haven't read EC yet. I'll check that out.
28th-Jul-2005 02:34 pm (UTC)
Just be sure you have a high gross-out tolerance! We're talking sex *and* cannibalism, here...
28th-Jul-2005 05:03 pm (UTC)
chuu! something else for my summer reading list...maybe i should give this book to my uncle michael...

domestic bliss...monogamy...long periods of time with no sex...i think they're lesbians.

*falls over* no, that was bad of me, sorry!
28th-Jul-2005 05:22 pm (UTC)
I'm curious. Are you saying that being gay= very sexually active, and lesbian as some alternative form of heterosexual marriage?^_^
28th-Jul-2005 06:01 pm (UTC)
yes. and i should have known better. *extends wrist for smacking*
28th-Jul-2005 06:56 pm (UTC)
something else for my summer reading list...maybe i should give this book to my uncle michael...

The author has a whole franchise going. There's a sequel of sorts with the same characters, also about restaurants, called Prime, and she's planning on writing a third.

domestic bliss...monogamy...long periods of time with no sex...i think they're lesbians.

*sighs* Someone had to say it; yes, it would have been more convincing if the two characters were women in their relationship. ^_^
28th-Jul-2005 07:42 pm (UTC)
i know. i know. i can't believe i allowed myself to say it. *hides*
28th-Jul-2005 07:44 pm (UTC)
Don't worry. ^_~ I had been thinking exactly what you said while reading the novel and was going to put in the entry...except I forgot. >_< So thank you for reminding me. XD
28th-Jul-2005 05:25 pm (UTC)
I hope that character isn't named G-man. It's too funny^_^
28th-Jul-2005 06:53 pm (UTC)
You mean his real name? His real name is Gary Stubbs; nickname is G-man.
29th-Jul-2005 01:28 pm (UTC)
Actually, Brite is one of my fav authors. Probably in part because I actually know her, and she is from New Orleans. These are my two favorite characters of hers because of their backgrounds (very poor white boys, raised in a predominately black background in one of the poorest, if not the poorest area of the city. The school that they went to is one of the worst in the city, and still they manage to do well enough for themselves that they got through their classes and manage to find something that they love and enjoy -- far too many people in New Orleans are stuck in low paying jobs because they quite simply don't have the education or the opportunity for experience that is available in most other major cities)

**I was having a bit of trouble convincing myself that these two comfortably gay characters could be so divorced from the gay scene of New Orleans; it just didn't seem realistic, and that lack of realism was jarring when taken in the context of everything else in the novel, which was painstakingly real**

And the gay scene in New Orleans? Not so much of a gay scene, actually. And have you ever known any professional, full time chefs? They don't really have much down time, and certainly not for Bourbon Street clubs. For these two characters, since they own the restaurant, they spend basically every day working. And by every day, I mean something like noon till midnight, at the very earliest. New Orleans is very picky about its food, and so that is basically the norm for a New Orleanian chef.

I can understand why you didn't really enjoy it, though. It takes, I think, an interest in or previous knowledge of New Orleanian culture that most people don't have or want.
29th-Jul-2005 01:42 pm (UTC)
I have no complaints whatsoever about the realism of the novel--save the way the relationship between the two guys is depicted. It just doesn't strike me as realistic, even insofar as there have been a number of other examples of gay fiction set in New Orleans (of varying literary quality) that *do* depict a specific subculture, however limited. They're young, handsome, and have sexual experience only with each other? And now they're virtually married, and they go pretty long periods without sex? I was having trouble suspending my disbelief; you just don't find relationships like that in gay fiction written by gay men.

The lack of apparent realism in the context of their relationship was especially jarring because, as you note, Brite was *definitely* going for realistic touches in her writing.

And have you ever known any professional, full time chefs? They don't really have much down time, and certainly not for Bourbon Street clubs.

*laughs* But they haven't been chefs from the cradle! Seems that the boys were pretty adventurous in their youth; it just doesn't make sense to me that they didn't experiment more sexually. I mean, granted, anything's possible--but it's almost like they have the brains of women this way with their unquestioned fidelity.

Of course, I don't know if Brite did a better job describing their youth. Have you read The Value of X? If so, how was it?
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