Poppy Z. Brite's writing style is best described as 'visceral'. She is never one to skimp on the grisly details, creating some amazingly-textured descriptions. Many writers create images that you can see; Ms. Brite's can be smelled, tasted and felt.

Having read her novels and short stories, her writing seems to centre around death, the undead, sex, drugs, New Orleans, goths and homosexuality. She should probably be avoided if you're squeamish about any of the above. If you like them, however, and wouldn't say no to a bunch of music references while you're at it, Ms. Brite is probably the writer for you.

Regarding claims of gothness, in an interview with Bizarre magazine she makes the distinction between visigoths who are active and visible on the scene, and ostragoths who sit in their bedrooms all day. She claims to be in the latter category.*

She was born in 1967 in New Orleans, and (as of 2000) lives there with her partner Chris, three dogs, 19 cats and a king snake. In between writing, she has worked as a "candymaker, mouse caretaker, artist's model, short order cook, and stripper".**

Here follows what is hopefully a complete list of her books:

Exquisite Corpse is probably her most disturbing book, containing as it does two necrophiliac, gay serial killers, lots of murder, lots of sex, one suicide, some implied incest, heroin and some cannibalism. It's heavily influenced by Jeffrey Dahmer. Drawing Blood is probably her best book, being somehow more subtle than the others. It was her second novel, and is probably a good one to start with. It's a long time since I read Lost Souls, but that was the first one I read and it captivated me, so that would probably be a good first one, too.


* http://www.bizarremag.com/lives/brite.php Thanks very much to graymalkn for pointing out that I'd originally got these two mixed up, and for providing the reference.

**Biographical information from http://www.poppyzbrite.com/bio.html, last accessed 30/09/2003.

Dining well is an absolutely essential part of most New Orleanians' lives, but one of the things I hoped to do in Liquor was show that we're about more than gumbo, crawfish, and po-boys. Poppy Z. Brite

Love of New Orleans, food and writing define Poppy Z. Brite and her recent resurfacing as a writer of "foodie lit." Brite's fluid style, interesting characters and interesting plots keep her fans begging for more.

Biography

Poppy Z. Brite was born on May 25, 1967 in New Orleans and named Melissa Ann Brite. When she was six, her parents divorced and she moved to Chapel Hill, North Carolina with her mother. At the age of twelve, she began to take writing seriously and started submitting short stories to various markets. At the age of eighteen, she sold Optional Music for Voice and Piano to a small horror market.

In 1989, Brite met her husband, Christopher DeBarr, a chef. They returned to New Orleans where DeBarr found work in the diverse cuisine culture of the city and Brite continued her writing.

As a New Orleans resident, Brite faced the horror of Hurricane Katrina. She tried to stay in her home despite the evacuation, but in the end left for the safety of her mother's house in Mississippi. The hurricane destroyed her house, but she has returned to the city where she is living in an apartment with her many cats and Chris. Her blog, Dispatches from Tanganyika, is updated frequently and discusses her life in New Orleans, food and her fiction.

Writing

Brite's early work established her as a horror writer. Her goth characters, sensual plots and depictions of sexual interaction between men earned her a loyal fan base. She received a three book contract following the sale of her first novel, Lost Souls. Her next two novels continued to draw readers. Exquisite Corpse, arguably her most controversial novel, was rejected by her editor due to its frank discussion of cannibalism and necrophilia. It was eventually published by Simon and Schuster.

2004 marked the release of Poppy Z. Brite's novel, Liquor. The novel took her fans in a new direction, leaving behind the horror novels of her past and focusing on her passion for New Orleans cuisine. The Liquor series, described as mainstream and foodie lit by her readers, features an "old married couple," G-man and Rickey, who open a new restaurant in the volitile dining market in the city. To stand out from the myriad of other establishments in New Orleans, the couple incorporates a menu consisting solely of recipes that use alcohol. Brite continues the story of Liquor in her next book, Prime and her newest release, Soul Kitchen. Works in progress include a novel set just before Hurricane Katrina's destruction of the city and a novel dealing with the aftermath of the disaster. The Liquor series demonstrates her growth as a person and as a writer.

Why write gay characters?

In the Questions and Answers section of her website, Brite answers the question, "Why do you write about gay characters?" with a question of her own: "Why doesn't anyone ever ask heterosexual writers why they write about straight characters?"

Unlike women who write slash fiction, Brite's motives stem from her gender dysphoria. In her essay, Enough Rope, she discusses her identification as a gay male. She is not seeking gender reassignment surgery. Instead, she has developed a level of comfort in her own body and has posed for various erotic magazines and worked as a stripper when she lived in North Carolina. She does not insist on being referred to with male pronouns and continues to dress in a feminine manner.

In short, Brite writes gay characters because that's what she relates to as a person. Fiction usually requires forging a bond between the reader and the character. If a writer cannot feel this bond herself, how can she expect a reader to do the same? Instead of fighting her identification as a gay man, she uses it to create memorable characters. Unlike her earlier works, which portrayed gay sexuality in a glamorized manner similar to that portrayed by slash fiction writers, her more recent works portray the life of gay men in committed relationships with a realistic understatement.


Bibliography

Novels

Lost Souls (1992)

Drawing Blood (1993)

Exquisite Corpse (1996)

The Lazarus Heart (1998)

The Seed of Lost Souls (novella) (1999)

Plastic Jesus (novella) (2000)

The Value of X (2002)

The Feast of St. Rosalie (2003)

Liquor (2004)

Prime (2005)

Soul Kitchen (2006)

Short stories and collections

Swamp Foetus AKA Wormwood (1993)

His Mouth Will Taste of Wormwood (1995)

Are You Loathsome Tonight (1998)

Stay Awake (2000)

Pansu (2001)

Wrong Things (with Caitlin R. Kiernan) (2001)

Con Party at Hotel California (story fragments) (2002)

The Devil You Know (2003)

Used Stories (2004)

Essays and Non-Fiction

Courtney Love: The Real Story (1997)

R.I.P. (1998)

Would You? (2000)

Guilty but Insane (essay collection)(2001)


Resources
Brite, Poppy Z. (2006) Bibliography, Retrieved September 18, 2006 from the World Wide Web: http://www.poppyzbrite.com/biblio-written.html
Brite, Poppy Z. (2005-2006) Dispatches from Tanganyika, Retrieved September 18, 2006 from the World Wide Web: http://docbrite.livejournal.com
Brite, Poppy Z. (1998) Enough Rope, Retrieved September 19, 2006 from the World Wide Web: http://www.poppyzbrite.com/rope.html
Wikipedia, (2006) Hurricane Katrina, Retrieved Septermber 18, 2006 from the World Wide Web: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hurricane_Katrina
Wikipedia, (2006) Poppy Z. Brite, Retrieved September 19, 2006 from the World Wide Web: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Poppy_Z._Brite

An update:

Poppy Brite was greatly affected by the destruction of New Orleans via Hurricane Katrina. Initially intending on weathering out the storm, she and her husband (the chef of Delachaise, Chris DeBarr, and an inspiration for her later food-related work) heeded the desperate pleas of friends and family and fled just before Katrina made landfall.

Returning to New Orleans to find her home flooded and several of her pets (those she could not retrieve and take with her in time) no longer among the living, combined with a return of her physical ailments (after an earlier fall from a considerable distance, she has suffered from back pain and sciatica requiring pain medication) have combined to have a considerable and profound effect on her.

The characters and stories she was continuing with were rejected by her publishers, and was instead placed under some degree of pressure to write "the Katrina novel". However, this turned out to be a rather callous request considering that it cost her her home, several of her friends and pets, and devastated a city so near and dear to her. In addition, she considers herself more of a conduit for characters who speak through her than as someone who can write on demand, and as such would not consider such an undertaking even if she was of a mercenary mind to do so. As of the date of this node she has been unable to write, and has instead turned to book doctoring.

And yet, the ever charitable Brite, in addition to being a vocal supporter of her new neighbours (she moved to a poorer section of the city) and a very vocal critic of the handling of Katrina, has further developed a charitable side, eventually converting to a schismatic form of Roman Catholicism and embarking on a crusade to save several churches slated for deconsecration and sale. The people, the traditions and the lifestyle of New Orleans are very near and dear to her, and she is a proud supporter and veritable treasure trove of information about same. (She bristles at suggestions that she is following in the footsteps of Christian convert Anne Rice, as her newfound faith has stemmed from great adversity, self discovery, soul searching, and a genuine love of her community.)

She is also an avid birder, complete with binoculars and field guides, regaling visitors to her site with details of birds in the area and her birdwatching trips to various Louisiana locations.

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