Are You Loathsome Tonight?
Poppy Z. Brite, Popy Z. Brite. Gauntlet Press, $50 (193pp) ISBN 978-1-887368-16-2
Like the aging Elvis who succumbs to self-destructive indulgences in the title tale, the 12 stories in this collection of transgressive fictions are adrift in a sea of excess. Cannibal zombies, sentient maggots and professional sexual submissives are just a few of the characters at large in the landscapes of death and desire that Brite maps out. In ""Entertaining Mr. Orton,"" a pair of gay lovers rent the apartment where playwright Joe Orton was murdered and fall victim to its legacy of lust and violence. In ""Mussolini and the Axeman's Jazz,"" a series of ax slayings that terrorized New Orleans in 1918 are explained as the result of supernatural war between two feuding spirits. ""Monday's Special"" and ""Are You Loathsome Tonight?"" both conclude with clinical descriptions of autopsies. Brite's prose and eye for (often gruesome) detail have become more assured since the publication of her previous collection, Swamp Foetus (1993), but her plots have grown comparatively slighter. Too much of the book is filled with vignettes meant to accompany artwork (""In Vermis Veritas""), contributions to very specialized theme anthologies (""Self-Made Man"") or outtakes from her own novels that suffer from the loss of context. Available as a signed edition, the book is for hardcore Brite fans only. British paperback rights to Orion. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 09/28/1998