cover image Plastic Jesus

Plastic Jesus

Poppy Z. Brite. Subterranean Press, $20 (105pp) ISBN 978-1-892284-73-0

Brite trades the modern gothic gloom that has chilled most of her fiction to date (Lost Souls; Exquisite Corpse; etc.) for sunny '60s nostalgia in this warm but slight roman clef celebrating the Beatles. In her version, the fab four are the Kydds, Liverpool is Leyborough and Lennon and McCartney are, respectively, Seth Grealy and Peyton Masters, creative soulmates whose music takes the world by storm. The twist that turns this homage into one of Brite's trademark explorations of sexual identity is her depiction of Grealy and Masters's working relationship blossoming into a gay romance. The boys' love for one another is an inevitable outgrowth of the feelings they express in song--but it becomes a point of public controversy that breaks the band apart and sets up Seth for his murder by homophobic assassin Ray Brinker. Though Brite is sensitive in her portrayal of Grealy and Masters's relationship, she is almost too reverent in her fidelity to Beatlemania. The brief tale moves too rapidly and reflexively through well-known historical highlights--the band's adoption by manager Brian Epstein (incarnated here as gay record store owner Harold Loomis), their experiments in music and drugs, their vilification by the religious right--for events to have any resonance with the central love story. It ends with a wistful wish-fulfillment fantasy too improbable to support its professed moral that ""love is worth dying for."" In an afterword, Brite reveals she had originally plotted this tale as a full-length novel. Greater length might have yielded greater substance than this fannish tribute. (Sept.)