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Exquisite Corpse, Poppy Z Brite - a review

Updated: Feb 21, 2019



This book is hardcore in terms of violence and lust. The only comparable books I have read, ones as graphic and disturbing with vivid descriptions of dismemberment, disembowelment and bodily waste would be

Frisk, by Dennis Cooper

and

In the Miso Soup, by Ryu Murakami.

Exquisite Corpse is told in first and third person. The first person narrator is Andrew Compton, a British serial killer who escapes prison by faking death. How he manages this is somewhat vague, magical and shamanistic, but we expect some suspension of disbelief in fiction, and this isn't too much of a stretch.

In this way the narrative and plot reflect each other as Exquisite Corpse is an exploration of death both of the narrator's own self and of others. Not only the violent murders that follow prolonged torture, lovingly described, but also more subtle and normal deaths. Death by disease - the AIDS epidemic has badly hit the French Quarter of New Orleans, and the deaths of relationships - familial and lovers, represented by Tran, the exquisite corpse of the title.

A lot happens in the story. Yes, it is shocking and grotesque, but it is also poignant and sad. Exquisite Corpse is by far the best book by Poppy Z Brite that I have read so far.

~o~

Gender is fascinating, isn't it. I am not one of those people who subscribe to the belief that gender is binary, and reading Poppy Z. Brite's article "Enough Rope" the ideas and emotions presented resonated with me so much I wanted to share it here -

I was interviewed as part of Gingernuts of Horror LGBTQIA+ month and asked if I believed straight folks could write gay and bi characters. My answer was that I felt they could but they would need to be even more careful to avoid two-dimensional characters and stereotypes than when they were writing straight characters.

I more or less accept that I am female, in that I feel female(ish) most of the time, whatever that means, and present as female and do not usually feel as though my body is at odds with my soul. Yet part of me is very male and I tap into this part when writing male characters more than I base my male characters on people I know or have met. This may not be of any interest, and might not belong at the end of this review, but it fascinates me, the fluidity that is possible with gender and the strange kick-back towards a safe binary that tries to limit the freedom of individuals to simply be themselves, whatever percentage male or female they feel. Anyway the article is more articulate, so if gender interests you visit Poppy Z Brite/Billy Martin's website and have a read. The link is above.

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