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.
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.
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.
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)
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)
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)
Would You? (2000)
Guilty but Insane (essay collection)(2001)
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