Swamp Foetus – Poppy Z. Brite
Penguin Books – 1995 (Originally published 1993)
I read Poppy Z. Brite’s novel, Lost Souls, a few years ago, and this, his first collection of short stories, is more of the same. I’m a straight guy in my mid 30s, and I enjoyed the Hell out of this book, but if, by chance, you’re a queer goth teenager, throw whatever the fuck you’re reading in the garbage and read this instead. This reminds me so much of people I used to hang out with when I was younger that it made me quite nostalgic.
These are mostly stories about skinny, sensitive, gay goth boys who drink too much. They encounter geeks, zombies, corpse thieves and other freaks. ‘His Mouth Will Taste of Wormwood’ might be my favourite story of the bunch, but I also really enjoyed reading about Steve and Ghost from Lost Souls in ‘How to Get ahead in New York’ and ‘Angels’. I know that Brite’s 2nd novel also features characters from that Lost Souls, and I intend to read that one soon too.
I realised about halfway through ‘Xenophobia’ that I had read it before in the second Splatterpunks anthology. I have seen Poppy Z. Brite associated with Splatterpunk but I don’t know why. His writing is too good. The last story in this collection, while plenty violent, reminded me more of Ligotti than anything else.
A few years back, I wrote a fairly critical review of a book of Vampiric black magic. Somebody, probably the author, made fun of me for it by saying I should stick to Poppy Z. Brite books. I am happy to take this very good advice. Poppy Z. Brite books are awesome.
If you want to read this collection, it might be easier to find the Dell edition titled Wormwood. It’s the same book. Be careful though, because there is also a collection by Brite titled His Mouth Will Taste of Wormwood. That one only contains 4 of these stories.
I really enjoyed Swamp Foetus. There was one story about a little kid dying that was a bit upsetting, but it ended the way I hoped it would. I am looking forward to reading more Poppy Z. Brite in the future.