Liquor – What Andy thought after he sobered up… Oh, sorry, that never actually happens

October 8, 2009

I’m on holidays this week and there have been a couple of mornings when I toyed with blogging about last month’s book. But then I thought, well, a book called Liquor, you can’t really blog about a book called Liquor when you’re sober, can you? No. No, you can’t.

So I’m not.

If you’ve read the book it gets better than that. Because I’m blogging half pissed after a contre temps in the kitchen over my dinner. Tandoori-marinated chicken breasts over (dodgy microwaved) rice with a chickpea curry on the side. My boyfriend was upstairs doing battle with a sudden plague of ants I hadn’t noticed cos my eyes are fucked when he suddenly sniffed the air and said, You have to rescue those, in reference to the chicken breasts which were perhaps slightly more blackened than I’d hoped. And then I cracked the shits, but don’t worry about that right now. Dinner was fine.

Although not perhaps as fine as you’d encounter in a New Orleans eatery called Liquor.

Poppy Z. Brite is not the most magnificent writer I will ever encounter. She’s not, quite frankly, even remotely the best writer Netty and I have read this year. Liquor is not even close to being a great novel. It’s well, if not brilliantly, written. But bloody hell it’s enjoyable. And after a steaming pile of smarmy shite like the black swan enjoyable was welcome. By christ it was.

There is I think one glaringly obvious fault with this novel. There are one or two others and if I stay sober enough I’ll mention them but what is most strikingly at fault about Liquor is the lack of plot. Or maybe the lack of plot complexity, or the lack of plot drive, or… Look, a bunch of stuff happens in this book but “plot” is clearly not the main thing on Poppy’s mind. And maybe that’s a good thing. Maybe while she wrote it she was as booze-addled as her homo protagonists. Maybe in eschewing plot she was looking at emulating eighteen months or so in New Orleans. And maybe she achieved it. Fuck, I’ve been wanting to visit that city for a couple of decades. Hurricane Katrina put me off but this novel (published, I think, less than 12 months before the disaster and featuring a couple of main characters whose home neighbourhood no longer exists) has convinced me that the city must be visited. New Orleans is not an option, it’s a core subject.

My other slight problem with Poppy and it may be related to her plot issues is that she spends a little too much time telling us stuff we don’t necessarily need to know. Or maybe stuff we need to know but which could be revealed less obviously. She expounds a bit too much, methinks. Paring back exposition, showing rather than telling… Don’t sneer. It’s advice I got at a writer’s workshop I attended recently and yes, it’s good advice. Even if I’m offering it to some chick who will always be infinitely more successful in this fucking publishing world than I’ll be. Yes. It’s still good advice.

But look. This is not a book to respond to with grindingly intellectual viguour (although according to some I’m not actually capable of that). Liquor is a book to enjoy, to savour – although not, perhaps, like a damn fine glass of absinthe (which I tried for the first time on Monday night). Savour it like a glass of good ouzo over ice with a nice splash of iced water maybe. There’s so much I like about this book. A couple of atypical poofs (and except for the fact that they like drugs and they like booze and they like cooking and they like cock, hey look, they’re completely atypical). A lot of booze. A lot of food. And New Orleans, without question the city that most totally demands to be visited on the face of the entire planet. And here’s me, a dedicated fan of archeology, discounting Cairo and Angkor Wat and Mexico and… um… all those other cities that have old shit. New Orleans. Woof.

I won’t necessarily re-read Liquor but I would like to read Poppy’s other books about Rickey and G-Man. And maybe some of her horror. Although Exquisite Corpse, which is apparently a quite graphic depiction of a couple of cannibalistic pedophiles… I might give that a miss. Look, I’ve got a baby due in a fortnight…

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