Exquisite Corpse

Poppy Z. Brite
Exquisite Corpse Cover

Necrophilia, Cannibalism, etc.


The author writes on her website that both her U.S. and British publisher turned down this, her third novel, due to its shocking and controversial subject matter. I can't help but think both firms also considered it something of a mess.

Brite wrote her vampire novel, Lost Souls when she was nineteen. It's gloriously overwritten and steeped in perverse atmospherics. Then came Drawing Blood, a gay romance with supernatural elements, considerable amounts of blood, and a happy ending. Here are the basic plot elements of Exquisite Corpse:

1) Andrew Compton, a convicted British necrophile, plays dead and escapes from the autopsy room, to London, to Atlanta, to New Orleans.

2) Jay Byrne is the debauched scion of an old New Orleans family. Actually, he redefines "debauched." He rapes, tortures, slowly murders, and eats bits of street boys and stows their corpses in the old slave quarters of his French Quarter mansion. )The NOPD must not have a very active Code Enforcement Department.)

3) These two meet.

4) Tran, a young, Vietnamese acid dealer is consistently drawn to the wrong men.

5) Tran's ex-lover is an HIV positive operator of a pirate radio station and goes by the name Lush Rimbaud.

6) There is a fantastically lurid climax.

After over-writing her first novel, Brite began paring down her prose, and Exquisite Corpse has the icy precision such disgusting subject matter requires. Passages made me realize just how antiseptic Showtime's Dexter really is. You will come away from the novel with more information on just how dying bodies come apart and how the dead look, feel, and taste than I hope you would ever have any need of.