NOW, A REVIEW OF A BOOK I ACTUALLY LOVED: PRIME, BY POPPY Z. BRITE
Poppy Z. Brite has taught me well: for one thing, no true New Orleanians call their city “Naw’lins,” so I’ve dropped that pronunciational monstrosity from my vocabulary. I already knew I need to experience that city someday, but Brite’s provided added impetus: her stories about Rickey and G-Man, a longtime couple who start the successful alcohol-themed restaurant Liquor, have among their charms the description of the everyday New Orleans, an eccentric of a city. It’s its own character, one that Brite feels she got not-quite-right in her earlier novels. She’s making up for this, and the resulting books are (so far) my favorite of her work.
To use the review-cliché word “heart,” Prime’s heart is the relationship between G-Man and Rickey. I see a bit of myself in both characters (more Rickey than G-man, he said a touch ruefully; Rickey is the more intense of the two), and I totally buy their life, their commitment, their annoyances, and their humor. Poppy Z. Brite loves these guys, and she makes you love them. And thanks to her real-life cook husband Chris DeBarr, she knows the dramas of restaurant life, which inform these books. It’s made me far more sympathetic to those who make restaurants work, and when I can afford to eat out more, I’ll be sure to be a good customer.
Yes, I have described none of Prime’s plot. I want not to be a spoiler. (Brite had to rewrite the back-cover copy for the book because someone else’s write-up revealed too much, so she too was being extra careful not to spoil anything.) But that’s not as important. What’s more important is that Brite is getting ever better at portraying conflicting emotions, where you can tell the characters want to cringe and cry and laugh all at the same time. And that happens plenty in our real world, right?
So thank you, “Doctor” Brite (docbrite to us LJ’ers). I’ll be following what happens next to Rickey and G-Man.