Are You Loathsome Tonight?
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by Poppy Z. Brite
Description: Poppy Z. Brite, author of four novels, LOST SOULS, DRAWING BLOOD, EXQUISITE CORPSE, and THE LAZARUS HEART, plus several collections of short stories, has gone to the edge and back with ARE YOU LOATHSOME TONIGHT (titled SELF-MADE MAN in Europe). Join Poppy as she explores the outermost regions of murder, passion, death and religion in twelve extraordinary short stories. With a foreword by horror master Peter Straub and an afterword by Caitlin R. Kiernan, Brite reaches new heights--and depths--in her explorations of mind and spirit.
eBook Publisher: E-Reads, 1998
eBookwise Release Date: May 2001
43 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [229 KB]
Reading time: 140-197 min.
In Vermis Veritas
In 1996 I was asked to write an introduction to Registry of Death, a graphic novel by Matthew Coyle and Peter Lamb, which was being published by Kitchen Sink Press. Here's what I came up with. This is the first in a loosely linked series of fiction in which all the characters will be worms or larvae.
In Vermis Veritas
"It's nothing to do with mortality but it's to do with the great beauty of the color of meat." So said Francis Bacon, an artist of the twentieth century, explaining why he painted scenes of gore and squalor. While admiring his sentiment, I would also postulate that Bacon's appreciation for the color of meat made him a connoisseur of the very mortality he pretended to eschew.
I consider myself a connoisseur of mortality. While my millions of brethren and sistren chew, chew, chew their way through whatever offal comes along, inexorable but mindless, I preserve my energies for the sweetest meat: the carcass tainted by fear. The carcass that suffered the protracted death, the agonizing death. Meat crisped alive by fire, meat sliced open by steel, meat with a bullet in its gut.
Here in the slaughterhouse, I dine well.
It is everything to do with mortality. It is the great beauty of the color of meat, of its many colors: the spongy purple of drowned flesh, the translucent rose of fresh viscera, the seething indigo of rot. Bacon must have painted in the slaughterhouse. It is the great beauty of the flavor of meat, of its many flavors.
When we reduce a carcass to bone, we not only reveal its structure; we become composed of its elements. For most of the others, this is a matter of breaking down proteins and replenishing simple larval tissues. For me it is a kind of catharsis. I take on the qualities of the deceased, I am nourished by his perceptions, and perhaps somehow I aid in releasing his soul.
Consequently, I have lived thousands of lives. I have memorized countless tomes, and written more than a few. I have constructed dynasties, then torn them down or watched them fall. I have been a foetus in a womb and a guru in a cave. I have digested the concepts of "freedom" and "love" and "eternity," and excreted them, over and over again.
Men kill other men, sometimes for sport, sometimes for love, sometimes just sending them to the slaughterhouse to feed still more men -- or, if left too long, to feed me and my kin. Each one thinks he has lived in the worst of times, but nothing has ever been different.
I curl in the slightly damaged brain of a young man who died for no particular reason, after a protracted and honorable hunt. The glistening whorls are dissolving, coming unglued, breaking down into their chemical components. I gorge myself on the primordial soup of his mind. The terrible realization that dawned upon him at the moment of death sharpens the taste.
I become drunk on his flood of experiences and emotions. I synthesize his knowledge. I live his entire life in the time it takes me to eat a path through his liquefying brain. I wallow in his world. I die his weary death.
As always, it makes me glad to be a maggot in the slaughterhouse and not a man.
Copyright © 1998 by Poppy Z. Brite