Sunday, January 09, 2005

Brite: Love in Vein—Bloody Erotic Stories


The collection of erotic tales in Poppy Z. Brite's Love in Vein is strongly reminiscent of Harlan Ellison's ground-breaking Dangerous Visions anthologies: edgy, uncomfortable to read, but full of images that are hard to forget.

Brite has collected twenty stories that skirt the perimeter of good taste—and despite the market among adolescents for vampirica, this is not a book for the teenager. Themes range from ghoulish feasting to lesbian revenge, and include references to Wiccan and pagan corn-god blood sacrifices. One tale pursues the sad end of Lucy Westenra's blighted love, lighting the shadowy corners of Bram Stoker's story. Another explores the death of Mozart and Van Gogh as the result of haunting by lamia.

We have stories of Japanese vampires, of shape-shifters who live on spirit more than blood, of the lost and the arrogant and the brutal and the alien. Vampire faces are lovely or haunting or weirdly strange, but always attractive. Of all twenty stories, not one speaks of a repellent blood-drinker. The vampire draws us all, victims seeking to provide sustenance. We may regret that attraction and seek also to destroy that which enslaves us, as does Peter in Mike Baker's Love Me Forever. We may embrace it without reserve, even unto death, as does Satoshi in Nancy Holder's Cafe Endless: Spring Rain or the cowboy Quincey Morris in Norman Partridge's Do Not Hasten to Bid Me Adieu. We may even adopt part or all of the vampire's nature, like Marshall in David B. Silva's Empty Vessels and Alex in Christa Faust's Cherry.

However you relate to vampire stories, though, you will find something in this book that goes beyond simply disturbing, that becomes irrationally upsetting. For me it was Geraldine by Ian McDowell. Perhaps it was the extension of early-term abortion to the spiritual and memory side of the equation; as if the loss of a barely-commenced pregnancy equates to the rejection of both the father and the act of conception.

Perhaps for you, there will be a different story here that crosses the line. Something in the vampire still attracts, despite the smell of the grave that clings to the cape. And something, despite that attraction, repels us eventually. You'll find both in this anthology.


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