[Editor's Note: This is the first of a series of reviews based on a popular writer's forum game, where one person presents a haiku and the others must try to guess which book it describes.]
A new restaurant
with alcohol in each dish.
Add intrigue; mix well.
If you want to know what Hurricane Katrina cost the nation, you could start by reading Liquor, by Poppy Z. Brite. A native of New Orleans, Brite paints a vivid picture of the New Orleans Katrina blew away, a place rich in flavor, personality and intrigue.
Main characters Rickey and G-man are line cooks with a great idea for a new restaurant: they will sell sin.
Personally, I'm a big fan of sin. We all know the best things in life are illegal, immoral or fattening, and Liquor's particular variety of sin is a heady mixture of all three. I am, however, not a fan of sinning, primarily because those consequences are a bitch to pay. Even simple hangovers...ugh. But then, I've never had one of Hansen's Snowballs to help me over it either.
The particular sin the new restaurant will sell is alcohol. To an excess. Every dish, from the Prosciutto-Wrapped Figs in Calvados to Napoleon's Death Mask (filled with Camembert Ice Cream) is soaked in alcohol: gin, brandy, whiskey, bourbon, liqueur, you name it. And the food may be hell on a waistline, but it sounds heavenly.
Rickey and G-man themselves are equally soaked in alcohol--and equally rich in texture and flavor. These are the most appealing comedic characters I've met since Ignatius J. Reilly.
The plot offers no surprises, but the book is a romp to read. I finally shoved aside all my obligations and sat at the kitchen table until I finished the book while the kids ran amok. Fun, fun, fun.
I do have minor quibbles as a writer: I noticed more than one skillful showing sentence followed by a telling phrase beginning with "which," which wouldn't have bothered me except that I got the message from her beautifully sculpted sentence, so the tacked-on phrase was a little clunky in a hammer-to-the-head kind of way. But mostly I am charmed and delighted.
I had never heard of Poppy Z. Brite though I understand she's published a number of novels and has a respectable and loyal fanbase. I started reading her blog in the dark, dark days after Hurricane Katrina, when Brite was exiled from her city and publicly worrying about the fate of the umpteen cats and assorted pets she and her husband had been forced to leave behind (I believe all but one survived the disaster). I started reading the blog seeking a connection to the folks in New Orleans, much like I read the news. But then I found myself reading the blog because I cared about Brite and her husband Chris. Her journal writing is so open, so personal and genuine that I found myself intrigued by the writer and went looking for Liquor. Now I'll be looking for the rest of her books.
And trying to figure out where I can get my hands on some of those figs. Liquor has left me with an insatiable appetite for gluttony.
Katrina Stonoff is a former journalist gone to the dark side to write fiction. A two-time Nanowrimo winner, she is finishing her second novel and pitching the first one.