Poppy Z. Brite is known mostly for gothic horror. The first book I ever read of Brite’s was ‘Exquisite Corpse’ (1996) where two of the protagonists were serial killers. I would also warn that if you have a weak stomach that books like ‘Exquisite Corpse’ are read at your own risk. What I marvel about Brite’s work however is that the characters seem to push themselves into the throws of darkest desires and passions, unable to really quench them no matter how hard they try. ‘His Mouth will Taste of Wormwood’ (1990) is no exception.
This short story focuses on a pair of gentlemen in New Orleans, Louis (which automatically reminded me of ‘Interview with the Vampire’ and made me wonder if it was an intended reference) and Harold. These two are drawn together by dark dreams and passions, in which they have tried so hard to quell, and hope that grave robbing and setting up a shrine to their loved pieces will settle their restlessness. The horrific theme in this short story revolves around the mixture of the minds of these two characters and the elements of voodoo seeped within.
While Brite’s characters are always so different in terms of how they see and relate to the world and others, and even to what really makes them enjoy life (or death as they can see how death really is a source of life), I don’t know how well I can relate to such characters because they are so different from me. Pushing the boundaries of self and concepts of pleasure and pain are interesting and I do like that even as I read there is that knotted tension within of how much freedom characters have as neither Louis or Harold play by society’s rules. So even though I can't relate because they aren't like me, seeing how the characters work outside of society's norms can actually be thrilling too.
I don’t recommend this story for anyone interested in generic horror tales. This story would be more for readers interested in seeing just how horrifically humans have the capacity to push themselves without any real reason as to why (at least in my opinion).
Check out ‘The Weird’ edited by Ann and Jeff Vandermeer for this story and others in the same field of weird and terrifying.