Saturday, February 20, 2010

Girl on Book Action: Drawing Blood by Poppy Z. Brite

Drawing Blood by Poppy Z. Brite
ISBN: 0-440-21492-0


In the house on Violin Road he found the bodies of his brother, his mother, and the man who killed them both – his father. From the house on Violin Road, in Missing Mile, North Carolina, Trevor McGee ran for his sanity and his soul, after his famous cartoonist father had exploded inexplicably into murder and suicide. Now Trevor is back.

In the company of a New Orleans computer hacker on the run from the law, Trevor has returned to face the ghosts that still live on Violin Road, to find the demons that drove his father to murder his family – and worse, to spare one of his sons…But as Trevor begins to draw his own cartoon strip, as he loses himself in a haze of lines and art and thoughts of the past, the haunting begins. Trevor and his lover plunge into a cyber-maze of cartoons, ghosts and terror that will lead either to understanding – true understanding – or to a blood-raining repetition of the past…


My Thoughts:

I first read this book many years ago and it’s been eyeing me from its place on the shelf for a little while now, so I finally gave in and re-read it. I have to say that I’m glad I took the time to do that. My first read-through was long enough ago that I had extremely vague memories of this book, so in a way it was like reading it anew. But enough of that, let me talk about the actual story.

There are two reasons why you may want to avoid this book depending on your personal preferences. The first is that it is very graphic in its depiction of violence and the bloody aftermath of violence. So if gore is not your thing, keep away, especially beautifully described gore. The second is that it’s a book that is also very graphic in its depiction of sex, specifically homosexual sex. If that isn’t your cup of tea, go read something else.

There is a third reason as well, that is a little more...serious than the first two: it discusses abuse throughout so it may act as a trigger if you're an abuse survivor. I would hate to recommend this book and have it cause someone psychological pain. Now that these warnings are out of the way, let me tell you what I think of this lovely little novel.

The prose is a luxurious sensuous alive … thing. Brite has a way of describing even the most horrific, gore-ridden scenes with a style that leaves you almost breathless with terror and a strange sensual languor. Some people might find the detailed descriptions a little overbearing, or overwhelming, but I lost myself in them in the best sort of way.

There are some truly creepy parts as well, but for me the true horror wasn’t necessarily the ghost story, which I must admit, had me put down the book late at night so that I could sleep without getting scared, but rather the memories of terror and abuse that both of the main characters are attempting to come to grips with now that they are adults.

Ultimately, it’s a story about love and healing, a painfully graphic story about love and healing and I think that this “message” is an important one in a book that is so very, very brutal. All of the characters suffer and are hurt - damaged, really - but at the end, because they allow themselves to touch another person they manage to move on with their lives, past all of the wretched things that happened to them.

It’s also a tale about art and the things that artists think they have to do in order to be able to create; the fictions they tell themselves to be able to write or draw or make music. Art can lead to something as brutal as the murders committed by Trevor's father, the comic book artist who had lost his muse, or it can be a way to overcome trauma. And, it’s a book about how sometimes love goes terribly awfully wrong. Really, considering that it’s a horror novel it deals with a lot of things, a lot of issues.

Lastly, I have to say that this is a more mature work than Brite's other popular novel Lost Souls, which I also read years ago and found to be a little too juvenile. If I had been 16 when I read it, I am sure I would have loved it, but it didn't age as well as Drawing Blood. And Exquisite Corpse, while beautifully written didn't really capture my interest either. You may make of these thoughts what you will.

Now, let me leave you with a quote from the book that I think demonstrates some of the points I've made:

“Still…if you loved someone, really loved them, wouldn’t you want to take them with you when you died? Trevor tried to imagine actually holding someone down and killing them, just breaking them apart, watching as the love in their face turned to agony or rage or confusion, feeling their bones crack and their blood flow over your hands, under your nails, greasing into your palms. There was no one with whom he would want such intimacy.” Poppy Z. Brite Drawing Blood pg. 110-111.

Postscript: A quick poll announcement - I will be reading Octavia E. Butler's Fledgling for the poll that concluded at midnight once I finish off Cherie Priest's Fathom. So, look for the Fledgling review in the coming weeks. Thank you to everyone who voted!

1 comment:

  1. Violence, murder, suicide, abuse and comics. Hmmm. I've never read a book with all of these elements. I must say, it intrigued me. Very good of you to see through all the violence, gore and abuse to get to the core of the book..that's it's about love and healing. i also enjoyed your analysis about art and artists and their motivation to create.