Second Line: Two Short Novels of Love and Cooking in New Orleans by Poppy Z. Brite is a single volume that includes The Value of X and also D*U*C*K, two short stories from the Liquor series about chefs and lovers Ricky and G-Man.
I’m a huge fan of Poppy Z. Brites work. I love this innate ability she seems to have of making me feel like I’ve experienced a part of New Orleans that the average tourist doesn’t see. It’s vivid, rich with authentic detail and her underlying passion for the city is apparent. Makes me was to save some cash and travel.
The Value of X begins with Ricky and G-Man’s friendship as young boys, which eventually develops into a romantic relationship. Growing up together in the Lower Ninth Ward and dealing with their burgeoning feelings, overcoming their families objection to their relationship and then, being apart from each other is a lot to pack in. But the story doesn’t lack for depth or romance and it provides a great backdrop for reading the other stories in the series.
Both books are beautifully written, romantic and kinda sexy without feeling intrusive with the bedroom door wide open. I found their relationship to be complex and incredibly touching, especially in The Value of X. Ricky and G-Mans depth of feeling and love for one another is complex and strong. They complimented each other, without seeming cheesy or plastic and come across as not quite whole when forced apart. They’re very real characters full of foibles and faults and incredibly accessible for a reader. I liked them.
D*U*C*K is set at the end of the series and involves the boys after they’ve had Liquor open for a few years. It was published post Katrina and is terribly poignant as she has not actually written about the storm, so the city stands untouched as you’re dragged into another adventure that’s deliciously good and full of food, ego and drama. It’s defnitely a little shorter, especially after reading the 3 novels the come before this one, but it is still a satisfying read.
I feel in some ways I’ve grown up with Poppy Z. Brites books. I read her horror and vampire series when I was going through my wearing of dark clothing phase and then onto her more visceral works like Exquisite Corpse, but I have to say these later novels are my true favorites. I love reading about Ricky and G-Man, they feel real and everyday, but somehow special at the same time. Excellent reading from an exceptional talent.
Second Line is available in ebook and paper back via Amazon, The Book Depository and her other novels (which I highly recommend) are also available through Fictionwise. The 3 novels that this book bookends, are Liquor, Prime and Soul Kitchen. Magic stuff. Poppy Z. Brite’s work can also be seen here on her website and if you’re into gardening and the like, then do check out her blog and twitter.
Below is Poppy talking about Liquor. (I must confess I had a minor squee moment when I found this. FANGIRL much!!)