Antediluvian Tales, the most recent collection from Poppy Z. Brite, is a wisp of a book. It is only a bit longer than 100 pages. But it's a good collection and an important one in the history of its author. As the title would suggest, Antediluvian Tales are Poppy's final stories before the catastrophic events of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

Several of the stories take place in the Liquor/Rickey and G-Man universe. I love these stories and I think they represent the surest and most atmospheric writing in Brite's career. Though I've never been to New Orleans, I feel as if I know the place or at least a little bit of its flavor. These stories bring New Orleans, its sights, sounds and smells, to life. At least in a vicarious way. The best story is The Feast of St. Rosalie, which previously appeared a signed chapbook from Subterranean Press. I had already owned that edition and I re-read it and it is a story that works better on the second go-round. At least for me. The others are all good too and they mostly deal with G-Man's large Catholic family.

Two of the stories feature the author's avatar, New Orleans coroner, Dr. Brite. I found these to be less satisfying than the others, but I did enjoy reading them.

The piece in Antediluvian Tales that is its major selling point is a nonfiction essay called The Last Good Day of My Life, which is a reflection of the Katrina nightmare. I was slightly relieved to discover that it only peripherally dealt with the storm and its aftermath. Instead, the major focus was indeed the last happy day of Poppy's life. Of her old, pre-Katrina life. In it, she details a day she spent alone in Australia, where she bird-watched, sampled markets and restaurants and enjoyed meeting citizens of that country. Like anything else PZB has published, The Last Good Day of My Life is exotic and bewitching. It made me wish to see the same sights and have the same experiences she did. And though Brite says that she is almost neurotically afraid of leaving New Orleans now, this essay indicates that she could be a successful travel writer. It brought to my mind the great Paul Theroux and in fact she quoted him at one point of the piece.

One door closes, another opens. But does that second one reveal an eternally dark and uncertain future? Time will tell, but I look forward to more from this talented writer. Hopefully a new Rickey and G-Man book and, always, more short stories.

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