"The Blood Poetry" Book Review
Written by Leland Pitts-Gonzalez
2012, 216 pages, Fiction
Released on August 8th, 2012
Take a second to think about what literary horror means to you. Done? Okay, now let's be honest for a second. The concept you just pondered makes most people think of absolute boredom, incredibly thick tomes, and slow-paced storytelling. If you can imagine a yawn-inducing Southern Gothic tale about a romantic ghost plagued by pages upon pages of descriptions and written by Dostoyevsky after smoking a dozen opium pipes, you're approaching what most people think of when literary horror is mentioned. Thankfully, now there is an antidote to this way of thinking: reading Leland Pitts-Gonzalez's The Blood Poetry.
The Blood Poetry tells the story of Epstein, an unemployed man whose wife disappears under very sinister circumstances. Heartbroken and scared, he desperately tries to connect with his daughter Sylvia and explain the situation. Unfortunately, there's no easy way of communicating what Epstein knows and his daughter is too busy judging her mess of a father to help him out. To complicate matters, Epstein's mother is a vampire who lives with them. Her past and present are constant sources of anguish for him, and things only get worse when she joins a church. While dealing with the disappearance, Sylvia dies and comes back to life suffering from pseudo-autism and Epstein falls in love with a bartender. What follows is a dark trip to the murkiest, most disturbing recesses of a man's psyche and a violent and precise deconstruction of human nature.
Pitts-Gonzalez is a writer of the highest caliber and this book is a testament to that. The Blood Poetry is visceral, brutally honest, cerebral, entertaining, and somewhat uncomfortable to read. However, there is something that pulls this novel out of the current literary panorama and puts it in a place all by itself: the author manages to use language in new and unexpected ways. I kept encountering phrases that merited more attention than the two seconds it took to read them. I often went back and read things twice to truly savor the writing. Likewise, some paragraphs screamed, asking to be taken out and plastered on gigantic billboards so everyone could enjoy their humor, brutality or blood-splattered philosophy.
Horror tends to follow certain formulas, but The Blood Poetry does away with all of them. Before reading this, get rid of all preconceived notions you might have about vampires, zombies, angels, and even sex. This last element, along with ennui and depression, permeates the narrative in strange ways. When I mentioned this being an uncomfortable read, sex was a part of that. I love gore, so the thinking, asking, and sucking of menstrual blood was great. However, Epstein's relationship takes him into the deep, gloomy world of bored couples and their passionless sex. Also, the way Epstein looks at Sylvia will creep many readers out.
Off-beat doesn't begin to describe The Blood Poetry. If one new horror book out there embodies the intelligence of great literary fiction with the best elements of psychological horror, The Blood Poetry has to be it.