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Wormwood: A Collection of Short Stories [Mass Market Paperback]

Poppy Brite
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (35 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Dec 1 1995
A collection of erotic horror stories follows the adventures of solace-seeking lonelyhearts on a North Carolina highway, behind a dusty Georgia carny show, in a Baton Rouge mausoleum, and an alley in Calcutta. Reprint.

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The name of Poppy Z. Brite is well known to most horror fans. What some do not know, though, is that Brite hit the ground running as a fiction writer, and some of her best work so far is right here in this collection of a dozen tales (originally published as Swamp Foetus) she wrote between ages 18 and 24. The exigencies of long plot development and evolving characters that sometimes bog her down in the novels are absent from the short story form, where Brite's extraordinary talent for compressed, redolent imagery combines with her keen sense of narrative structure to create perfect little objets d'art. Stories like "His Mouth Will Taste of Wormwood," "Calcutta, Lord of Nerves," and my favorite, "The Sixth Sentinel," are too exquisite to be missed.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Quiet and tight. May 10 2004
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Poppy Z. Brite, Wormwood (Dell, 1994)
This relatively early collection of stories (her first collection, and third published work, previously known as Swamp Foetus), collects stories written between 1986 and 1992. Perhaps the most interesting thing about the book is watching the progression between the earlier and the later stories; you can tell before getting to the end (each is dated) which are which, after an example or two of each.
This isn't to say the earlier stories are bad, they're just raw. And raw is not a bad thing. In fact, it can be quite charming, especially when one encounters another two Steve and Ghost stories ("Angels" and "How to Get Ahead in New York"), which also happen to be two of the longest in the book. It's rather odd to have watched an author create her own shared world and remain its sole inhabitant.
Steve and Ghost aside, there's a lot of fun stuff here for the discriminating fan of viscerally atmospheric (if that makes sense) horror. Brite's tales are not for the squeamish, but she never treads into the realms of Robert Deveraux (or, for that matter, her own novel Exquisite Corpse). Even the zombie story, which is a genre that basically invites excess gore (especially since Peter Jackson's wonderful film Dead Alive), has more of a quiet, dignified air about it (albeit one with some language that may make some neophytes squirm a bit in a different way).
Very good stuff. It's easy to say in hindsight this is the beginning work of a very gifted author, so imagine I'm saying it in 1994 and have amazing powers of presentiment. *** 
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2.0 out of 5 stars Some good...others not Feb. 5 2004
By varnya
Format:Mass Market Paperback
On the whole I enjoyed most stories, but after Drawing Blood and Lost Souls, which I loved, there's no comparison...
Also, the abortion story in this book, the pregnant girl in another had me wondering...Does Poppy hate women? If you've read all her works you'll know what I mean...
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4.0 out of 5 stars Poppy, Goddess of Nerves Oct. 17 2003
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Imagine the body of a beautiful young oriental woman laying in front of you. She doesn't move or flinch. You can touch her anyway and anywhere you want. And you do so. But all of a sudden she gives you the look, that special unnameable glance. But not from her eyes in her face, but from the one between her legs. Yeah, and what do you have to say then, tough guy? Do you declare yourself insane on the spot, or do you have enough sense in you to realise you're just stuck in side the narration of Poppy Z. Brite's 'Xenophobia'? Hey, come on. Don't be shy. You know she gives you really a treat, right?
Brite proves she's at her best when the dying flesh is being transformed into an object of art by her blossoming language. (But beware, Brite's blossoming words do bleed a bit, once and a while...)
The eroticism of death and decay is pictured with even more astonishing beauty in another story called 'Calcutta, Lord of Nerves'. My favorite, if you care. It's a tale of wandering through a city that is in pain and in a far state of decomposition itself, for it is buried underneath piles and piles of lepers, dead people, and sometimes undead people. It's a second rate metropolis, who's alleys are filled with deceases, ritually decapitated victims, the stench of the undead, and the eager hands of the Goddess Kali.
This story is more than just 'eerie sadness, haunting silence and explicit solitude', described in a voluptuous, sexy language. It's the literary equivalent of the crede 'mutilation is art'. And this art is being depicted in broad strokes, showed and staged franticly beautiful, screened in Panavision, and not just outspoken in fancy lines and disposable horrorcliche's.
And this is what makes 'Calcutta, Lord of Nerves' more than just a movie of the year. It's a whole new literary cinema of it's own.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A Collection of Disturbing, Yet Intriguing Tales April 25 2003
By Jen
Format:Mass Market Paperback
A collection of tales about the dead, the undead, and the deranged written by this remarkable 20th Century writer; Poppy Z Brite. Sixth Sentintel, one of the Tales in the book that I found to be most interesting depicted a girl in her 20's living in the intoxicating New Orleans with a broken past and a ghost for a roomate and a friend. As a lot of Poppys characters Rosalie makes her living by "performing". Though she may have the porcelain face of an actress the kind of performing she does is not so desirable. As her "roomate" Jean states she is performing for hundreds of starving drunken weasles. Jean soon develops a love for Rosalie but a deep selfish love it proves to be. Jean tells Rosalie he wishes for her to find his buried "treasures" so she will never have to work again, but something in Rosalie resists mingling with things that have been hidden or buried deep in the earth. This provokes Jean to get into Rosalie's head much like his lifeless hands flow through her body. Upon entering Rosalies mind Jean uncovers a horrifying past that frightens him and explains Rosalies fear for what lays beneath the earth. Jeans overwhelming love for Rosalie will soon release Rosalie from her pain and bind them together forever.
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3.0 out of 5 stars the girl with the silly fake name has talent April 9 2003
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Being familiar with Poppy Z. Brite's name but not her fiction, I decided to give "Wormwood" a shot. And, thinking it would give me some background on her style or life, I read the introduction before starting into the stories. That's one of the bones I have to pick with this--Dan Simmons (who wrote the introduction) may not resemble one of the black-clad Goths that populate Brite's fiction, but he writes with a smugness that reminds me of why I loathe the Gothic subculture so much--too many of its denizens are pompous and pretentious, and too self-consciously 'dark' to be looked at as anything more than a boogeyman caricature. This introduction reminded me of the silly introduction to the most recent printing of LaVey's "Satanic Bible," where a babbling sycophant tries to hold his idol up on high, and looks foolish in the process. In any case, Mr. Simmons' introduction would be harmless, if it didn't hamper my reading of Brite's prose, which, surprisingly, it did. It took a few stories to shake the aftertaste of that blather, but once it went away, I was surprised at how much I liked "Wormwood." Granted, this collection of 12 short stories swings up and down as far as quality is concerned, but what's good here is VERY good. "Xenophobia," about two people assigned to keep watch over a corpse; "How to Get Ahead in New York," where 2 men are beseiged by zombies in a bus station; "The Elder," about a father's devotion to his infant son; and finally, "The Ash of Memory, the Dust of Desire," an involving, tragic tale of a love triangle that ends the book. Read more ›
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five stars just for Steve and Ghost
I stumbled upon a copy of Love In Vein, the vampire erotica collection edited by Poppy Z. Brite. I thought it would be silly, certainly of lesser merit than something Anne Rice... Read more
Published on Aug. 21 2002 by Mariah Richards
4.0 out of 5 stars A perfect first taste
This book was my first exposure to Poppy Z. Brite, and I read it all in one sitting. Sure, some of the stories far outshine some others, but this is almost always the case in a... Read more
Published on June 5 2002 by Christine Weinman
5.0 out of 5 stars Whirl wind of the spectacular
This book is just so awesome, its got lust and decrepid story lines. The stories wrap you up in them,never leaving anytime to escape. Read more
Published on Dec 21 2001
4.0 out of 5 stars Gothic Horror At Its Best
Wormwood, Brite's collection of gothic short stories, serves as a reminder that Brite is one of the most original, most powerful, most interesting voice in modern horror fiction. Read more
Published on Nov. 30 2001 by Sebastien Pharand
5.0 out of 5 stars Aesthetically pleasing
Poppy Z. Brite ceases to amaze me. Almost every story she wrote is completely beautiful to me. She uses intimate details and her sensual detail and words create a perfect mood in... Read more
Published on April 2 2001 by Decay
5.0 out of 5 stars No loves lost more devastating, no horrors creepier
In this little anthology, Poppy Z. Brite manages to be gross, lewd, enthralling, apalling, hungry, innocent, and masterful. Read more
Published on March 10 2001 by Jared J. Ragland
5.0 out of 5 stars If you read anything of Poppy's please read this!
Poppy is one of the brighest stars in the horror galaxy today. While her full length novels can be a bit hard to swallow at times this collection of short stories is hauntingly... Read more
Published on Nov. 4 2000 by NDBerzerker
5.0 out of 5 stars great collection
If you are a fan of Poppy Z. Brite then this is a must have to add to your collection. The short stories in Wormwood feature some of our favorite characters from Lost Souls,... Read more
Published on Aug. 26 2000 by K. Hewitt
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