- Hardcover: 105 pages
- Publisher: Subterranean (Sept. 1 2000)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1892284731
- ISBN-13: 978-1892284730
- Product Dimensions: 12.7 x 1.3 x 20.3 cm
- Shipping Weight: 136 g
- Average Customer Review: 2 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #3,272,379 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Plastic Jesus Hardcover – Sep 1 2000
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From Publishers Weekly
Brite trades the modern gothic gloom that has chilled most of her fiction to date (Lost Souls; Exquisite Corpse; etc.) for sunny '60s nostalgia in this warm but slight roman ? clef celebrating the Beatles. In her version, the fab four are the Kydds, Liverpool is Leyborough and Lennon and McCartney are, respectively, Seth Grealy and Peyton Masters, creative soulmates whose music takes the world by storm. The twist that turns this homage into one of Brite's trademark explorations of sexual identity is her depiction of Grealy and Masters's working relationship blossoming into a gay romance. The boys' love for one another is an inevitable outgrowth of the feelings they express in songAbut it becomes a point of public controversy that breaks the band apart and sets up Seth for his murder by homophobic assassin Ray Brinker. Though Brite is sensitive in her portrayal of Grealy and Masters's relationship, she is almost too reverent in her fidelity to Beatlemania. The brief tale moves too rapidly and reflexively through well-known historical highlightsAthe band's adoption by manager Brian Epstein (incarnated here as gay record store owner Harold Loomis), their experiments in music and drugs, their vilification by the religious rightAfor events to have any resonance with the central love story. It ends with a wistful wish-fulfillment fantasy too improbable to support its professed moral that "love is worth dying for." In an afterword, Brite reveals she had originally plotted this tale as a full-length novel. Greater length might have yielded greater substance than this fannish tribute.
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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I tried not to be negatively influenced when reading Plastic Jesus by the fact that it is, essentially, a piece of fan fiction about one of the most ridiculously hyped, and the single most overrated, band in music history. Unfortunately, I don't think I succeeded.
Plastic Jesus is the story of the two founding members of a sixties rock sensation called the Kydds. (Oh, let's drop it. It's John and Paul. I mean, even the illustrations are... you know.) The book jacket gives away the whole thing, but I'll just sketch here; the story opens with one of them being shot dead in New York in 1980. (Guess which?) It then goes back and traces the genesis of the band to that point, while attempting to explain why he got shot. The fictional part of it is that, pursuant to Brite's usual obsessions, he's shot because of homophobia, because the two of them are gay.
Well, little surprise there. And when I can divorce myself from the subject matter, it's workable, if workmanlike, Brite; quick, easy reading, pages turning at a decent pace. The characters are believable (though one tends to suspect that's because they're based on real people here, rather than any native authorial skill), the plot plausible. The theme less so, but then, this is a work of fantasy, so we'll allow a little leeway. On this level, at least.
And this is where it breaks down. The line between professional work and fan fiction is usually more a chasm than a line, but sometimes it gets blurry. Plastic Jesus is very much one of those times. While it's quite obviously the work of Poppy Z. Brite (and thus as polished and professional as anything she puts out), it still treads uncomfortably close to the slash line too many times.(Again, I cause myself to wonder if I'd have had this problem were it, say, X-Files fan fiction or John Lee Hooker fan fiction or... you get the idea.)
The bottom line is it's readable. Whether you will find its subject matter to your taste is likely a matter of personal choice. I can't stand the Beatles, never could, and that negatively affected my ability to read this. Your mileage, as they say, may vary. ***
Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
But that’s not what was delivered here. This story is basically a reimagining of the story of The Beatles that posits what would’ve happened if John Lennon and Paul McCartney had been gay lovers as well as bandmates. Now, this isn’t to say this was LITERALLY The Beatles in the book, but rather a fictional proxy. The band was named Kydds and John and Paul became Seth and Peyton. But their journey from their working-class English beginnings to pop superstars who changed the face of music very much mirrors the general story of the Fab Four.
But where this story diverges, and what is the heart of the entire piece, is the love that blossoms, not just between two men (though they just happen to both be men) but between two souls so perfectly complimentary, to be anything BUT lovers would’ve been a travesty.
The book opens with Seth’s death by gunshot wound (ala John Lennon) at the hands of a crazy Christian extremist who disapproves of Seth and Peyton’s relationship. From there we leap backwards as Peyton recounts how these two men came together and reshaped the world around their love.
In Brite’s afterword, she minces no words in proclaiming her love for The Beatles, and basically says that was the inspiration for the book. I guess you can even say this is on the fringes of erotic fan fiction, except it’s not very erotic or sexually explicit – yet somehow the sense of LOVE and EMPATHY it is trying to convey shines through every paragraph like a lighthouse cutting through the fog.
This isn’t normally the kind of book I like to read. I like my fiction to be a bit…weirder. Or maybe not weirder, but full of more twists and turns and unexpected plot points. But it must’ve been her writing style that transfixed me, because I sat down with this book and read it straight through, start to finish, in one sitting.
Yeah, I enjoyed it.
The premise isn't true, of course. John and Paul weren't lovers (as far as we know) and the Beatles split as much for financial as for personality reasons. But it makes a fascinating speculation all the same. What if John and Paul really had been lovers? Would it have made a difference to the music, a difference to their lives (and indirectly to ours)?
I vividly remember the day John Lennon was shot. I remember going into work that day feeling quite numb. And one of my work colleagues sat all day at her desk just sobbing quietly, but uncontrollably.
Poppy Z. Brite was only thirteen when John died. She was really a generation too young for the Beatles and their music. But that didn't stop her and she loved them dearly. She has a copy of a quirky little self portrait that John once drew tattooed on her left bicep.
Plastic Jesus is her intriguing speculation about what might have been and it is her homage to the ideas and ideals of a very great man. She's done a wonderful job and written a very moving story.
"Plastic Jesus" tells the story of the rock band The Kydds, who have become the greatest rock band in the world. The group's most influential members, Seth and Peyton, are incredible music partners, and eventually become sexual partners as well. Their openly gay relationship knocks open doors in the 1960's, making the world rethink it's prejudice. All of this comes to a tragic end when Seth is murdered, and Peyton is left alone to tell his story.
This novella does a very good job of creating the late 60's atmosphere, and the characters are exquisitely drawn, always something you can count on with Poppy Z. Brite. Essential for fans of her work, "Plastic Jesus" is probably most enjoyed by those who possess a knowledge of The Beatles and their history, and an open mind.