Even though it was originally published in 1928, Joseph Moncure March’s “The Wild Party” proves to be more daring, shocking and frightening than most books published in today’s raunchy age.
Centered around one mischievous party hosted in the roaring ‘20s, the dramatic story is told through an extended poem along with modern illustrations. Queenie, the gorgeous and promiscuous protagonist, is in an abusive relationship with her husband Burrs, who is a jealous alcoholic with a quick temper. One midnight, they call their gang of rather unsavory friends for a wild party filled with drinking and dancing. Kate, one of Queenie’s cunning friends, brings Mr. Black as her date, who immediately catches Queenie’s eye as he is handsome and flattering.
After one dance, Queenie falls head over heels in love with Mr. Black but feels no shame towards her husband since she knows he cheats on her. The guests eventually get drunk, allowing their dark sides to emerge and the party ultimately getting out of control. Fights spur between enemies, lovers are brought together and a murder ends the night with a bang. While spying on the chaos, a neighbor threatens to call the police and end the party.
Although this lost classic was considered a magnificently written poetry drama, it was actually deemed ‘too hot to publish’ and was stalled until its publication date in 1929. The story contains many controversial topics such as lesbian lovers, incest, sex scandals, marital abuse and murder. Though the behaviors of some characters are revolting, readers are instantly drawn into the intricacies of the characters’ minds and cannot help but experience a feeling of compassion for some.
I found this hidden gem in a dusty old nook of a second hand bookshop and instantly became intrigued. The prose of the poem is elegant yet blunt and the modern images, drawn by Art Spiegelman, are absolutely fascinating and add such a depth to the already intricate story. This book is definitely not for the faint of heart or for those who are young readers since the story is exceedingly sexual, violent and cruel, and the images could be considered pornographic at times.
Despite the controversy that lies within, March’s “The Wild Party” is a spellbinding read that could capture even the most fickle of readers. Characters are hated yet adored, situations are romantic yet obscene and the straightforward narration of such a gruesome tale is beautifully enrapturing.