Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Anne Rice--She's Got Character! A Real Life Heroine to Note

Writer Darlene Oakley posted this on one of my groups and I wanted to pass it along.

NEW ORLEANS, Louisiana(AP)-- It's Halloween, and Anne Rice has a new book -- a memoir, in
fact -- that's climbing best-seller lists. Everything is normal, then.
Anne Rice
says she hopes to take her skills writing vampire books and "redeem
if it were 1994 -- the height of Rice's megaselling fame as a queen of Southern
Gothic pulp.
For those who haven't been paying attention lately to vampire lit,
America's most famous chronicler of bloodsuckers doesn't live in New Orleans
anymore -- and hasn't since before Hurricane Katrina hit -- and she's riding
new waves of enthusiasm: the memoir and Christian lit.
Her memoir, "Called Out of Darkness: A Spiritual
Confession," is the latest piece of evidence that Rice is reinventing
herself in an attempt to build a reputation as a serious Christian writer.
In the memoir, the 67-year-old writer doesn't disavow the two
decades she spent churning out books on vampires, demons and witches -- with a
batch of S&M erotica thrown in -- following the breakout success of her
first novel in 1976, "Interview With the Vampire."
But she's clearly moved on.
In a telephone interview from her mountain home in Rancho Mirage, California , Rice laid
out her goal:
"To be able to take the tools, the apprenticeship, whatever I
learned from being a vampire writer, or whatever I was -- to be able to take
those tools now and put them in the service of God is a wonderful, wonderful,
wonderful opportunity," she said. "And I hope I can redeem myself in
that way. I hope that the Lord will accept the books I am writing now."
The memoir follows the release of two books in a planned
four-part, first-person chronicle of the life of Jesus.
And in this new 245-page memoir, Rice presents her former life as
vampire writer as that of a soul-searching wanderer in the deserts of atheism;
as someone akin to her most famous literary creations -- Lestat, her "dark
search engine," Louis the aristocrat-turned- vampire and Egyptian Queen
Akasha, "the mother of all vampires."
"I do think that those dark books were always talking about
religion in their own way. They were talking about the grief for a lost
faith," she said.
In 2002, Rice broke away completely from atheism -- nearly four
decades after she gave up her Roman Cat holic
faith as the 1960s started. It happened when she went off to college and found
her peers talking about existentialism -- Martin Heidegger, Albert Camus,
Jean-Paul Sartre. Religion, she writes, was too restrictive to the young Rice.
Too out of step.
Yet, religion had to come back into her life, she writes. For her,
it was something she'd have to face up to again like an absent parent or a
long-lost love child or Banquo the ghost in "Macbeth."
By the late 1990s, when she went back to Mass, Rice -- the author
whose books sold in the tens of millions and who had recharged Hollywood 's appetite for
vampire-inspired horror -- had fallen on hard times.
Her husband, poet and artist Stan Rice, died of a brain tumor in
2002. And she had become victim to diabetes.
Always over-the-top and beyond the rational, she writes that her
return of faith was preceded by a series of epiphanies -- many while on travels
to Europe's cathedrals, Israel and Brazil. In one episode, when she visited the
giant Jesus statue above Rio de Janeiro , she writes that she felt "delirium"
as the clouds broke and revealed the statue.
Her professed revelations recall the religious intoxication she
describes of her childhood.
When she was 12, she had her father turn a room on the back porch
of the family's Uptown home in New Orleans into
an oratory modeled after St. Rose of Lima
-- the saint Cat holics believe
turned roses into floating crosses. She wanted to be a saint, she writes.
In the memoir, Rice describes a familiar Cat holic
upbringing imbued with opulence and mystery. The incense. The statuary. The
stained glass. The darkness. She learned the world, she writes, through her
senses, through a "preliterate" understanding of the world. She
writes that she possessed "an internal gallery of pictorial images"
that, lamentably, was replaced "by the alphabetic letters" she
learned later.
"You might call it the Mozart effect, but it was the Cat holic effect on me," she said.
In a sense, the memoir also is a confessional about her struggle
as a writer to be a reader, a thinker and an author with a distinct literary
style. Her stories often are reveries with no end in sight -- and all too often
ugly with pedantic unwinding, numbing in detail and overly simplistic, a
pastiche of cliches.
Her turn in direction -- from vampire fiction to Christian musings
-- still isn't winning the critics over.
In The New York Times, Christopher Buckley slammed Rice's memoir
as "a crashing, mind-numbing bore. This is the literary equivalent of
And the bar is high when it comes to writing about Jesus.
"The best may be Nikos Kazantzakis' 'The Last Temptation of
Christ,' " said Jason Berry, a novelist and journalist who has written
extensively on the Cat holic priest
sex abuse scandal. "But also (G.K.) Chesterton, Norman Mailer. ... A lot
of narrative artists in both literature and film have taken on Jesus, so to
Rice isn't out to impress the critics, though.
"My objective is simple: It's to write books about our Lord
living on Earth that make him real to people who don't believe in him; or
people who have never really tried to believe in him," she said.
She pressed the point: "I mean, I've made vampires believable
to grown women. Now, if I can do that, I can make our Lord Jesus Christ
believable to people who've never believed in him. I hope and pray."
For her devotees, whatever she writes invariably goes down like a
smooth bloodbath, that favorite Goth beverage sometimes made with raspberry
liqueur, red wine and cranberry juice.
"There are so many people dedicated to her. They want her to
write more vampire books," said Marta Acosta, author of the popular
"Casa Dracula" series, a "comedy of manners" that plays on
vampire themes. She also runs the Vampire Wire, a book blog for fans of gore
and the undead.
As for her, Acosta couldn't care less if Rice sinks back into the
vampire vein.
"People think it's sexual, but it's not. It's suppressed
stuff. Southern Gothic," Acosta said. "How many centuries is Louis
(played by Brad Pitt in the movie 'Interview With the Vampire: The Vampire
Chronicles') going to whine?"
Never again, it seems.
Rice is busy writing about Jesus as a minister. And that's a
tall order, Rice said.

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