In a way, I'm a lot luckier than most fans of Anne Rice. I have never quite gotten around to finishing her complete series of vampire novels, and so I have a lot more to enjoy despite the fact that Rice has abandoned writing about the undead to focus on writing about Jesus Christ. As for the rest of her fan base, they've been about as pissed off as Queen Akasha at that Vampire Lestat concert ever since the author re-embraced her Catholicism and became a Christian writer.
Rice has been no stranger to eccentric behavior over the years. She bad-mouthed the film version of her first vampire novel, only to take out a full-page New York Times ad praising it and apologizing. She lashed out furiously on Amazon.com against readers who had maligned her final vampire chronicle, The Blood Canticle. And most recently, she contemplated writing another vamp book in which her hero Lestat himself becomes a practicing Christian. Her once loyal fans heaved a collective sigh when she abandoned that ill-advised idea.
Yesterday, Rice gave a rare interview to ScotlandonSunday in an effort to promote her new memoir Called Out of Darkness: A Spiritual Confession--the book the New York Times described as "a crashing, mind-numbing bore... the literary equivalent of waterboarding."
"Not all my fans like my new work," Rice explains. "But I had a wonderful letter from one recently who said, 'Now I understand, your characters were searching, they were lost and looking for a way back to God.'"
This opinion is not shared by the many former readers who now consider her to be a total fruit loop. Some have even gone so far as to say that her complete 180 reversal has tainted her previous series, The Chronicles of the Vampires and The Mayfair Witches. While that would be taking it a bit far, it's also fair to say that Ms. Rice has always been a few pints low--this recent transformation is just the latest manifestation of her creepy cat-ladyness.
"It was a delayed adolescent rebellion," Rice says of the youthful rejection of the Catholic Church that led her to become a writer of erotica and horror. "I wanted to be bohemian, smoke Camel cigarettes, wear black gloves and know what the modern world was. I felt that if I couldn't be a good Catholic, there couldn't be a God. It was a tragic mistake."
It's ironic that Rice discovered her "tragic mistake" only after making a king's ransom from the hundreds of millions of copies of novels sold to the kind of adoring readership 99% of writers only dream of attracting.
"I'm writing a variety of Christian books, some of which might be appealing to fans of my early work," she says. "In the future, I want to write books about Christmas; Christmas books in the sense of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol; books about early Christianity when people were struggling in the Roman Empire in the early church. I grew up with Ben Hur. I'd love to write a big book like that. I'd love to write a book and have Hollywood make a movie of it, like Gladiator but about Christianity."
If all this is giving you the douche chills, you're not the only one. Look, I don't begrudge Rice her epiphany. But let's call a spade a spade here. Clearly, the woman has been through a lot of pain in recent years, with the loss of her husband and the ravaging effects of Hurricane Katrina, among other things. So she's sought solace in safety, in the world that once represented all that was stable in her young life. But let's at least recognize it for that. And in doing so, I can't help but mourn the loss of a great creative mind to the frailty of the human psyche.
I can't be angry with her the way many other fans are. I interpret this as a sign of weakness, no doubt about it--but I'd be a hypocrite if I didn't point that we're all weak to one extent or another. We haven't walked in her shoes, and we can't know what truly motivated her to this point. I guess I just expected better from someone who once produced such a rich, evocative and subversive fictional world. True, her vampire series was erratic, particularly towards the end, but I always enjoyed losing myself in that world, nonetheless. Maybe it's for the best, as there seemed no escaping their continuing downturn in quality.
But don't let that put you off enjoying the books she already has out there. Then you'd be just as irrational and flaky as she is.
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