‘Works of artistic worth never attract the grasping mind of popular devotion. You can visit an ancient church in this country of ancient churches and gaze in awe at works by Perugino, by Pinturrichio, by Piero della Francesca – the tourists do, by the millions – but you’ll never find such works attracting the adoration of the pious and the penitent. The glimmering flock of candles is always ranged before an ill-proportioned painting of crude primary-school colors, meretricious thing with an incongruous and ill-fitting silver crown pasted to its head like a paper hat from a Christmas cracker. Pilgrims always pay homage to a piece of kitsch.’
Which is why things like The Da Vinci Code is more popular than Simon Mawer’s The Gospel of Judas. And what’s being described by the ‘painting of crude primary-school colors, meretricious thing with an incongruous and ill-fitting silver crown pasted to its head like a paper hat from a Christmas cracker’ is your average Dan Brown product. So haughty!
This is not to say that this novel is perfect. But it’s hard not to enjoy as it involves a conflicted priest who’s going through a crisis of faith which could only mean almost exclusively one thing: the Father wants ass, and that kind of novel is always fun to read. To add to the the otherwise common conflicted priest dilemma, a relic from an early century written by Judas Escariot, that claims the Jesus resurrection is a hoax, surfaces while Father is going through a major dick-related crisis.
It’s not the kind of Dan Brown religion-themed potboiler although to be fair to DB, his novels do move fast. So fast you forget it’s sometimes so corny that you could almost hear a thrilling musical score when nearing the end of a chapter. The comparison is of course faulty and lazy but also apt since putting Jesus twists in your novels kind of puts you in the very exclusive group who dare do Jesus fiction, not that Jesus is untouchable novel-wise.
I can’t decide which is juicier, the sexing priest or the Jesus lie. What’s admirable about it that unlike the others, the author doesn’t feel the need to create extensive, numerous, ridiculously named world organizations, with deep involvements by inconsequential characters that would turn out to be the evil schemers. What’s wrong with it is that the symbolism of things, names, and some characters’ histories are so obviously, hugely symbolic to how things are in their present lives. Leo Newman, the priest, is called Newman because he’s experiencing a crisis and he can choose to be a new man or, you know, not. But now that I’ve mentioned that, maybe it makes perfect sense and it’s a a clever way of paralleling the personal with the historical-biblical, etc.
It ends classily, that is, without the major hero having to have a hero moment to resolve things, and Catholicism is fantastic and wonderful still after all. But that’s not to say that the alleged falsified account of the resurrection is actually proven wrong. Leo Newman, the anti-hero, carries the burden of exposing the truth, and it’s a testament to this character’s strong development that the reader MIGHT care more about what he does with the knowledge of truth about Catholicism than what that truth can do in the broader sense.
The Gospel of Judas is the kind of irreverent, controversial Catholic novel I wish Anne Rice wrote. Instead, she gives this:
In her return-to-Catholicism memoir ‘Called Out of Darkness’, Anne Rice has this to say about the Jesus novel:
Anybody could write about a liberal Jesus, a married Jesus, a gay Jesus, a Jesus who was a rebel. The “Quest for the Historical Jesus” had become a joke because of all the many definitions it had ascribed to Jesus.
I agree that anybody with the time and means to write a Jesus novel should do so to their heart’s content. Anybody with a working word processor should create a gay Jesus novel if it will make their lives that much richer. What didn’t or wouldn’t occur to Anne was that she should have been the creator of those novels because a rebel/gay/liberal Jesus is so her. This is poor justification of why she should be the writer of such a novel but then there’s also no justification as to why anyone would have created those incestuous Taltoses too. What this is is just plain old hoping.
This is seriously asking too much, I know it. I am not denying anymore my stand as a ‘negative fan’ who wants more more more. Also her Christ the Lord series is not so much a product of a surge of creativity as it is of a guilt payback for the faith she once denounced and came back to and sort of denounced again, so to expect a groundbreaking work from her out of the relatively recent Jesus fascination is silly. And I’m honestly exhausted already pining for the old Anne Rice who would produce orgy-participating and exaggeratedly attractive vampires, witches and peoples. If none of us stop now, this issue might turn into a cycle of each other weariness: me wearying her novels’ strong pro-religious slant, and me growing tired of me whining about how she’s not doing what I want her to be doing. It has to stop someday.
In her social networks, she rants about the ‘negative fan’ who would actively express dissatisfaction over an artist’s work. She beefs with the vicious Internet people who would put stuff up on the web just to publish dismay. Infamy was once gained by her because of her heated Amazon letter where she lashed at the meanies who lambasted the not quite the masterpiece, Blood Canticle. Well she is still at it. It is a tad mind-boggling for someone so involved and attuned herself in the ways of the world wide web that she, celebrated creator of supernatural creatures, would find surprise at being met with dissatisfaction over the stuff she’s releasing now.
On Road to Cana, her second Jesus novel, she tells the story of Jesus as it was told in the Gospels. In it, Jesus goes to Cana.