prince-lestat

When Anne Rice announced on Facebook sometime in 2013-14 that Lestat was talking to her again, we the Peoples of the Page went into raptures because we like Lestat, and we like it very much when Lestat takes over her Facebook page. Lestat of course chooses Facebook because in social media, he writes novellas, not status updates. Status updates are for mortals like Anne Rice.

In 2014, Chronicle #11 was released, almost a decade after Anne swore off writing about the Vampire Chronicles vampires again. But here we are, back in the ‘savage garden’, thanks to Lestat’s refusal to not ever be in the spotlight. Anyone who has read at least 1 or 11 Vampire Chronicles knows one undeniable fact: A brat gets what a brat wants.

In Prince Lestat she readies the world for this new era where vampires have inhabited the world in their own terms; that means no more silly Ten Commandments-style rules (see: The Vampire Armand). She offers an explanation for what has happened thus far and a mini-reference guide to vampire jargon. The way to let everyone in to this new vampire, it seems, is to over-explain. This goes well with Lestat’s newfound swagger of being current and his intention to leave the doors to the vampire world wide open.

Despite his preference for fashion that kids today would find daffy, Lestat is nothing but open to new experiences. Such experiences include using an iPhone, emailing, listening to podcasts, becoming a baby daddy, and leading a pack of bloodsuckers whose combined strength, knowledge, and mind and fire gifts could not hold a candle to his magnetism, impulsiveness, and questionable but indispensable leadership. There is not a thing in Prince Lestat that I find hard to believe.

There is also a sense of vampires having become citizens of the world, peacefully coexisting with humans who still believe them to be a figment of their fevered imagination (despite Benji’s very convincing vampire broadcasts). Humans who drop dead in alleys are still believed to be victims of cardiac arrest rather than of vampires’ insatiable appetite. The world is at peace where the undead are alive and well but staying low-key.

But all is truly not well in the vampire world. A capital M mysterious voice is sowing fear in the non-beating hearts of immortals, and to calm their inactive nerves they summon the one immortal who can save them from themselves. “The Voice” is whispering to vampire ears everywhere – and they are not sweet nothings – with the weak ones falling prey to the seemingly motiveless voice that admonishes mass murder among their kind. Because the book is not called ‘Prince Louis’ or ‘King Armand’, it’s the brat prince himself who takes over vampires-saving duties. Whether he would do so competently is open to discussion.

Anne Rice wasn’t going to return to The Vampire Chronicles half-heartedly. Here, she brings every character that has ever appeared in all 10 books and their ghosts. Quinn Blackwood, Merrick, and the Mayfairs were, sadly, no-shows.

As with any book from TVC, Prince Lestat was not spared some biting criticisms, one of which is the inclusion of characters that don’t serve any purpose but to prolong the vampiric conversations. As a person of the page, ie, long-time reader/Lestat groupie, I expect these supposed failings, but I can’t say that I enjoyed reading about vampires sit around describing each other’s extraordinary beauty. I already know that Louis, Armand, Jesse, David, et al beat the entire vampire and human race in beauty, thanks Ms. Anne.

Another gripe against Prince Lestat is its wordiness – as if a Vampire Chronicle devoted to the magnificence of Lestat would be made in less than 200 pages? The prose is as indulgent as it has ever been, and I myself find this supposed crime indefensible. The thing is, this isn’t Anne Rice’s first, second or 22nd book. If you’ve read the entire Chronicles and everything else in her bibliography, then this is something you could smell from a mile away. If you want taut and quick-paced, re-read The Tale of the Body Thief. No sane reader of TVC, new or old, should pick up an Anne Rice novel and expect littleness, whether in theme, scope, or characterization.

The thrill I got from reading Lestat, though, came mostly from the meta-commentaries on the author’s previous work, specifically the ‘deep current psychological observation that united these works’. Also thrilling is vampires dabbling into science. It’s amazing they haven’t tried going into space to become the greatest astronauts the earth has ever known. One thing that stood out, in the worst possible way was the prince’s sudden change of heart for The Voice. I’m not spoiling anything by saying that the way he embraces it after everything is such silly bullshit. Everyone knows Lestat is a brat and he’ll do and love as he pleases, but that sudden change of heart made the lead-up to the semi-thrilling confrontation seem inconsequential.

Unlike other readers who feel personally betrayed by Lestat’s lunatic decisions (actual responsible person: Lestat’s ghost author Anne Rice) who swear off reading any more future vampire tales, I’ll stay hooked. With this renewed interest in Lestat, there will be no end in sight for vampires and their vivid, hyper-indulgent chronicles. They may be using iPhones now, but they’re still the same old brood of blood-hungry beauties who like to sleep in the dirt. Like the series they belong to, they know their place in the world and they’ll live in it as they please.

Jesuses

‘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.

Called into blandness

The church, with all its rules about sex, the modern world, and books and matters of dogma, had become absolute proof to me that God didn’t exist. The idea of God belonged to the utter falsity of Catholicism. If an edifice like that was a pack of lies – and it had to be a lie that one could burn in Hell for all eternity for masturbating or kissing a boy, or reading a novel by Alexandre Dumas, or an essay by Sartre – then there was no God.

-from Called Out of Darkness (A Spiritual Confession) by Anne Rice

As I’m sure a thousands of masturbators in the planet would agree, a God that damns you to Hell for all eternity for masturbating a boy OR kissing a boy (that’s how it reads to me), is surely one that couldn’t deserve all the praise and devotion, and not entirely because those thousands put boy masturbation or boy kissing above anything else in the world, but because such belief is definitely a pack of lies, even if Anne Rice doesn’t say so herself. Without going into detail about how nowhere in the Bible does it imply that masturbation is sin, the only thought to ponder is: how could one possibly live a life, Catholic or not, without masturbation or kissing?

We are now thankfully in an age that’s grown quite indifferent to Catholic dogma such that people who make spectacular displays of filibusterism against the church get their very own Facebook pages where a million likers can profess an innocent-seeming thumbs up, although this habit of support giving is a no-brainer as everyone knows too well that these online things serve almost exclusively our time’s devil incarnates: Zuckerberg, et al. So, liking a church protester’s well executed Holy mass disruption, out of nowhere, unprovoked, is seen as totally acceptable behaviour and what better platform to show support for that than through FB.

Anne Rice is a strong woman-type like Oprah, Madonna and Kathy Griffin. She gets away with saying things like the above, whether in fiction or non-, just as other strong women types get away with being preachy, bitchy and strong. They are admired by the meek, by those who struggle with aggression because SWT not only do things their way, they get praised and paid for it. Anne Rice, who in her thirty years of being an atheist has conveniently said Fuck you to the church through Lestat, has returned to her faith, has been called out of the creative darkness she got so well off of, writing now only for Jesus Christ.

It’s probably the least exciting thing in the world to vigil for the most recent developments in someone’s love-hate relationship with religion, but not if it concerns a much admired and considerably widely read novelist who made mind-blowing literature off of it such as Anne Rice. Judging from the length and apparent devotion it took to create these two types of literature (the pro and anti-church), the non-Christian books with the faith-challenged anti-heroes by far seem more likable than all the ones with Jesus as main inspiration, and that’s not necessarily a knock on Jesus’ popularity.  It simply doesn’t take a scholar to realize that for example, Blackwood Farm had much more thought and heart put into it than Out of Egypt, and not just because BF is thicker than the two Christ the Lord books combined, but because Tarquinn Blackwood, Mona Mayfair and to some extent Lestat, seemed more alive than the young Yeshua. Again, not an attempt to diss Jesus in any way, just saying in the context of Anne Rice’s writing. And yes, any of the Vampire Chronicles except maybe Blood Canticle, rule out the Jesus novels.

I’m not in general averse to spirituality or God or Jesus but if I were to measure my fondness for spirituality in relation with my fondness for Anne Rice, I’ll have no trouble admitting I would have much preferred the Anne Rice who would write a memoir with sharpness and traces of rage (see above) than the one who now is at peace with her faith.

Anne Rice bailed out of the Catholic Church again, just recently, resulting to chills (or shrugs) running up and down the collective spine. Whether that will lead to a more ‘edgy’ new series remains a mystery, sort of. Maybe she can make angels appear as interesting as her living deads but it’s best not to hold thy breath.

For Chrissake

Out of Egypt

The moment Anne Rice said she’s no longer going to write about vampires, witches and bitches, and that she would instead be writing about Jesus Christ’s early years, I knew there’s no way I would enjoy any of it even if she cuts out all those descriptions of Italian curtains, Greek chairs and Roman marble columns. I think I actually miss her extensive cataloguing of various furniture in her books. And it’s true, I did not fully enjoy Out of Egypt, the first in her Christ the Lord series, a series that couldn’t be more different from the Vampire Chronicles and Witching Hour.

If you’d ever read or had been fascinated by her alternate universes of vampires taking nutrition from menstruating nuns  and ghost granddaddies impregnating granddaughters, then you probably earn the right to be a little miffed that the genius behind such concepts is now satiating the very demographic that her old series’ followers isn’t from. In short, she’s gone Chistian and there’s no turning back.

Out of Egypt shows an improvement in her prose, though. Gone are the long descriptions of inanimate and unimportant objects, and trading that for slightly better characterization of the book’s anti-Lestat, Jesus Christ. I was worried that she’d make Jesus speak tons of Egypt’s fine sands, gorgeous Egyptians, silky smooth Egyptian hair, and ornate sandals. That was not to be the case as Jesus in this book is a 7-year old, slightly clueless boy who mysteriously but skillfully heals dead people, just as skillfully and stealthily he kills them.

The only people Jesus is killing in this book, I would imagine are the old Rice fans. But if you take the time to realize the radical shift in faith it took her to write this, then it might not be too hard to accept that she just had to change and that there are other vampire books to be had anyway. The Twilight series, for example. But that would probably suck for you. If I were to be my old spiteful self, I’d probably think that this series is Anne giving the finger to those who maligned her, her faith and her skills as a writer, when the final V-Chronicle book came out and many called her, well, a witch and other unflattering names.

Say what you will of Anne but her immersion in the things that fascinate her are undeniable and all we could do, the followers or followers-turned hecklers, is to wait to get amazed again, even if it looks like it’s going to take quite a long time.

Fanne Rice

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I’ve been obsessing about Anne Rice lately. I keep thinking, what if she finally dies? Sorry for being morbid but, what if she does? For the last 5 years, all she ever wrote are her Jesus novels (which I prefer to get from the likes of Christopher Moore who gives Jesus hard-on and other sorts of unmessiah-like virtues) and her Christian-themed memoir Called Out of Darkness.

In college, I had obsessed even harder. In my so-called book review of Blood Canticle in the college paper, I prepared extra hard to write the most flattering, most know-it-all sounding book review of the last Chronicle to come out of Miss Rice’s most fabulous and most popular series, The Vampire Chronicles. I’d be the happiest fanboy if I could just get that ‘review’ published. You know how college writers are: so eager to dazzle the studentry with their gorgeous prose, with their world-changing take on the latest popular novel as if their sad, would-be ignored, cookie-cutter reviews will ever be read by anyone other than the editors and their sad selves. Me, I didn’t care. I just wanted to show off and hoped that Anne Rice herself will one day will read my review of her book.

As preparation for this, I’ve read every single Amazon review there is on Blood Canticle and they were among the most vicious criticisms I’ve ever read. The Anne Rice fans were vicious just because they weren’t happy about the final Lestat novel. I took this personally and may even have made an Amazon account just to get back at the retards who called Anne a hack. Fortunately for them, Amazon does not allow reviews from wannabes because they have a way of detecting. Joke lang. To be an Amazon reviewer as it turns out, you need to have purchased at least one item. Then October came and I was finally able to read the book in all its tarnished glory.

It sucked!

In a way, I was more relieved because it was certainly easier for me to malign, hate, criticize something I didn’t like. And I know Anne Rice so it would be very easy. Though she may never come across my beautiful writing as I wish she would, I still have the same hopes for vampire lit’s most enduring, most flamboyant, and sexiest vamp tramp Lestat. I thought Lestat should have had a more proper exit, a more bombastic one, any kind of exit befitting the true prince of vampire literature. If you’ve ever cared for Anne’s works, you’ll have no trouble denouncing Blood Canticle as an  instrument of destruction which in its very slim form, took all but 400 pages to ruin whatever fantasies, hopes and dreams (of movie adaptations, musicals, etc) you may have had turned into, uh, ashes.

I have been looking for some thing to devoted ungodly fanaticism to but I just can’t find one as enduring as Anne Rice. She’s about to turn 69 this October 14 and to be symbolic about it, I am rereading Prism of the Night: A Biography of Anne Rice by Katherine Ramsland. I have a month to finish it and even though it’s Anne Rice-novel long, I’d still gladly indulge and set aside Blackwood Farm for the meantime. I have yet to find a thing to fanatically follow so I really hope she doesn’t die soon, and that she starts revamping The Vampire Chronicles soon. A fanboy can hope.

Dear Anne, if you’re reading this, happy 69th!