I first came across the books when I had just moved to Sydney. Back then, there was far more available in Sydney than would ever grace the bookshops in Wellington, and The Vampire Chronicles were certainly representative on what more was on offer.
I had grown up watching vampire movies, as my mother liked watching horrors and for some reason Mum let me stay up to watch many horror movies with her. They weren't as gory back then as the are now, but boy were they bloody scary. I remember one that terrified me so much that I cut out giant paper crosses and stuck then up all over the house to prevent possible attacks by vampires. I was a very imaginative child and even though I knew the chances of there actually being real vampires out there to be very remote, I thought it would be better not to take any chances.
So, maybe now in retrospect my attraction to reading the books was just a hankering for home and childhood. Though the books certainly explored the nature of evil, power and immortality. Until very recently the idea of living forever, or for a thousand years or so, seemed very attractive to me.
I think also, exploring darkness from the point of view of evil makes provides a way in to this genre for those of us who are easily terrified. Evil becomes normal, accessible and understandable and as long as the victim isn't yourself, even attractive.
Which leads me to what prompted me to write this post. Last weekend I managed to get an Anne Rice book back from my cousin which I had lent to her nearly a year ago. I don't blame her for not reading it as I did jokingly warn her that the book was a major factor (out of many) in my reverting back to Catholicism in late 2006.
The book was Christ the Lord; Out Of Egypt. A major departure for Anne Rice, but then again not so much. After writing about vampires, witches and exploring S&M under a different name - this book goes beyond evil and debauchery. Sometimes a person has to be in darkness for a long time before they realise there is nothing there worth staying for. If they honestly search for truth and accept it when they find it, they will be lead out into the light.
I do believe all human beings have this capability, to recognise truth when they see it. However, internal dishonesty (lying to oneself) will cause the truth to be elusive.
Out of Egypt is the story of the truth Himself, the ultimate immortal - God incarnate as a seven year old child. The story starts with Yeshua (Jesus) accidentally killing another child in a game, then bringing him back from the dead, much to the consternation of the adults around Him.
It for me it was a very difficult book to read. I would pick it up, read a number of chapters and then put it down for a month or so. Not because the story wasn't interesting or captivating, but probably because it was both those things and more. I think it took me nine months to read it. How's that for symbolism? (If you don't get what I mean, nine months is how long it takes to grow a child ready for birth).
At the end of the book, Anne Rice talks about her journey in writing the story. She spent ten years doing the research. She also realised that she had been working her way back through time to that point in history. If you have read any of her books, this will make sense, as they are all very well researched historically and offer a real glimpse of what it must have been like in the time periods she's written for.
I haven't read all of her books as I lost interest. The last I read before Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt was Memnoc the Devil. Now, reading the review I can see why I couldn't read any more Anne Rice books for a long while.
The fifth volume of Rice's Vampire Chronicles is one of her most controversial books. The tale begins in New York, where Lestat, the coolest of Rice's vampire heroes, is stalking a big-time cocaine dealer and religious-art smuggler--this guy should get it in the neck. Lestat is also growing fascinated with the dealer's lovely daughter, a TV evangelist who's not a fraud.It went into a direction I was not ready to explore at the time. I had also just become a mother and decided to give up a number of my "dark obsessions", which also included reading Patricia Cornwell's serial killer books.
Lestat is also being stalked himself, by some shadowy guy who turns out to be Memnoch, the devil, who spirits him away. From here on, the book might have been called Interview with the Devil (by a Vampire). It's a rousing story interrupted by a long debate with the devil. Memnoch isn't the devil as ordinarily conceived: he got the boot from God because he objected to God's heartless indifference to human misery. Memnoch takes Lestat to heaven, hell, and throughout history.
Some readers are appalled by the scene in which Lestat sinks his fangs into the throat of Christ on the cross, but the scene is not a mere shock tactic: Jesus is giving Lestat a bloody taste in order to win him over to God's side, and Rice is dead serious about the battle for his soul. Rice is really doing what she did as a devout young Catholic girl asked to imagine in detail what Christ's suffering felt like--it's just that her imagination ran away with her.
If you like straight-ahead fanged adventure, you'll likely enjoy the first third; if you like Job-like arguments with God, you'll prefer the Memnoch chapters. --Tim Appelo
In hindsight, I can now see that reading such books prepared me very well for being able to last a year on an abortion debate board a couple of years later (probably in the late 1990's). I lived and breathed abortion arguments every day before it got too much for me. I think that the evil that humans do and justify to themselves is far worse than any vampire we imagine up. Maybe vampires are just projections?
What I found really interesting in Anne Rice's journey in writing Out of Egypt, is that she found most scholars who spent their lives researching Jesus didn't like Him very much.
In sum, the whole case for the nondivine Jesus who stumbled into Jerusalem and somehow got crucified by nobody and had nothing to do with Christianity and would be horrified by it if he knew about it - that whole picutre which had floated around in the liberal circles I frequented as an atheist for 30 years - that case was not made.After reading the book and then Anne Rice's comments on the scholarship around Jesus, I realised as a person growing up in the 80's I had been duped. I don't like being duped. History for me has always been fascinating because I have wanted to know the truth. I'm not into having my own personal pet ideas backed up by biased research. I'm sure that's surprising to a number of readers, as I probably seem very sure about the direction I'm heading in now. But that direction, that sense of surety that I have is based on years of finding dead-ends and recognising them as dead-ends. I'm not the type of person that wants to live a lie, no matter how attractive the lie is.
Not only was it not made, I discovered in this field some of the most biased scholarship I'd ever read. [...] Many of these scholars, scholars who apparently devoted their life to New Testament scholarship, disliked Jesus Christ. Some pitied him as a hopeless failure. Others sneered at him, and some felt an outright contempt. This came between the lines of the books. This emerged in the personality of the texts.
I'd never come across this kind of emotion in any other field of research, at least not to this extent. It was puzzling.
The people who go into Elizabethan studies don't set out to prove that Queen Elizabeth I was a fool They don't personally dislike her. They don't make snickering remarks about her, or spend their careers trying to pick apart her historical reputation. They approach her in other ways. They don't even apply this sort of dislike or suspicion or contempt to other Elizabethan figures. If they do, the person is not usually the focus of the study. Occasionally a scholar studies a villain, yes. But even then, the author generally ends up arguing for the good points of a villain or for his or her place in history, or for some mitigating circumstance, that redeems the study itself. People studying disasters in history may be highly critical of the rulers or the milieu at the time, yes. But in general scholars don't spend their lives in the company of historical figures whom they openly despise.
Anne Rice is coming out with next book about Jesus in February. It's called Christ the Lord: The Road to Cana in March this year.
Anne Rice’s second book in her hugely ambitious and courageous life of Christ begins during his last winter before his baptism in the Jordan and concludes with the miracle at Cana.Hopefully, the book will be available here in NZ. There's a real dearth of pro-Christian books in the mainstream bookshops. It's almost as if the publishers are far more confident of selling anti-Christian books in NZ than they are of pro-Christian. But, if it doesn't make it to our shores, I'll be buying it from Amazon. Hopefully it won't take me nine months to read like the first one.
It is a novel in which we see Jesus—he is called Yeshua bar Joseph—during a winter of no rain, endless dust, and talk of trouble in Judea.
Legends of a Virgin birth have long surrounded Yeshua, yet for decades he has lived as one among many who come to the synagogue on the Sabbath. All who know and love him find themselves waiting for some sign of the path he will eventually take.
And at last we see him emerge from his baptism to confront his destiny—and the Devil. We see what happens when he takes the water of six great limestone jars, transforms it into cool red wine, is recognized as the anointed one, and urged to call all Israel to take up arms against Rome and follow him as the prophets have foretold.
As with Out of Egypt, the opening novel, The Road to Cana is based on the Gospels and on the most respected New Testament scholarship. The book’s power derives from the profound feeling its author brings to the writing and the way in which she summons up the presence of Jesus.