Tuesday, May 01, 2007

The Conversion of Anne Rice

It seems my main blog site might be about to give up the ghost, as the site is down more than up these days. I'll be transferring lots of posts over to my other blogs from that one. This is one of those.

No, this isn't a Halloween blog (even though it is already Halloween here). It has, in fact, nothing at all to do with Halloween, and it is only a coincidence (or is it a synchronicity?) that I am posting on leaving the spooky stuff behind on Halloween.

The coincidence/synchronicity lies in my having stumbled across an article by Gene Edward Veith in the most recent issue of Christian Research Journal called "From Vampires to Jesus." Veith is quite a prolific writer, and I even have this book of his sitting on my shelves, but I don't think I have read any of his work before this article. It's funny because much of his work revolves around topics and thought systems that are of interest to me, and how they interact with one another.

For instance, this article that I read was about Anne Rice, and her conversion to Christianity. My own faith is no secret around here, I am sure, nor is my interest in vampire stories (even though I prefer Frankenstein) -- and it is the only place I've ever displayed my own attempt at writing one. So the intersection of topics and ideas in Veith's article naturally captured my attention.

Imagine my delight, then, when the article turned to a discussion about the relationship between fiction and fact, a nice coincidence/synchronicity with my most recent post. Veith explores the question in the context of Rice's recent conversion, and the first novel she's released since that time. Before her conversion, Rice was probably best known for her novel Interview With the Vampire. She's churned out many vampire stories over the years, alongside some novels about witchcraft, and what Veith calls "sadomasochistic pornography." (I've often heard it reported that she has a good deal of such writing out under a pen name.)

But she's not discussing her earlier work anymore. She's gone in a different vein now. More recently, she's published a novel, which is planned as the first in a triology, called Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt.

But, perhaps not surprisingly, Rice's new work has also stirred up some controversy, as have other issues she's spoken out on since her conversion, as evidenced by this January 2006 article by Carl Olson. She writes the novel in the first person, with the boy Jesus as narrator. I suppose there is something bold or daring about that. But, further, she includes in the novel many apocryphal accounts of Jesus' boyhood, including the working of miracles, though she acknowledges that these are "legends" (I'm quoting Veith quoting Rice).

Here's what Veith has to say about all of this:

In fiction, truth inheres not in the made-up incidents, but in their meaning; not in the novel's plot, but in its theme and the message it communicates. In this sense, Rice is using her fiction to convey orthodox teachings about who Jesus is.

Those legends of the miracles of the Christ child appear in the apocryphal -- and heretical -- Gnostic gospels, but in her novel Rice works exactly against the matter-denying hyperspirituality of Gnosticism. She instead dramatizes the incarnation (that God came in human flesh in actual human history).

Veith points out how Rice captures the potential for confusion and inner struggle in a young boy who is understood to be God in the flesh. I haven't read the novel myself, but that seems to me that it could be a very interesting tension to explore through fiction. Certainly it involves an amount of artifice to accomplish it, but it seems to me a valid way to seek out what might have been the experience of such a boy.

I am interested in observing the reception of the next two novels that are supposed to follow this one. It could (and should, I think) get more and more complex as the boy grows up. The responses to the novels will probably do the same.

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