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Monday, October 24, 2005

The pilgrimage of Anne Rice.

[Indulge me in a moment of non-contentiousness. It's not like you have a choice...]

Not only is Heather the certified Anne Rice Expert in our household, I think she's in the running for that title for the Midwest. She has virtually everything written by the author, most of it in hardcover. We have an amusing photo of Heather with Anne (at the risk of informality with someone I've never met) at a local book signing (BookBeat--a fine indep. bookstore), seemingly instructing the bestselling author on how to sign her copy. It's not actually the case, but that's what it looks like. Heather reports that Anne is marvelous to her fans, from the get-go flouting an attempted effort to restrict fans to one signed item, namely the newly-published book. Heather had her first edition of The Vampire Lestat signed, gladly. Speaking of pilgrimages, my blushing child bride has even gone to New Orleans in part because of the Big Easy's prominence in the Vampire novels.

In fact, Heather is the one who should be writing this post, and I expect she will have a follow-up of her own shortly. Being something of a wandering Catholic herself, Heather can identify with drifting away from Catholicism and returning to the faith of her birth. That, and I've only read the first three Vampire novels: Interview, Lestat and Queen of the Damned. I've started Tale of the Body Thief, but after the mythic/apocalyptic scope of Queen, it was too "quiet" for my taste. Some day.

But still, what I have read made this interesting story about the first Anne Rice book in two years worth mentioning. Yes, it's the first of a series of novels on the life of Christ.

Contrary to what one might think, there is a moral core to the Vampire novels I have read, and each features a tortured struggle on the part of the protagonists against the compulsion of their vampiric nature and the impact of immortality. In fact, vampirism could be profitably read as a parable of original sin in a world without redemption, or even the essence of Hell--namely, immortality without God. Then again, I can read a Judas-Peter parable into Falling Down, so I recommend a grano salis. Or perhaps the whole block.

Anyway, the most interesting thing (of many, which includes her dead-on assessment of too much of modern scripture scholarship) is the profoundly Catholic approach to the project. For example, consider that Christ is fully God and fully man, and the obvious defense of the perpetual virginity of Mary. Believe it or not, this is not a new facet in her work, as Heather notes that there has been a definite Catholic "drift" in recent novels, especially Blackwood Farm, which has unmistakable and strong sacramental notes. The signs bode very well for Christ The Lord, if you pay attention. A couple more recommendations:

(1) Don't look at this in instrumental terms, as was all too often the case with The Passion of The Christ--i.e., what it will do for evangelism, etc. Like TPOTC, it's going to be a deeply personal expression, and one that very well might not be yours.

(2) On a related note, set the Orthodoxy Detector on its least sensitive setting. All reversions and conversions are pilgrimages, and forming Ye Olde Circular Firing Squad will be...counterproductive, not to mention uncharitable. Don't be the orthodox equivalent of the academic mafia which tried to bayonet the Gibson project in its crib. To repeat: it is a personal statement of devotion. It is not a rewrite of the General Instruction on the Roman Missal by the BCL. By all signs, this is the furthest thing from DVC, Jr., and that should be kept in mind.

That, and the humbling observation that none of us is a finished product.

[Link via Mark.]

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