I am reading Anne Rice’s Called Out of Darkness, and at one point she mentions her vampire novels. I was totally floored when she says they should not have been commercial successes because each was so different from the other. Different? Bloody hell, she wrote the same damned book five times, how could she say they are different?
But I understand. As a writer there is no reason for you to think while you are writing, ah, well, this is exactly like the last book I wrote, only with different people. No, you write it and think, because it has different people or a different setting, it is nothing like my other books. But that isn’t true. I tend to see right through the people to the bones of the novel, and many of Anne Rice’s vampires books have the exact same skeleton. While it could be argued that all novels have the same structure, hence they are novels and not say, cornbread recipes-novels can differ in a number of ways in their layout and the way the story is told. Not all of Anne Rice’s vampire books were the same, but they were enough alike to be annoying near the end.
Anne Rice may not have seen this, but I can’t be the only reader who did either. Still, it is a bit amazing that she considered these clone books to be completely different from one another.
Anne Rice goes on to say that people who quickly dismiss her novels have never read them or don’t understand them as they are too complex for the average reader. Must be nice to be so great that the little people who made her rich beyond the dreams of avarice can’t know what she is telling them, or just miss the point.
To tell the truth I think all writers have these feelings that they are never fully understood. Certainly it can’t be fun to have people tell you what your work means when clearly they have no idea what it means. I read all of Anne Rice’s vampire novels, and to tell the truth I did loose interest there near the end. It was the same old same old. I have not read the Jesus books because I have no interest in the subject matter.
But oddly, I don’t find Anne Rice’s attempts to explain, even in passing, what the books mean to her all that interesting either. An artist can tell you what a painting means to the artist, but what the painting means, or doesn’t mean, to the viewer is totally within the experience and views of that viewer. It is the same with novels. Jane Austin and Stephen King work in the same media, but their novels are not the same things. And so Anne Rice’s books are different books for each reader and it is ultimately pointless to try and tell the world what they are about and what they mean.
Anne Rice eventually discovered that the books about supernatural beings were in fact about The Supreme Being and how to get by in a world of Atheism. Another vampire writer I am fond of is Laurell K Hamilton, her books are all about the sex, even more so than Anne Rice’s books. But once in a while Anita Blake, the book’s hero, runs across an atheist. Whoa-back the wagon up a minute. There are atheists in our world, the real world, because there is no physical, logical, or scientific proof of god. In a world filled with vampires, zombies, were-everything and all manner of the supernatural-Not Believing in not an option! There is proof- empirical, logical, and rational at every step of every day that there is a Higher Power! The fact that Anne Rice’s Lestat hooks up with Jesus at one point does make it seem pretty obvious that God exists in this vampire universe as well.
There is only chapter in Called Out of Darkness that is of any interest to me, and I suspect, to most of her vampire novel fans. And that is the chapter where she talks about how no one who read her vampire books actually understands them. As might be expected the bulk of the book is about her life as a young Catholic and she pretty much skips over the middle bit where she became rich and famous and picks up being a good Catholic again in later life. This would be like Martha Stewart writing a book about being a sweet little girl who never cooked, skips over that whole domestic goddess phase of her life, and talks about how nice it is to settle down to a simple life of knitting again. While Anne Rice’s faith filled life is surely interesting to someone, it is not that interesting to me.
She says that should write a book about her life during the Vampire Years, but that this is not that book. If she does write that book, I would be interested to find out what she loved about her vampire books that no one else could understand.
People who find God, or re-find God as Anne Rice did, are all in love with the telling of their Salvation. This seems to be a large part of the True Believer’s life-to share with others the rapture that they have found and want everyone else to find as well. That whole lost sheep returning to the flock aspect is also irresistible. The fact that she made all her money and took all her pilgrimages around the world during her atheists years is kind of funny though.
There is also a lot of love of CAPITAL letters whenever the Great and Powerful Glorious Beloved Goodness that is He is mentioned. I found that pretty annoying pretty quickly. Anne Rice talks at great length about how she was indoctrinated into the Catholic Church before she could read or write and how images and feelings make her believe as she did then and does again now. Yet she doesn’t see this as a form of brainwashing against people too young to defend themselves.
If you share these beliefs then it is a positive story of someone finding their way back to God. If not, well, we will always have her Vampire Novels from her atheist days to read when the mood strikes us. These are fun books, and they are often baffling, but I think that’s a good thing.