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Bookends: A Vampire Novelist Finds Faith in God December 4, 2011

Posted by klondykewriter in Bookends.
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Bookends: A Vampire Novelist Finds Faith in God

By Dan Davidson

November 16, 2011

Star, Nov. 18/11

– 812 words –

Called Out of Darkness: a Spiritual Confession

By Anne Rice

Vintage Canada

245 pages

$19.95

When it comes to matters of faith, Anne Rice is a bit difficult to pin down. She’s not beyond editing her own biography and omitting things she doesn’t want to talk about. I note that the current version of her website does not list the books she wrote under the pseudonyms Anne Rampling and A.N. Roquelaure, which are generally described elsewhere as soft-core porn, or works relating to BDSM (bondage, discipline, sadism and masochism). These books were written in the middle of her other, better known, works, the ten Vampire novels and the three Mayfair Witches novels.

Since announcing her return to a belief in Jesus Christ in 2002 she has concentrated (since 2005), in her own words, on stories which relate to her faith in Christ, including her historical fiction biography of Christ (2 volumes and counting) and a new series about angels, called Songs of the Seraphim.

Called Out of Darkness is Rice’s own faith journey, which she sees as both a spiritual and literary journey, maintaining that the underlying theme of all her works has been a search for transcendence.

Born in 1941 and christened Howard Allen O’Brien (yes, she was born a girl), Anne gave herself the name by which she is known when she first went to school, and found her other name with the love of her life, Stan Rice, in her early twenties.

Raised in poverty in a very conservative Roman Catholic family, in a very Catholic neighbourhood in New Orleans, Anne struggled with reading as a child and attributes much of her learning to sights and sounds. Her family had an intense church life and she feels that the impact of the Latin mass, the iconic imagery and the hymns of the church soaked into her very being as a youngster.

When she lost her faith in her adolescence, it seems to have been less a matter of actually losing it and more a matter of the sort of post-modern culture shock that both Peter Hitchens and David Adams Richards have written about in their spiritual memoirs.

Rice maintains that she always had a sense that something was missing in her life and that she knew she needed to find it, but that her intellectual commitment to being an atheist kept her from looking in the right places.

Both she and Stan were heavy drinkers in their earlier married years. Losing a child to leukemia in 1972 did nothing to stop this, but finally having a son in 1978 made them both stop, realizing that they needed to insure they would be there for young Christopher.

Anne writes of how she collected religious iconography all through her adulthood, as soon as her success as a novelist allowed her to indulge herself, and among her purchases was the deconsecrated church she had attended as a child, as well as the building that housed the parochial school she went to for many years.

It was the impact of religious imagery, notably a Spanish statue of Christ and St. Francis, that chipped away at her faith in atheism (her term for it), to the point where she felt like the narrator in Francis Thompson’s “The Hound of Heaven”, the tale of a man who feels he is being pursued by God.

Finally, reluctantly, she began going to mass once more and eventually embraced her childhood faith.

That hasn’t been a comfortable place for her to be. The church of her childhood was so definite about so many things, and hid so many others. Near the end of this book she wrote of her faith in Christ “ I will never leave Him again, no matter what the scandals or the quarrels of His church on earth, and I will not leave his church either.”

She hasn’t been able to keep that vow and thus the book is incomplete.

In 2010 she posted the following on her website: “My faith in Christ is central to my life. My conversion from a pessimistic atheist lost in a world I didn’t understand, to an optimistic believer in a universe created and sustained by a loving God is crucial to me. But following Christ does not mean following His followers. Christ is infinitely more important than Christianity and always will be, no matter what Christianity is, has been, or might become. “

Called Out of Darkness is significant not because it is a finished tale, but because it shows the struggle that many a soul has to go through to find some kind of inner peace. Anne Rice’s spiritual journey is probably far from over, but she feels it is worth the effort it has taken.

 

-30 –

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