In my high school they used to pair up a senior with a freshman to show them around. I was an extremely quiet awkward goth girl who was paired up with a new wave Victorian goth girl named Mickey. Imagine my luck! We used to have lunch together in the rose garden in front of the Virgin Mary statue and talk about poetry and books. She used to carry around a copy of Anne Rice‘s The Vampire Lestat. The paperback she had was red with gothic lettering. It was so strange looking to me but I rushed out and bought the first in the series, Interview with a Vampire. I loved it. And then I read everything else. Everything. I reread my favorites multiple times. Eventually there were no books for me to read. I just had to wait for her to write another. I’d anxiously await them. In college those were my vacation books. Then I was in grad school and lost track of her. I didn’t forget her, I just didn’t have time.
Then her husband, Stan Rice, poet, died. Her one true love. Father of both her children. The child that died at the age of 5 and inspired Claudia, the child who never dies in Interview. Father of Christopher Rice, a writer who consistently turns out good books. My heart broke for her. Rice grew up Catholic, going to church everyday with her mother, watching her receive the Eucharist, and studying the stations of the cross. (That’s what initially got her thinking about vampires.) After Stan died, Rice strengthened her Catholicism and wrote two books about Christ. I read one of them. She also wrote about returning to her Catholic roots. I haven’t read it yet, but I will when I find it at a Goodwill. I’m invested in this woman. I can’t even begin to think how much of my reading life I’ve devoted to her. I don’t like the idea of not reading one of her books. It’s akin to ignoring your friend’s story that you’re not quite interested in.
Last year I started rereading books I used to love. I cautiously picked up The Witching Hour. I feared my heart would break if I was disappointed all these years later. Nothing to fear. Anne Rice still holds up. Oh Anne, how I love you. Your gothic novels, your financially stable characters who drive porsches and jaguars. Everyone has a disposable income. Money is inherited from long lost relatives. Characters have multiple homes in different countries. Everyone has old world charm and is polite, even the antiheroes. And everyone is beautiful.
This year I read her most recent book, The Wolf Gift, a daring departure for the author of the Vampire series, about a pack of werewolves. Oh Anne! If it were anyone else, I would have felt betrayed. You initially wrote about vampires, before this horrid Twilight crap, and now you’re writing about werewolves. I know that they are linked together. I understand that. But if it were anyone else I would have assumed they were jumping on the midnight express Twilight train.
The Wolf Gift is about a good-looking rich guy who has never had a problem in his life. He drives a jaguar, dresses well, and lives in Russian Hill with his parents, a professor and a doctor. He is a writer and dates a lawyer who works for the district attorney. He goes to interview the owner of a beautiful mansion in the country and falls in love with the property and the woman. He feels drawn to this building and wants to buy it. While there, both he and the woman are attacked, she dies, he is bit, and so the story begins. He buys the mansion, of course, because he’s a trust fund kid and can afford it. He turns into a werewolf but doesn’t understand the changes. He is drawn towards protecting those in danger from evil. Yes, there’s a bit of the superhero complex in it. And of course, now that he is changed, he cannot love the same woman he did when he was a man. So he has to fall in love with someone else. And then the men who can explain the history appear. Perhaps this sounds like something you’ve read before? In a previous Anne Rice novel? But it’s still good. And when you think about it, there’s only a handful of stories in the world. The beauty and art is in the telling. And Anne Rice possesses a plethora of both.
The book is well-written. And sadly, in this day, that’s a huge deal. She describes everything in meaningful detail. Her characters are up-to-date in the newest technology. Everything reads right. My only real complaints are that she spells email as e-mail and the handful of cheesy romance scenes (but they are short and over quickly). Because everything else is so current it grated on my nerves to see such an outdated spelling. The dust jacket describes this book as an exploration of good and evil but I disagree. I don’t think that was Rice’s intent. I think her intention was to write another gothic novel in present day America. She’s an extremely intelligent woman and if she wanted to explore morality she could. This book is intended to tell a story and create a history. That’s where Rice’s strength lies, in creating histories for her characters and her worlds.
For anyone who has ever read Anne Rice when they were younger, this is the book to pick up. Anne Rice is a worthy writer who happens to write about vampires, witches, and werewolves. Her characters are intelligent and beautiful and her villains have a history and reason. While she may not be considered high literature, I’m not sure that is what all books are meant to be. While I respect Orphan Pamuk, Phillip Roth, and Jennifer Egan, I wouldn’t want to read every book they’ve written. Actually, if I could only read a handful of writers for the rest of my life, Anne Rice would be one of them. She tells good stories, much better than most people and with all the time I’ve spent in her worlds, I consider her a friend.