ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT

Anne Rice is now extolling Jesus Christ, not vampires

It's Halloween, and Anne Rice has a new book -- a memoir in fact -- that's climbing bestseller lists. Everything is normal, then.

Normal if it were 1994 -- the height of Rice's mega-selling fame as a queen of Southern Gothic pulp.

For those who haven't been paying attention lately to vampire lit, America's most famous chronicler of bloodsuckers doesn't live in New Orleans anymore -- and hasn't since before Hurricane Katrina hit -- and she's riding new waves of enthusiasm: the memoir and Christian lit.

Her memoir, "Called Out of Darkness: A Spiritual Confession," is the latest piece of evidence that Rice is reinventing herself in an attempt to build a reputation as a serious Christian writer.

In the memoir, the 67-year-old writer doesn't disavow the two decades she spent churning out books on vampires, demons and witches -- with a batch of S&M erotica thrown in -- after the breakout success of her first novel in 1976, "Interview With the Vampire."

But she's clearly moved on.

In a telephone interview from her mountain home in Rancho Mirage, Rice laid out her goal:

"To be able to take the tools, the apprenticeship, whatever I learned from being a vampire writer, or whatever I was -- to be able to take those tools now and put them in the service of God is a wonderful, wonderful, wonderful opportunity," she said. "And I hope I can redeem myself in that way. I hope that the Lord will accept the books I am writing now."

The memoir follows the release of two books in a planned four-part, first-person chronicle of the life of Jesus.

And in this 245-page tome, Rice presents her former life as vampire writer as that of a soul-searching wanderer in the deserts of atheism; as someone akin to her most famous literary creations -- Lestat, her "dark search engine"; Louis the aristocrat-turned-vampire; and Egyptian Queen Akasha, "the mother of all vampires."

"I do think that those dark books were always talking about religion in their own way. They were talking about the grief for a lost faith," she said.

In 2002, Rice broke away completely from atheism -- nearly four decades after she gave up her Roman Catholic faith as the 1960s started.

Always over-the-top and beyond the rational, she writes that her return of faith was preceded by a series of epiphanies -- many while on travels to Europe's cathedrals, Israel and Brazil.

In a sense, the memoir also is a confessional about her struggle as a writer to be a reader, a thinker and an author with a distinct literary style. Her stories often are reveries with no end in sight -- and all too often ugly with pedantic unwinding, numbing in detail and overly simplistic, a pastiche of cliches.

Rice isn't out to impress the critics, though.

"My objective is simple: It's to write books about our Lord living on Earth that make him real to people who don't believe in him; or people who have never really tried to believe in him," she said.

She pressed the point: "I mean, I've made vampires believable to grown women. Now, if I can do that, I can make our Lord Jesus Christ believable to people who've never believed in him. I hope and pray."

Burdeau is a writer for the Associated Press.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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