Friday, November 9, 2012

A Dogma-free Yeshua for Today!

Anne Rice accomplishes something quite audacious, and yet respectful to existing sources, with her two novels concerning the Life of Christ. The second, The Road to Cana, is again a first-person narrative told by Yeshua himself, and this time he's past thirty, on the verge of somewhat reluctantly entering his ministry. His voice seems to me to be his own, not Anne's! Authorial craft, I suppose? In the first book, Out of Egypt, he is a boy whose family living in exile in Alexandria returns to Nazareth upon the news that Herod the Great has died.

We know we're not in Oz as this one begins when the mature Yeshua has apparently had a wet dream about a beautiful woman in his village, wakes up a bit wet and messy and washes his robe. Though none of the specifics are really Biblical up until the marriage at Cana at the end, except for the baptism in the Jordan and a few other moments, every event, every detail and description seems plausible to me. The historical context and background are immaculate. I especially love in these books, the mention of a place on a hillside where Jesus likes to go to simply be alone in Nature.

As with the first of the two books, there are no cheesy miracles, no preaching, no blatant Christian dogma presented, though this is a traditional view that the gospels are quite accurate. Though Anne Rice does not feel quite the same on the subject now, she has not abandoned these novels, any more than she totally rejected her other supernatural creations during her venture back in the arms of Mother Church. Recently she has expressed interest in the film version of Out of Egypt. When these books came out, I remember emailing Anne and telling her that I though they contained some of her finest writing. I still feel that way.

In retrospect, Yeshua is of course, another sort of supernatural, possibly immortal being. She brings him to life in a way I've never experienced before. And yet this always happens with her characters, whether with Louis and Claudia  and Lestat in the Vampire Chronicles, or Mona and Quinn in the Lives of the Mayfair Witches as they merged with the Vampires, or dashing young Reuben of the new Man Wolf series.

Anne always provides moments that raise every hair on my body--SPOILER ALERT, I SUPPOSE--and in this case it involves Yeshua's awareness that there are two kinds so prayer for him--a rote thing learned, and a direct connection when he feels one with his heavenly Father--and he makes a command. In this case, there has been a long drought in Israel and it has to do with a sudden storm, only it's about far more than bringing rainfall…

Got me, Anne, as you always do!

THis woman's writing continues to evolve. In many ways, for example Blood Canticle was the finest wine of all the Vampire and Witch books that intertwined in the last two volumes. An actively practicing artist often only improves with age, and this is certainly the case with Anne Rice. She keeps opening another treasure-chest of literary delight for her fans, time-after-time.

It may seem unlikely, however I'd still love to see the third Christ book, which I believe was referred to as The Kingdom of Heaven. You never know…

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Passionate, Exquisite Prose for Our Times

Like many of Anne Rice's long-time readers, when I first learned that she had returned to the church, I did not know what to think of it. When her first novel about the life of Christ, CHRIST THE LORD: OUT OF EGYPT was published in 2005, I was probably feeling withdrawal from the regular appearance of Anne's novels, which I had been reading regularly since 1976.

So I have an exquisite hardcover First Edition of this book, which was delivered to me on its publication date, because I paid for Second Day shipping. Though stores cannot put a book out legally before the lay-down date, mail-order book sellers can send books ahead that will ship a couple of days early.

What amazes me about Anne's Christ novels is first, the sheer audacity of depicting the Life of Christ in first-person narrations. Something else amazing here is that the novel is free of dogma, cheesy miracles, or silly special-effects. And though Anne did major amounts of research for authenticity, near the very beginning is an allusion to one of the non-canonical "Childhood Miracle" Gospels of Jesus. Let me not SPOIL any surprises, but this vivid reference near the very beginning of the book refers to clay birds.

I suppose I should post a POSSIBLE SPOILER ALERT for anyone who might wish to go into the novel with no idea of things to come. Two remarkably powerful things for me were Anne's description of the animal sacrifices at the Great Temple, a virtual mist of blood, and young Jesus's reaction when he hears the story of King Herod and the male children under age 2 years. This is one of those gripping moments that Anne offers in every book, usually quite a number of them, that really grabs you.

For years I've felt that Anne's publishers honor the class, quality and elegance of her writings with the hardcover First Editions that have deckled edges, gorgeous fonts, classical art on the covers, and sometimes gold. It's the treasure chest of the stories and the language within those lovely covers, however, that really matters. Anne writes in what seems to me a white-hot inferno of activated imagination, in which as she SEES the story, it flows through her fingertips through the keyboard into the novel.

Some people complain about the simplicity of the words in this narrative, as if not recalling that Jesus at the time he tells this story is 7 or 8 years of age. His voice is that of a boy that age, who is also aware that he may be something more than an ordinary boy.

In this book and the followup three years later, Jesus was brought to life as a human person, also divine, as never before for me. I've read the New Testament and the Old, and what I love about this novel of Anne's is that it is not propaganda for a religion. It is the story of a boy talking about his life some two millennia in the past.

Anne has moved on in her personal life, and as I always said to my friends, she's highly intelligent, a good person, and she did not lose her marbles when she went back to the Catholic church. However I'm proud of her because she keeps moving.