Jesus Creed

Jesus Creed


The Christ-Haunted Vampire Novelist

posted by Jesus Creed Admin

Anne Rice’s vampire novels have sold 100 million copies. She now
writes, as she tells us so candidly in her memoir of conversion, Called Out of Darkness: A Spiritual Confession
, solely for God. Her story is an old genre: faith and then atheism and then rediscovery
of faith. But, because her faith is also profoundly personal and
because no two persons are identical, her story is a fresh story of conversion (and a good Christmas present book).

Questions for conversation: What is your favorite conversion story (and why)? What do you think of the conversion story of celebrities (like Anne Rice)? How much did the artistic, sensory, or aesthetic figure into your conversion? (I haven’t mentioned my book on conversion on this blog in a long time: Turning to Jesus: The Sociology of Conversion in the Gospels
.)


I
have read and pondered hundreds of conversion stories in print, my
favorites being C.S. Lewis, Surprised by Joy: The Shape of My Early Life
, and G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy: The Annotated Edition
. Anne Rice’s memoir
is more like Lewis’s than like Chesterton’s, whose style seems to take
over everything, in that Rice’s conversion is from front to end sensory
and aesthetic.? If Lewis’ conversion placed in his heart the joy he was
seeking and if it made sense of all the stories he had explored, Rice’s
conversion story is that of the person whose visceral sensory
experiences were not only shaped by the gospel but also found their
ultimate meaning only in the gospel.

In one remarkably compact
paragraph, which states the theme of her schoolgirl life, Anne Rice says,
“It’s important to stress here that my earliest experiences involved
beauty; my strongest memories are of beautiful things I saw, things
which evoked such profound feeling in me that I often felt pain” (6).
Add to this that she said her early faith was “entirely iconic” (15)
and that “the words didn’t matter in those early days. The sentiment,
the sense of the sacred, the sense of the splendid opportunity, were
all embodied in the tones and the music” (23). Anne Rice’s faith was
medieval in that, like the ordinary Christian of those days who could
not read, “there was a profound connection between narrative, art,
music, and faith” (29).

Paradoxically, when she moved from New
Orleans to Texas and then attended college, she observes that the
“church had become for me anti-art and anti-mind. No longer was there a
blending of the aesthetic and the religious as there had been
throughout my childhood” (124). She left the church and that meant she
left God for her God was the God of that church – the Roman Catholic
Church. She quit and became an atheist for thirty-eight years.

This book is the remarkable rediscovery of her faith.

Sensory
faith and sensory conversion stories are the province of artists who
write from the gut and by instinct. Anne Rice was such an author: her
vampire, sensual novels “where written,” she reveals, “by someone whose
auditory and visual experiences shaped the prose…. I am a terrible
reader. But my mind is filled with these auditory and visual lessons
and, powered by them, I can write about five times faster than I can
read” (144). She developed a style that could “make real for the reader
the acoustic and iconic world in which I’d been formed as a child”
(144).

Her conversion involved
the sensory and the aesthetic. After she returned to New Orleans as an
accomplished a wildly wealthy novelist and after her faith began to
reawaken in her, she “continued to buy religious statues” (170) and a
building or two that she filled with icons. Throughout her atheist
days, Rice kept a graphic icon of St. Francis and Christ, an icon of
suffering and compassion. Back in New Orleans her son and creation and
music and paintings continued to reveal to her that there was a God and
that the incarnate Jesus Christ embodied – in a sensory and profoundly
aesthetic sense – what her faith was once again becoming. After her
conversion she relearned to pray but to do so it had to become
“acoustic” – she had to hear the prayers (193).

We’ll continue this review tomorrow.



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Darren King

posted November 24, 2008 at 9:59 am


I am currently reading through this book as well. What strikes me, above all else, is the way that truth is conveyed. For Rice, truth/beauty/meaning were communicated via images, scenes, scents, sounds, more so than the written word. I think this is what has fascinated me so much about Eastern Orthodoxy, and what I often found lacking in my evangelical background; the thousands of words contained in an icon, the sense that truth, at best, can be approximated, and is best done via images, paradoxes, impressions. This sense that when you nail something down in literary form, you necessarily lose dimension.
In reality, it is partly this understanding of truth that led me to become post-evangelical, emergent, or what have you. I am not Catholic. I am not Eastern Orthodox. But I am far too influenced by each of these traditions, as well as others, to consider myself Evangelical. And I think Rice’s conception of truth/beauty/meaning has something to do with this. I refuse to exist in a narrow bandwidth of dimension.



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Julie Clawson

posted November 24, 2008 at 9:59 am


I haven’t read Anne Rice’s conversion story, my favorite in that genre is Anne Lamott’s Traveling Mercies. I hope though that Rice will help redeem christian art by demonstrating that writing shines for its crafting as well as its message.



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Erik Leafblad

posted November 24, 2008 at 10:12 am


Sounds almost Augustinian, in that so much of her life’s travels, regardless of where they took her, seemed to be leading her back to that moment of conversion. I just put this at the top of my Christmas wish-list, which is rare for me, as I usually indulge the more stuffy theological works (they tend to cost more, hence better gifts ;-). But, as my wife and I have decided to give up TV for a year (we actually gave away our TV…what are we thinking?!), I think I’ll need some of these memoir type reads to pass the evenings.



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Karl

posted November 24, 2008 at 12:14 pm


I read Anne Rice’s “Out of Darkness” last week and was fascinated, having also recently (the last couple of years) read several of her vampire novels and noticed how filled they were with the search for meaning and beauty in a world without God. So much of her self-analysis in her recent spiritual autobiography resonated with the impressions I had of her as an author while reading her novels. She seemed to be someone who was wrestling with God – or as Lewis said, someone who didn’t believe in God but at the same time was angry at God for not existing and/or for creating the world the way it is and determined not to believe in Him but to find meaning and beauty anyway, even if driven near to despair with the effort.____Lewis’s Surprised By Joy tops the list of spiritual autobiographies for me. I’ve also enjoyed Madeleine L’Engle’s Crosswick Journals and Anne Lamott’s Travelling Mercies. Augustine’s “Confessions” has to be on the list but it sounds kind of pretentious to mention that one – and for me it kind of stands in its own category. Not necessarily above the others in terms of enjoyment but apart from them and in a separate category as something more certainly classic and enduring.



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BeckyR

posted November 24, 2008 at 1:19 pm


Anne Lamott’s conversion story is my favorite. I can relate to her less than glamorous conversion, it was something like “what the f___, come in.” I relate to her preconversion experience of sitting in that one church, listening to the music and how it hit some place inside her. I can relate to Lamott and think if we knew each other we’d be friends, which might be a scary thing to say like I could turn into a stalker or something. But, no.



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Karl

posted November 24, 2008 at 2:45 pm


Darren (#1) your mention of Eastern Orthodoxy reminds me of another conversion story that I would put on my list: Frederica Matthews-Green’s “Facing East”, which contains both the story of her conversion to Christianity but also (in much greater detail as it is the primary focus of the book) the story of her conversion from protestantism to capital “O” Orthodoxy. Her follow-up book “At the Corner of East and Now” is also good and along the same lines – much like Anne Lamott’s writing subsequent to Travelling Mercies continues to chronicle her own journey.



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Terry Dischinger

posted November 24, 2008 at 6:33 pm


Scot,
Thanks for looking at this book. I have delved into Rice’s Vampire series in the past and was very intrigued when her first book on Christ came out. Though I felt there was a very strong Catholic theological slant to her first Christ novel, I really, really enjoyed it and recommended it to others. What I most enjoyed was the epilogue that she included to the paperback version where she tells the basics of her conversion and retrn to the church. That fascinated me and spoke much to my heart. I feel like she did such a great job of laying out the reasons in ways that other skeptics could not easily dismiss. This is one of them and one that for many had lead the charge in things “anti-God.” I let many people borrow my book to just read that part of book. Many were encouraged and amazed that a person like Rice could be so straight forward and open about her experiences. I have not had a chance to get this book yet but look forward to reading it and hopefully joining in with the discussion. I would also like to search about and see responses from the skeptics to her book.
Thanks again Scot for bring important books and discussions to our attention.



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Mike

posted November 24, 2008 at 9:35 pm


thanks for pointing out rice’s book, i’ve been so wrapped up in things i haven’t heard of it before now. my favorite conversion story is the apostle paul’s, yeah that’s a sunday school answer but c’mon, he was persecuting the church! but there are no conversion stories that aren’t awesome and miraculous.
as far as celebrities, i always think of the lead singer for creed, i believe his name was scot stapp or something like that. i was working for a christian book store and one of the magazines featured him and his new “christian” album, as well as his return to christianity. i thought it was cool, then a couple days later he was on the news for being in a drunken rage on the streets down in florida, cussing and stuff. not to pass judgment, but we have to be wary of motives, too, i suppose, for conversion stories by celebrities.



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sage

posted December 26, 2008 at 11:14 pm


i have always followed the writings of Ann Rice and have enjoyed her books. as she has touched so many people with the vampire books and is so well known because of them i believe this will led many others to read her books of her faith. God does work in mysterious ways.
God Bless Ann in all that she does, she is a Blessing.



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