Called Out Of Darkness: A Spiritual Confession
By Anne Rice
Knopf; 245 pp.
In 2002 Rice, the queen bat of vampire fiction, shed her fangs and began writing books (two so far) about the life of Jesus. This memoir is Rice's attempt to explain her return to Christianity, moving from the idyllic New Orleans of her 1940s childhood to the renunciation of her Catholic faith indeed, of all faiths during her student years and after in 1960s San Francisco. Rice's reminiscences about her ensuing atheist period and the success of her decidedly irreligious vampire novels are tinged with some sorrow; she moves earnestly on to the 90s, years in which, she says, a benevolent deity "hunted" her down until she gave in and accepted His divine love.
1. An epiphany beneath the huge statue of Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro: "Suddenly the clouds broke, revealing the giant figure of Jesus Christ above us, with His outstretched arms. The moment was beyond any rational description...I had come thousands of miles to stand here. And here was the Lord. The clouds quickly closed over the statue; then broke and revealed the statue again. How many times this happened I don't remember. I do remember a kind of delirium...I didn't acknowledge faith in these moments at the foot of the statue. But something greater than creedal formulation took hold of me, a sense that this Lord of Lords belonged to me in all his beauty and grandeur."
2. The fate of Lestat: "My hero, the Vampire Lestat, the genderless giant who lived in me, was always the voice of my soul in this novel [2002's Blackwood Farm] and it is no accident that he begins it with a cry of the heart, 'I want to be a saint, I want to save the souls of millions!' [But]by the end of the novel, confessing his failure ever to be anything but a rambunctious reprobate and Byronic sinner, he...resigned as the hero of the books which had given him life...This character who had been my dark search engine for twenty-seven years would never speak in the old framework again."
3. On her differences with contemporary Christian teaching: "Centuries ago the stars were sacred. A man could be burnt at the stake for declaring that the earth revolved around the sun...Now the Christian world holds the stars to be secular...Is it not possible for us to do with gender, sexuality and reproduction what was long ago done with the stars? To realize that...new sources of information on them may be as valid as the information given us long ago?"
4. A shocking childhood scene recounted only 13 pages before the book's end: "I was with a group of children...playing in the side yard of a house that had a basement and an open basement window. At one point we crowded to the edge...and looked down into the empty room. The room must have been over eight feet deep. Perhaps it was deeper. There was a little boy crouching next to me at the edge of the window, and I turned to him, and pushed him so that he fell all the way down to the basement floor. I did it for no other reason than to see what would happen. I did it because I felt it was an interesting thing to do. I will never forget all my life that little boy's scream as he fell...I mention it now because I think I knew evil and wrong in that moment."
Called out of Darkness is catnip for devout Christians: Rice's conversion is disorganized enough to sound real, her eagerness to embrace confession and discipleship is inspiring, and her arguments in a passage on "Christmas Christianity" suggest Rice could rival C.S. Lewis as a popular apologist for the faith. For those more interested in learning about what shaped the author of the bestselling vampire sagas and volumes of sadomasochistic pornography (written under a pseudonym), the book is maddening. Rice drops dark hints of severe dyslexia, militant gender ambiguity, alcoholism and bipolarity, but retreats, giving little away. The startling childhood confession very late in the book suggests that had Rice aired her demons more fully, the tale of her defection to the angels would be that much more powerful.
The Verdict: Read