April 3, 2009

Important to Note

**Hello, it's me. I can barely believe I haven't posted since January. I think about blogging a lot, and have composed countless posts in my head. I think I'm just lazy. For me, blogging is sort of like the gym: I'm happier and feel better after doing it, but thinking about it stresses me out and makes me feel twice as lazy as usual.

Also, I still have my issues about putting my name & (strong) opinions on this blog in what is essentially a very small town of 100,00o+ people. (For instance, I consider myself to have about 5-6 good friends at most, and yet in Facebook-world, I have over 40 of them. And half are from here in my neighborhood tract.) Still, I always hear that one needs to confront and do the uncomfortable and scary things to grow, so maybe I'll just be a little more brave about putting myself out there. (Yes, I could blog under a psuedonym, but that seems pointless.)

And I really do need to grow and crack myself open a bit. I've been feeling so, so stuck in my head and my world and my particular funk of 2009, and something needs to change. It's been the Year of the Ox around here -- a lot of hard work, a lot of plodding and putting one foot in front of the other -- mostly for my husband and his work, but since he works from home, his problems feel like they're mine pretty easily. We both need a change of pace, some fun, some fresh air. Maybe me airing out my brain here will help that to start happening. It is spring after all.**

Okay. So, enough about me and where I've been (again). I've read a lot of books since I last reviewed one, and part of my problem has been feeling the pressure of the growing backlog to discuss them. Well, screw that. No backlog -- I'm just jumping in with what I'm reading right now.

And what I'm reading now is crazy Anne Rice's memoir Called Out of Darkness. Look at that cover. If I just saw that picture and didn't know who it was, I woud think: "that lady is a little nuts, no?" And Anne Rice sure seems a little nuts in this book. And NOT because I think she is crazy to return to the Roman Catholic faith of her childhood. In fact, that was the appeal of the book. As a very shaky believer with no background in organized religion, I'm usually drawn to hearing what other writers and thinkers have to say about their own faith. (Like, say, nutty Anne Lamott.)

But Anne Rice here is just ----- whew. Tiresome. The book starts off strongly enough, with her (quite nostalgic and sentimental) look back at her childhood and how Mass and the daily rituals of her family's very strong Catholic faith make up the bedrock of her early identity. I enjoyed reading the descriptions of her neighbourhood, on the outer edge of New Orleans' Garden District, of the grand churches and beautiful chapels she and her sister frequent, and the customs of the city that no longer exists in this modern age. Rice says that at an early age, she was convinced that she wanted to be a priest -- she didn't realize that as a girl, that would never be allowed. Then she moves on to wanting to become a nun, but realizes that for her, it's less about faith, and more about fame and glory.

Okay...then we move onto her going to college, where she eventually grows away from her faith and it's contradictions, meets lots of good and moral secular humanists, and decides that she is now an atheist, which she remains for many decades.

What drives me out of my mind is her insistent, compulsive need to keep writing "It's important to note...." Seriously, at times it feels like every other freakin' paragraph starts with this phrase -- and as a reader, I'm taken back to my days as a Freshman Comp. instructor, reading a very earnest and socially "important" term paper.

I think I could take this, and might be able to enjoy the endless re-hashing of how gender identity issues stalk her life and work, if the woman had even a shred, an iota, of a sense of humor. But, nope. Not here. Which, coupled with both the front-jacket picture and the toothy author pic on the back jacket, leads me to conclude that Anne Rice is, er, crazy.

"It's important to note" for me, that I've never read her famous Interview with the Vampire, her first, and I hear, best work. I have read a couple of the books in her "Mayfair Witches" series, and I enjoyed the first one very much. It was deeply evocative of New Orleans, and her rich descriptions of that lush and strange old city made me convinced that I had to see it. (Which I finally did, back in 2001.)

So, perhaps Anne Rice is a good novelist, but a poor memoirist. That's certainly allowed. I just find myself with so many questions about her faith that she refuses to address -- how her faith affected, and was affected by, some pretty devastating life events: the sudden death of ther alcoholic mother when Rice was yet a teenager, the loss of her first child, a daughter, to leukemia at age six. Even the brain tumor and death of her husband shortly after her return to the Church. Aren't those life-shaking things the ones that test your faith -- or purported lack of it?? (No late-night beseeching on her knees, even when her daughter is given that grave diagnosis? Really?)

If nothing else, what comes across is Rice's great thirst for knowledge and her deep appreciation of classical art and history. And, I'm happy for her to have found such profound meaning in her return to her Catholic faith.

I still think she's crazy.

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