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Called Out of Darkness: A Spiritual Confession

Review

Called Out of Darkness: A Spiritual Confession

With CALLED OUT OF DARKNESS, Anne Rice gives readers the very
first autobiographical look at herself. In doing so, we discover
how little was actually known about the woman who gave us such
gothic horror classics as INTERVIEW WITH THE VAMPIRE and THE
VAMPIRE LESTAT. Conversely, her last two books have been
fictionalized portrayals of Jesus Christ as a boy and young adult
--- themes that presented quite a paradox for those who identify
Rice as being strictly a writer of dark fantasy novels. This memoir
answers all these questions and sheds light on how closely her
novels have represented her personal feelings and struggles over
many years.

CALLED OUT OF DARKNESS opens with the quote “This book is
about Faith in God.” Rice goes on to present her story,
beginning with her childhood, after indicating that she had lost
her faith for many years and reclaimed it again at age 57. Born
with the unfortunate name of Howard Allen --- she changed it to
Anne at an early age --- she lived with her family in a very
Catholic section of New Orleans. Her upbringing was extremely
Catholic and exclusionary of anything outside this teaching. She
was in awe of Catholic churches and held those in authority in the
highest regard without questioning anything she was taught or
told.

The Catholic world Rice knew was one where priests were esteemed
and respected with never any word of scandal surrounding them.
During her youth, it was a time when the Catholic Church was deeply
respected in America; as she puts it, the Catholic Church was
“a cultural force.” Living in the Deep South, she
recognized that the people in her community were vigorously racist,
even though her parents were not. They all accepted segregation as
something that had to exist. Because of the moral blinders she had
put upon herself, Rice was unable to know anything other than this
world.

Though not a terribly good student or reader, Rice did take to
writing at an early age and claims her first writing teachers to be
Charles Dickens and Charlotte Bronte.  She questioned,
privately, why certain books were banned by the Catholic Church. As
she became older and more curious, she sought out such forbidden
tomes as Nabokov’s LOLITA and the works of Albert Camus and
Jean-Paul Sartre. Living in a family that did not believe in
television and limited their radio listening to certain programs,
Rice took private refuge in a local film art house that presented
cinematic classics by directors Francois Truffaut, Ingmar Bergman,
Federico Fellini, Michelangelo Antonioni and Luis Bunuel. A young
Rice was discovering the world outside of the Catholic bubble in
which she lived.

Rice’s mother died of complications due to alcoholism, and
her father shortly thereafter remarried and moved the family to
Dallas. She was not only overcome by the culture shock of moving
into a non-Catholic community but also faced with the fact that her
stepmother was a Baptist. After high school, she started college at
Texas Woman’s University, and her eyes were opened even
further when she saw all around her good, ethical, moral people who
weren’t Catholic. Her faith began to break apart.

Rice sought out the guidance of a local Catholic priest who told
her that there was no life for her outside of the Church. These
sentiments, which once consoled her, now caused her to revolt. She
did not argue with him, but after that meeting she was no longer a
Catholic. Following her college years was her marriage to Stan, her
one and only lover, and she still kept up with her writing. Her
first novel --- and probably her biggest success --- was INTERVIEW
WITH THE VAMPIRE in 1976. Seen here and in several titles that
followed was the theme of a protagonist suffering as an outcast and
how one can feel shut out of various levels of meaning and,
ultimately, life itself.  Little did her early readers know
how autobiographically these themes mirrored her own life.

INTERVIEW was an obvious lament for Rice’s own loss of
faith. The vampires she depicts live in a God-less world, and her
hero, Louis, searches in vain for meaningful context to his own
existence. Rice’s life was not without tragedy. She lost a
young daughter to leukemia at the age of seven. This pain was
exhibited in her 1997 novel, VIOLIN, in which the lead character of
Triana loses a six-year-old daughter to that same disease and seeks
solace in the spiritual gift of a Stradivarius violin. This book
reflected Rice’s sudden turn back to Catholicism --- a turn
that was solidified following her own health scare in December
1998, when she nearly died from a diabetic coma. She marks this
event as her return to God. The themes of her succeeding books
dealt with a journey through atheism back to God and showed an
obsession with the possibility of a new and enlightened moral
order.

Rice began to feel “Christ haunted,” and there was
so much personal reflection going on in her literary releases
between 1998 and 2002 that readers would not understand where the
motivation for them came from. Finally, on October 5, 2002, a day
after her birthday, Lestat made his official farewell and Anne
began her new life as a writer for Christ. The resulting works were
two novels about Christ’s youth and young adulthood: CHRIST
THE LORD: OUT OF EGYPT and CHRIST THE LORD: THE ROAD TO CANA. They
were met with mixed reviews, mainly due to the fact that her loyal
readership did not understand the sudden genre shift. How would a
woman who built her career on “vampire fiction” be able
to write about Jesus?

CALLED OUT OF DARKNESS is a deeply personal memoir that I wish
had come a lot earlier. As a long-time reader of Anne Rice’s,
the impetus she presents here makes me want to re-read many of her
prior works. I highly recommend this book to anyone who seeks the
inspiration and motivation behind the bestselling novels
they’ve read. Even though CALLED OUT OF DARKNESS leaves
several questions as to where the author will go from here
unanswered, the journey she has gone through is certainly worth the
trip.

Reviewed by Ray Palen on December 26, 2010

Called Out of Darkness: A Spiritual Confession
by Anne Rice

  • Publication Date: March 9, 2010
  • Genres: Memoir, Nonfiction
  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Anchor
  • ISBN-10: 0307388484
  • ISBN-13: 9780307388483