She was a church lady. I could see it a mile away. Her hair cut, her clothing, her way of standing, and as I got closer, her way of speaking and, eventually, the things she said. I will call her Joan.
It is not that surprising to find a church lady like Joan at Har Mar Shopping Mall. Har Mar is a unique phenomenon. From the outside, it is a strip mall, and from the inside, it is a regular “inside” mall. Some of the stores are only on the inside part, some open on both the inside and outside part. None are only outside. So you park, walk into a store in the strip mall, like into the LeAnn Chin’s Chinese Food place, and you go to the back of the store where the bathroom or emergency exit might be, and instead of a men’s room you find this full blown shopping mall. Like the cabinet in Narnia but instead of a fantasy world run by a big lion, you’ve got a kinda run-down but quaint Midwestern style shopping mall.
This is the mall that until recently held the largest Bible Bookstore in the upper Midwest. It is also the mall that hosts the annual Christian Home Schooling Creationist ‘Science’ Fair. So, yeah, it was not all that surprising to find a church lady, whom I’m calling Joan, at the checkout counter.
I went over to Har Mar to grab a bite to eat and to check the used book section in the Barnes and Noble. This is the largest Barnes and Noble in the state and it is conveniently located on my almost daily path. I was looking for a particular used book which I did not find. But I did notice a copy of Anne Rice’s “The Mummy” on the shelf.
The Mummy may be Anne Rice’s best book. It has nothing to do with any of her other books. It is not part of a series or in any way linked. It is the old story about the mummy that comes back to life because of a curse, etc., but with a number of variants that only Anne Rice would come up with. I say, if you only read one Anne Rice book, make it this one: The Mummy.
It occurred to me that my wife had never read an Anne Rice book. I figured she might be interested. She seems to have been casting around for a good book to read these days. Just the other day she fell in with what I think may be a bad book … a book I don’t like the looks of too much … but she’s reading it anyway. Her choice, of course. But when she gets done with that bad book (which, enigmatically, she seems to be enjoying a great deal) maybe she’d like to read an Anne Rice book. That is what I was thinking. Get the used copy of The Mummy for Amanda.
You probably know who Anne Rice is. Her first famous book was, of course, the one about the vampire. Then she wrote the other one about the other vampire. Then the other one. And so on. The vampire stories were actually very good. Three things made them stand out for me. One is that the real mystery in these books is the origin of the vampires. A vampire is made by another vampire, but how do you get the first vampire? The mystery is partially solved, or at least strongly hinted at, in each book in series, but then in the next book it turns out that this previously suggested history is totally wrong. The story totally changes in each book. I thought that was cool.
Another thing that stands out about the vampire books by Anne Rice is the sexual, erotic nature of the vampires. They never actually have sex, of course. For some reason vampires can’t or don’t have sex. But they do suck blood. And that is very, very erotic. One might not think so, I mean, personally, I don’t think sucking blood is even slightly erotic or sexy. But it is for Anne Rice’s vampires. Anne Rice’s vampires are the bonobos of the literary world. They suck each other’s blood, and the blood of mortals, irrespective of gender or age. And it is always very sexy, in their own vampirish blood-sucking way.
The third thing that stands out is how the fundamental nature of the main characters that do crop up in more than one book can change dramatically. One book’s totally bad guy is the next book’s awesome hero.
Rice also wrote another series of books about the Mayfair Witches. That was pretty sexy and/or erotic too. This story overlaps with the Taltos stories as well. And this does not even count the books that are explicitly written as and labeled as soft porn, or erotica, that Anne Rice is also famous for. Let me put it this way: I found myself in Har Mar looking for, since I couldn’t find what I originally was looking for, a book for my wife as well as a book for my daughter, in the used book section. Let’s just say that the Anne Rice books … all of them … were off my list for the kid’s summer reading. Off. The. List. And I’m not particularly prudish. Just frightened. Of the questions.
So, I grab the book … The Mummy by Anne Rice … and a couple of other items and go to check out.
And there is the church lady. Joan (remember?)
And she notices the Anne Rice book and starts talking about Ann Rice.
“Have you read her latest book?” she says.
Now, I’m thinking … wow, did I have THAT wrong. Here I was profiling this woman as a “Church Lady” and she’s talking Anne Rice. Things are shifting in an unexpected direction here, I’d say….
“Ah, no, actually, no,” I replied.
“Oh, it’s wonderful, just wonderful,” she went on. Visibly titillated. Metaphorically.
“Hmm,” I replied, pawing through my wallet for a credit card or something…
“It’s called ‘Christ the Lord,'” she beamed. Church-lady like. (‘Oh…,’ I thought)
“Hmphrph..,” was all I could get out. Rice. Church lady. Jesus Christ her savior. What the fu….
“It’s just wonderful,” she continued, “she writes the story of Jesus Christ as he was growing up.” Obviously, she has not read any other Rice novels.
“Have you read any of her other books?” I managed to choke out…
“No, no, but I’ve only read the first Jesus book. I’m going to get the second one soon.”
“There are two? How many are there going to be?” I said, remembering that special feature of the Vampire Chronicles … the perspective of each book totally shifting. Totally. Shifting…
“Well, the first one is up to age five. The second one is, I guess, from age five to about middle school….”
(Middle school??? In Roman occupied Canaan?)
“So I don’t know how many there will be, but they are wonderful…”
Oh. My. God. … Jesus Christ through Age Five. Then Middle School. Then adolescence. He will be gay for a while; he’ll have sex with his mother. He and three of the apostles will be co-owners of a leather bar down on the Galilee. …
“…The second book must go up to his bar mitzvah…,” she was saying as new meanings to the phrase “Let the Holy Spirit be with you” passed through my consciousness “… to that part where he is left behind and they have to go back and get him, you know that story, right?”
What, did they find another scroll? … I’m thinking, as far as I know, the bible is silent from the Bronx Swap in the manger to his appearance as a self professed carpenter 30 years later.
“Right… yea, cool,” I said as I took the receipt and the bag of books from Joan.
“You should read some of her other books. They’re fun.”
The above experience occurred prior to me knowing that Anne Rice has become some sort of bible-humping born again Christian. She claims that from here on out, everything she writes will be about and for Christ, or some such drivel.
This of course does not diminish her prior work. It merely diminishes her as a person. Not much one can do about that.
But I do hope Joan enjoys Lestat.