In her fiction, Anne Rice (born 1941) seduces her readers through an ornate prose style and a painstaking attention to detail. With her careful blend of accurate historical elements with such themes as alienation and the individual's search for identity, she has acquired a legion of devoted fans.
Anne Rice was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, on October 4, 1941. She was originally named Howard Allen O'Brien (her father's first name was Howard and her mother's maiden name was Allen), but she disliked this name from an early age and it was legally changed when she was seven years old. Rice's father was a postal worker who also worked on sculpture and writing. Rice lost her mother, an alcoholic, when she was fourteen, and the family moved to Texas. Throughout her childhood Rice attended a Catholic church, but abandoned it when she was eighteen because she felt it was too repressive. She married her high school sweetheart, the poet Stan Rice, when she was twenty, and she held a variety of jobs, including cook, waitress, and insurance claims adjuster. She gave birth to a daughter, and wrote sporadically during these years; but when her daughter died of leukemia at the age of five, Rice channeled her grief into her first vampire novel, Interview with the Vampire, which she completed in only six weeks. The book was deemed a success, but Rice's depression was severe enough to cause her and her husband to drink heavily. Though she continued to write, and even completed The Feast of All Saints, their productivity was limited until their son was born. Finally overcoming her alcohol problem, Rice continued to write more vampire novels, as well as several volumes of erotica, and a new series involving a sect of witches in New Orleans.
The success of Interview with a Vampire spurred more vampire books based on secondary characters in her original book; these include The Vampire Lestat, Queen of the Damned, Tale of the Body Thief, and Memnoch the Devil. Under the pseudonyms Anne Rampling and A. N. Roquelaure, she wrote several volumes of lightly sadistic erotica, including a trilogy based on the fairy tale of Sleeping Beauty.
Although some readers find Rice's subject matter disturbing, others take great interest in her treatment of otherworldly beings. Critics have compared her Vampire Chronicles favorably with Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, and several have commented on her ability to use language to convey different moods. Many reviewers have said that the popularity of Rice's books lies not only in her skill as a storyteller, but with the lurid fascination readers have with such creatures as vampires, mummies, and witches.
Contemporary Literary Criticism, Volume 41, Gale, 1987.
Ramsland, Katherine, Prism of the Night: A Biography of Anne Rice, Dutton, 1991.
Rice, Anne, Interview with the Vampire, Knopf, 1976.
Rice, Anne, The Queen of the Damned, Knopf, 1988.
Book-of-the-Month Club News, December, 1990.
Chicago Tribune Book World, January 27, 1980; February 10, 1980.
Globe and Mail (Toronto), March 15, 1986; November 5, 1988. □
"Anne Rice." Encyclopedia of World Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. (May 21, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/anne-rice
"Anne Rice." Encyclopedia of World Biography. . Retrieved May 21, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/anne-rice
Pseudonyms: Anne Rampling; A.N. Roquelaure. Nationality: American. Born: Howard Allen O'Brien, New Orleans, Louisiana, 4 October 1941; name changed to Anne c.1947. Education: Texas Women's University, Denton, Texas, 1959-60; San Francisco State College (now University), California, B.A. 1964, M.A. 1971; graduate study at University of California, Berkeley, 1969-70. Family: Married Stan Rice in 1961; one daughter (deceased), and one son. Career: Has held a variety of jobs, including waitress, cook, theater usherette, and insurance claims examiner. Currently, a full-time writer. Awards: Joseph Henry Jackson award, honorable mention, 1970. Address: 1239 First St., New Orleans, Louisiana 70130, U.S.A.
The Feast of All Saints. New York, Simon and Schuster, 1980;Harmondsworth, Penguin, 1982.
Cry to Heaven. New York, Knopf, 1982; London, Chatto andWindus, 1990.
The Mummy: or Ramses the Damned. New York, Ballantine, andLondon, Chatto and Windus, 1989.
Interview with the Vampire. New York, Knopf, and London, Raven, 1976.
The Vampire Lestat. New York, Ballantine, and London, Macdonald, 1985.
The Queen of the Damned. New York, Knopf, 1988; London, Macdonald, 1989.
The Vampire Armand. New York, Knopf, 1998.
The Witching Hour. New York, Knopf, 1990; London, Chatto andWindus, 1991.
The Tale of the Body Thief. New York, Knopf, and London, Chatto and Windus, 1992.
Lasher. New York, Knopf, and London, Chatto and Windus, 1993.
Taltos: Lives of the Mayfair Witches. New York, Knopf, and London, Chatto and Windus, 1994.
Memnoch the Devil. New York, Knopf, 1995.
Servant of the Bones. New York, Knopf, 1996.
Violin. New York, Alfred A. Knopf, 1997.
Pandora: New Tales of the Vampires. New York, Knopf, 1998.
Vittorio, the Vampire: New Tales of the Vampires. New York, Knopf, 1999.
Merrick. New York, Knopf, 2000.
Novels as Anne Rampling
Exit to Eden. New York, Arbor House, and London, Futura, 1985.
Belinda. New York, Arbor House, 1986; London, Macdonald, 1987.
Novels as A.N. Roquelaure
The Sleeping Beauty Trilogy. New York, New American Library/Dutton, 1999.
The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty. New York, Dutton, and London, Macdonald, 1983.
Beauty's Punishment. New York, Dutton, 1984.
Beauty's Release. New York, Dutton, 1985; London, Warner, 1994.
Interview with the Vampire—the Vampire Chronicles. Geffen Pictures, Warner Brothers, 1994.
Conversations with Anne Rice, edited by Michael Riley. New York, Ballantine Books, 1996.
The Anne Rice Reader, edited by Katherine Ramsland. New York, Ballantine Books, 1997.*
Prism of the Night: A Biography of Anne Rice by Katherine M. Ramsland, New York, Dutton, 1991; Anne Rice by Bette B. Roberts, New York, Twayne, and Oxford, Maxwell Macmillan, 1994; The Witches' Companion: The Official Guide to Anne Rice's Lives of the Mayfair Witches by Katherine Ramsland, written in Cooperation with Anne Rice, New York, Ballantine Books, 1994; Haunted City: An Unauthorized Guide to the Magical, Magnificent New Orleans of Anne Rice by Joy Dickinson, Secaucus, New Jersey, Carol Publishing Group, 1995; The Roquelaure Reader: A Companion To Anne Rice's Erotica by Katherine Ramsland, New York, Plume, 1996; The Unauthorized Anne Rice Companion, edited by George Beahm, Kansas City, Missouri, Andrews and McMeel, 1996; Writing Horror and the Body: The Fiction of Stephen King, Clive Barker, and Anne Rice by Linda Badley, Westport, Connecticut, Greenwood Press, 1996; Anne Rice: A Critical Companion by Jennifer Smith, Westport, Connecticut, Greenwood Press, 1996; The Gothic World of Anne Rice, edited by Gary Hoppenstand and Ray B. Browne, Bowling Green, Ohio, Bowling Green State University Popular Press, 1996; In the Shadow of the Vampire: Reflections from the World of Anne Rice by Jana Marcus, New York, Thunder's Mouth Press, 1997.* * *
Anne Rice has achieved considerable success with her imaginative forays into the occult, especially the lore of vampires and witches, the focal concerns of her two major sagas. In these books, Rice spins complex tales that weave through both time and space and the minds of her characters in intricate patterns that make her works fascinating. Rice combines literary genres and styles, meshing Romantic plots with erotic and pornographic imagery; gothic settings with "glittering" modern cities; and grotesque horror with abstract philosophical thought. Thus, Rice's stories of fantastic beings and supernatural phenomena reach beyond the traditional formulaic limitations of "horror" novels and delve into universal human themes such as the conflict between good and evil, the twentieth-century loss of faith in God and sense of isolation, the search for human identity and self-awareness, the longing for family ties and community, the fear of death and the human desire for love, power, and immortality.
Rice, in typical late twentieth-century fashion, gives voice to the marginal members of society, reveals the decline in religion and the family, and questions the modern values of rationalism, order, and science espoused in earlier vampire novels such as Bram Stoker's Dracula (1897). Rice's vampires experience crises of confidence and identity, as well as increased senses of loss and loneliness. These socalled "monsters (or children) of the night" are conflicted, sympathetic characters with whom we can identify. Plot-dilating passages of introverted and tormented inner questing blanket external action, as in Louis's confessional in Interview with the Vampire, the first of the author's popular Vampire Chronicles. Like many of Rice's succeeding works, it is a lengthy and intricate odyssey of self-discovery rather than a chronicle of sharply delineated action.
As in many modern texts of the twentieth century, Rice's heroes are, in fact, anti-heroes. In particular, Rice's vampires have lost many of the evil, monstrous qualities that characterize "old-world" vampires such as Dracula and, instead, represent more modern, existential beings who blur the line between good and evil. By telling the Vampire Chronicles from the vampire's point of view, Rice shifts the voice of the "minority" to the center of her story and makes it nearly impossible for us not to identify with vampires such as Louis, Lestat, and Armand. Rice uses her beautiful, desirable vampires to expose and reveal human evil in the world. In her novels, Rice blurs the lines between human and monster, questioning our natures and our socalled certainties.
Rice's vampires live, interact, and even fall in love with human characters, as in The Vampire Armand (Rice's latest addition to the Vampire Chronicles), in which Armand loves and protects two children, Benji and Sybelle. Vampires such as Lestat, Louis, Marius, and Armand live in modern cities, they attend operas and plays, appreciate, and even create, music, art, and literature. Lestat, in The Vampire Lestat, becomes a rock musician, Marius is an artist when he first meets Armand, and Armand opens and manages the "Théâtre des Vampires" in Paris. Rice's vampires are, on many levels, modern consumers and producers, they are very much in our midst and also somewhat heroic.
Not only are Rice's vampires physically attractive, but they are also younger, well-dressed, witty, and evoke our sympathies by speaking directly to us. Hence, Rice indicates that the threat to human life comes from within and is an integral, intimate element of the societies being depicted in her novels. Rice places gothic crypts, coffins, sinister houses, and a "Théâtre des Vampires" in the midst of modernity, indicating that our "darker sides" dwell within us and cannot be destroyed by the forces of science and rationalism. In all her novels, Rice prompts an exploration of these dark, irrational, "forbidden" forces and desires.
The narrative paths in Rice's novels are sometimes difficult to follow. They often evolve as narratives within narratives. For example, in The Queen of the Damned, the third vampire book, the plot weaves through the impressions of many characters. In this novel, Rice once again blurs the boundaries between good and evil, demonstrating how Akasha's goal of a peaceful world is warped into an evil, ritualistic bloodbath as she attempts to decimate the male population so that women may hold ultimate power in the world. As Lestat's coven converges and the history of Akasha the Queen unfolds, the reader is taken back and forth from the modern world to the dark recesses of pre-Egyptian antiquity. Lestat is merely the nominal narrator, who both introduces the story and ends its telling from a contemporary vantage point. In between, the story evolves through a series of ever-shifting narrative perspectives.
Rice's elaborate plots, however, enable her to comment through her immortal vampires and lingering ghosts on the impact of centuries-old historical developments and ancient cultures and religions. Violin, one of Rice's recent ghost novels, moves from nineteenth-century Vienna to modern New Orleans to Rio de Janeiro. In this novel, Rice renders a passionate, romantic telling of her love of music through the lives of three dangerous, seductive, and brilliant characters.
While most of Rice's novels are in some way historical, Rice has written two novels which fall under the genre of historical novel: Cry to Heaven, about castrati opera singers in eighteenth-century Italy, and The Feast of All Saints, about the "Free People of Color" in Louisiana before the Civil War. In Cry to Heaven, which may be her best work fashioned outside her sagas, Rice reveals her considerable range in subject matter, but in using a castrato hero, Tonio, and his teacher-mentor-lover, Guido, she does not stray from the themes that underlie all her more serious fiction. The lonely outcast's quest for an acceptable identity is the epicenter of most of her novels.
The Tale of the Body Thief, Rice's fourth book in the Vampire Chronicles, brings themes of human desire for immortality and human craving for power to the fore. Lestat, who nearly dies when he exchanges bodies with a human, realizes that his identity (or soul) has become inextricably linked to his immortal body and despite his initial desires to experience mortality, Lestat prefers to retain his immortality and supernatural powers. Not only does Lestat regain his body, but he then transforms his friend, David Talbot, into a vampire against his will—playing Mephistopheles to David Talbot's protesting Faust.
Rice's novels reveal a preoccupation with Christian ritual and codes. The vampiric act of drinking blood is often couched in imagery of the communion. In Memnoch the Devil, Rice's fifth Vampire Chronicle, Lestat journeys to Heaven and Hell, meets God and the Devil, witnesses Jesus's crucifixion, and even drinks Jesus's blood. In this book, as in her others, Rice prompts us to contemplate our very conceptions of Good and Evil. In The Vampire Armand, Armand—an icon painter in his youth—recommences Louis's and Lestat's search for God and their interrogation of religious faith and revelation.
A reader who is unsympathetic to Rice's convoluted plots, androgynous protagonists, gender-bending ideas, elaborate myth making, and the rhapsodic but cloying self-consciousness of her principal characters, can easily lose the direction of her narratives and grow impatient with her style. She is a prolix and at times very turgid writer. Yet her strengths lie precisely in that baroque style—in her sensual verbal panoply, her lush and exotic detail, her constant reference to the physicalness of her characters and their self-indulgent, fugitive, "savage-garden" existence.
As The Mummy: or Ramses the Damned reveals, without those full phantasmagoric trappings and inner focus, Rice's plots exploiting the occult may seem merely incredible, even faintly absurd. In that novel, intended or not, whimsy tempers credibility when Ramses the Damned and Cleopatra both quicken from the long dead into, respectively, an Edwardian gentleman and a roadster-driving, murderous nymphomaniac—all in the matter of a few hours. That is the stuff of a B-grade horror movie, from which the plot partially sprang.
Rice exploits the sensational without apology, whether eroticism, as in the novels written under her two pseudonyms, Anne Rampling and A.N. Roquelaure, or the occult, as in her two sagas. The exchange of blood is most often erotic in Rice's novels, and incestuous and homoerotic relationships are commonplace. Rice's Sleeping Beauty trilogy, published under the name A.N. Roquelaure, has been described as explicit sadomasochistic pornography. In these novels, Rice re-imagines Sleeping Beauty as a woman awakened and trained by her Prince and his mother (the Queen) in the sadomasochistic traditions of the land. The princess Beauty's training as a love-slave involves sexual degradation and abuse. Similarly, in Exit to Eden, published under the name Rampling, dominatrix Lisa works as a trainer at an exclusive resort where people engage in sadomasochistic fantasies. Finally, Belinda, also published under Rampling, is an erotic romance in which Belinda, a 16-year-old runaway, has an affair with Jeremy Walker, a 44-year-old artist. Jeremy risks his career and reputation in order to paint Belinda nude. Jeremy, who ventures into the realm of erotic art and succeeds, can be regarded as representative of Rice's own artistic foray into the realm of erotic and pornographic subject matter.
In fact, eroticism pervades all Rice's work, even in her novels focusing on androgynous characters, as in Interview with the Vampire and The Vampire Lestat, where it is either transmuted or barely suppressed. There it takes the form of homoeroticism and thinly veiled incest and pedophilia. In her vampire novels, Rice collapses gender boundaries and foregrounds homosexuality. Vampires, traditionally representatives of "deviant" or taboo sexuality are desirable and heroic in Rice's works, and thus convey a positive reading of homosexuality. In an age when minority issues and concerns have gained widespread attention, Rice's sympathetic portrayal of the homoerotic vampire has been readily popularized.
Even Rice's heterosexual, non-androgynous characters, are either sexually offbeat, caught up in the sadomasochistic bondage exploited in Exit to Eden, for example, or guilt ridden by taboos, as in her study of the Louisiana Creole culture in The Feast of All Saints. In the occult books, the erotic is often bound to the ubiquitous blood and flesh-tearing images. Yet, despite the author's gruesome images, horror and a sense of terror both seem oddly muted in her novels. There are lurid details, but none are very memorable, except, perhaps, the distinctly grotesque, as, when, for example, Maharet devours her own eyes in The Queen of the Damned or Cleopatra, in The Mummy, tries to disguise her gaping wounds as she searches for sexual prey.
Rice's novels are not simply about supernatural phenomena and fantastic creatures, but incorporate a wide range of social issues and themes. For example, in both the Vampire and Witch Chronicles, Rice explores issues of family unity and domesticity. In Interview, Louis, Lestat, and Claudia form the epitome of a dysfunctional vampire family and are ultimately, tragically, destroyed. In "The Lives of the Mayfair Witches," Rice chronicles the Mayfair family history over thirteen generations, depicting a history of family trauma, unity, and division—as well as corruption and incest. Each Mayfair generation contains a witch who inherits the Mayfair fortune, mansion, and the company of the family demon, Lasher. Through the character of the thirteenth-generation witch, Rowan Mayfair, Rice conveys the importance of family ties. Rice uses details from her own life, home, and background to construct many of her settings and characters as, for example, in The Witching Hour, Michael Curry possesses much of Rice's own family background and the Mayfair family mansion is modeled after Rice's own home in the New Orleans Garden District.
Clearly, Rice, like Mary Shelley in Frankenstein, is less interested in chilling effects than in the minds of her dark, lost-soul characters and her evolving myths and themes. She is concerned with human liberation, sexual and otherwise, with human emotions ravaged by conflicting needs and with her recurring themes of nurturing and self-reconciliation in her pariah and androgynous protagonists. It is these elements, and not the supernatural, that give her novels their dense texture. While Rice has received mixed critical reception for her novels' convoluted plots and violent sexual imagery, popular support for her writing has been overwhelming. Readers revel in Rice's detailed histories, intricate settings, and sensual, conflicted characters, thus sustaining the author's considerable success and popularity.
John W. Fiero,
updated by Janna Nadler
"Rice, Anne." Contemporary Novelists. . Encyclopedia.com. (May 21, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/rice-anne
"Rice, Anne." Contemporary Novelists. . Retrieved May 21, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/rice-anne