Thursday, August 23, 2007

Just Can't Stomach It

Part of me feels a bit naughty critiquing a book I didn't read all the way through. I'm going to anyway, because I do feel that I gave it my all and tried very diligently to get through the book. Also, if anyone in our group has read it and had a different experience with the book, I'd love to hear an alternate review (not by some career book reviewer who may be afraid of burning bridges by speaking the truth). With that in mind, I will report I only made it through 2 chapters of Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt by Anne Rice.

I was quite excited to read the book. First, I was a huge Anne Rice fan in one chapter of my life. I read all her vampire books and absolutely loved everything about them - her writing style, the character development, the storytelling. When I read that Rice was taking on writing about the life of Jesus, I was intrigued. I do love historical fiction and whether you are Christian or not, you must admit the story of Jesus is an interesting one (plus, Jesus does appeal to me as an early non-violent activist and friend of the poor/laborers/whores/lepers and otherwise socially ostracized). I distinctly remember reading through the family bible when I was growing up. I loved the huge tome - for its size, its smell, the feel of the pages and how they were gilded gold on the edges - and most of all because in addition to great artwork it had "modern day" photographs of the areas of the world where the story of Abraham, Moses, Jesus, et. al took place. I remember the stark landscape, twisted trees, goats, and brown people all depicted in the pictures. I loved looking at the pictures and trying to think of what the heat felt like and what it smelled like. I approached Rice's book with very high expectations, as all the reviews I had read said that the book gave the reader a peek into Jesus' world. I was disappointed when I found it to be terrible.

The writing was bad, bad, bad. The dialogue was hideous. The people in the story were wholly unconvincing. It all seemed very forced. I was so bored, I read pages two and three times because I'd get distracted part way through. Although I have put down books after 1 or 2 pages, I fought through this one because I was sure it would get better. After 2 chapters I just couldn't do it any more. I wonder if Anne Rice was a no-name, never-published, struggling writer would she have been able to publish this work? Outside of perhaps Christian focused publishers, I highly doubt it. If you haven't read this book, in my opinion it isn't worth it. Definitely do not buy it. You can have my copy.

Then again, maybe I'm just an old fuddy duddy. I love Elton John's old stuff, but think his new stuff sucks. The same with Stephen King and Billy Joel. Perhaps I'm that way with Anne Rice. Then again, maybe suckage comes with trying to stay at the top. Ani DiFranco's style has changed quite a bit from her early stuff and it is still, WTF?


Riotrant said...

You are correct in your critique, my friend!! I wholeheartedly, in every way, completely, in totality with all of my being, agree with your critique.

I got to the beginning of Chapter 2--and had enough. The writing is sloppy at best and I hate to say this--but it felt like she was attempting to dumb the characters and the storyline down.

If you got past the character dumping...practically a list of begats and then the horrible 'old-timey-down-home' references to "big" Joseph and the other characters--you got farther than I did.

More than anything, I think I'm disappointed by the fact that Rice--like so many other 'popular' writers---seems to have decided to tap into the religious zealot market of folks who'll buy anything with JESUS emblazoned in bold letters on the cover.

Maybe I'm more disturbed by the rampant popularity of non-historical, historical religious fiction that seems more about perpetrating the belief in The Great White Father instead of presenting an interesting subject in another light.

Biggest disappointment of all--I think Rice truly believes she's tapped into the gospel...written something masterful and fantastic. Its sad when good writers go bad and no one wants to admit it.

EssBee said...

I've never read an Anne Rice book, so can't comment on this one -- except that it's interesting for a fag hag like her to write a 1st person narrative in Jesus' voice. Did I say "interesting"? I meant creepy. This one goes in the trade-up pile.

Sly B said...

riotrant you put the words on my keyboard. I also felt like Rice was dumbing down the story. As her early work is sophisticated and complex, it was frustrating.