Sunday, February 12, 2012
The Wolf Gift, by Anne Rice- Review
The time is the present.
The place, the rugged coast of northern California. A bluff high above the Pacific. A grand mansion full of beauty and tantalizing history set against a towering redwood forest.
A young reporter on assignment from the San Francisco Observer. . . an older woman, welcoming him into her magnificent, historic family home that he has been sent to write about and that she must sell with some urgency . . . A chance encounter between two unlikely people . . . an idyllic night—shattered by horrific unimaginable violence. . .The young man inexplicably attacked—bitten—by a beast he cannot see in the rural darkness . . . A violent episode that sets in motion a terrifying yet seductive transformation as the young man, caught between ecstasy and horror, between embracing who he is evolving into and fearing who—what—he will become, soon experiences the thrill of the wolf gift.
As he resists the paradoxical pleasure and enthrallment of his wolfen savagery and delights in the power and (surprising) capacity for good, he is caught up in a strange and dangerous rescue and is desperately hunted as “the Man Wolf,” by authorities, the media and scientists (evidence of DNA threaten to reveal his dual existence). . . As a new and profound love enfolds him, questions emerge that propel him deeper into his mysterious new world: questions of why and how he has been given this gift; of its true nature and the curious but satisfying pull towards goodness; of the profound realization that there are others like him who may be watching—guardian creatures who have existed throughout time and may possess ancient secrets and alchemical knowledge and throughout it all, the search for salvation for a soul tormented by a new realm of temptations, and the fraught, exhilarating journey, still to come, of being and becoming, fully, both wolf and man.
OK, to say I was thrilled by the idea of a new Anne Rice book in her old flavour (ie- not religious), is a bit of an understatement. I started reading her vampire series many moons ago around grade 8 and was a huge fan (funny antedote, my mom refused to let me read Flowers in the Attic but was totally OK with Anne Rice. I'm a little flabbergasted that's what I was reading at 13). There were many a hardcover Anne Rice vampire book under the Christmas tree for me over the years, and although I wasn't in love with every one of her prolific paranormal tales, I dug her style and her penchant for over the top drama.
Even the books I didn't like (the Mayfair Witch series), I read religiously because I had to know the answer to her complex, often historical, mysteries about the paranormal set up.
So the second it arrived on the doorstep I dug into The Wolf Gift. My immediate reaction was relief, this was classic Anne Rice and it was good. A feeling that lasted about 200 pages, then I became slightly annoyed with Reuben and his never ending ecstasy about everything. Finally, at about 100 pages left she started to dig into the stuff I really like about her stories, the history. And suddenly it was the end, just like that, which leads me to believe they'll be more of the books, although she's being cagey at the moment and simply saying she'd "like to write more about Reuben".
My main issue with the story, was Reuben, the main character. The best way I can describe him is to say he's a happy Louis. Remember how agonising a read Interview with a Vampire was? How it was just endless moaning and desperately sad reflections in beautiful prose and with spectacular backgrounds and costume changes? Reuben is the happy version of that. Everything is so spectacular and everyone is so beautiful and he LOVES everything and everyone. There's just pages and pages of rhapsodizing about every possible aspect of his change. Pages and pages of details of just how wonderful it is to eat the raw flesh of some animal he's caught, how soft and fresh and yummy the stomach is, or the jugular and the flesh etc, etc, etc. It's nauseating, I just wanted Lestat to come along and box his ears and bitch about how intolerable he is, but there is sadly no Lestat. Twice the shame for us since he's always been one of her most sparkling characters.
The second issue I had with The Wolf Gift is one I've had more and more over the years with her books, the theology and religion. I get it, I 100% see why her writing life has always been spectacularly influenced by religion. Her daughter died very young from Leukemia (and it was while grieving her that she wrote Interview with a Vampire which is likely why it's so dark and morose), her husband died of brain cancer, and she herself has had a couple of near death scares from diabetes and then from gastric bypass surgery. As you read through her bibliography you see a growing amount of spiritualism in the stories until she does away with the paranormal/horror stories and exclusively wrote religious based books for six years.
In a way her writing directly illustrates her personal struggles as an atheist, then declaring she's once again a catholic christian, right up until 2010 when she renounced religion again (quite publicly) and said she just couldn't condone organised religion. I'm telling you, I get it, but I don't want to read about religious angst in all her characters. It gets old. Also, as she's delved further into theology and religion on a personal level it has gotten more and more intellectual, obscure and esoteric. The complexities and theologists that her characters debate have become completely over my head, they far surpass my interest and education level and just keep going often for whole chapters.
HOWEVER. The Wolf Gift also has some of her fantastically yummy Anne Rice goodness. The characters are dripping wealth, there's a house that's so mysterious it's a character in and of itself, everything is opulent and described in lurid detail, and there's a tantalizing, historically steeped, mystery to the wolf gift. Although they're simply a tease for a least two thirds of the book, she's set up a group of elderly gentlemen who promise all the heady goodness of the coming together of the oldest vampires in Queen of the Damned with hints of a supreme or first wolf similar to the twins in Queen of the Damned. She had me salivating for this part of the story from page 2 or 3, which is likely part of why I eventually became so intolerant of Reuben and his gadding about playing at being a wolf man.
I would eagerly delve into more of these stories if she decides to take them in the same direction as the vampire chronicles, ie- taking us through the history of the various ancients book by book. Sadly, Reuben is the character she claims she loves, so it looks like any further books with be from his view point. Not my preference. But who knows, maybe he'll grow on me? Maybe I'm just disdainful because he's a 23 year old, super good looking, rich boy with the world as his oyster.
Tomorrow night I get the distinct pleasure of meeting my long time beloved Anne Rice at the Toronto Metro Reference library, where they'll be cocktails and then an interview by CBC's Mary Hynes. Sadly she's long ago gotten over her theatrical days of arriving at these soirees in a coffin, but I promise to have all the details for you tuesday! In the meantime, if like me, you missed some of her media hoopla's in the past couple of years, check out Nola Cancel's interview with her on examiner.com
The Wolf Gift, by Anne Rice
Published by Knopf Publishing Group, February 14th 2012
Buy The Wolf Gift on Amazon