Anne Rice’s portrayal and affirmation of gay and transgender people influenced members of the LGBTQ community



Anne Rice in the library of the Morbid Anatomy Museum in New York, November 28, 2016.NATALIE KEYSSAR / The New York Times Press Service

Novelist Anne Rice died at the age of 80 on December 11 of complications from a stroke. Between 1974 and 2018, she wrote 36 novels – many of them famous, about vampires – and a spiritual memoir (Called out of darkness, a masterpiece of Roman Catholic apologetics), selling millions of copies.

Her work is appreciated around the world, especially by many in the LGBTQ community for the way she has represented and affirmed gay and transgender people. Full Disclosure: I am one of those genderqueer readers who discovered Rice’s books in her youth and found strength in them, as well as a sense of self-worth. Rice has improved my life.

A werewolf in The gift of the wolf – the best novel of Rice’s latest career – says: “When we speak of our lives, long or short, short and tragic or enduring beyond comprehension, we impose continuity on them, and that continuity is a lie. .

The Wolfman speaks about a central theme of Rice’s work: the danger of imposing more meaning and order on our own stories (both those we believe in our hearts and those we tell to others. ) than reality would justify it. The risk is that of inauthenticity. Lives are complex. Between childhood and death, we transform and grow (no matter how long we live). If we are lucky, we change for the better. The progression is rarely simple or linear.

Rice chose to explore this truth through Gothic fiction. Far from being pessimistic in the classical style, however, his work transformed the genre through joy. His vision is well summed up by a made-up sentence by Dionysius the Areopagite, a 5th century monk often quoted by Saint Thomas Aquinas: Knowledge is “luminous darkness”.

Lestat, adapted from Anne Rice’s cult novels, The Vampire Chronicles.Sara Krulwich / The New York Times

Rice’s first novel was Interview with the vampire, which she started in 1968 as a short story. Its publication in 1976 sealed its reputation. The book interprets homosexual and gender non-conforming people with a combination of fun and seriousness unique in modern popular writing. The heroes are Louis and Lestat, who are in love with each other, and Claudia; each is an immortal with a complex gender identity. They revere art and travel the world in search of enlightenment.

Cultural critics often ask why LGBTQ people in fiction so often have to be monsters, in the literal and supernatural sense. But this point is wrong with Rice. Only a few of his female, gay, and transgender vampires (as well as werewolves and witches) are villains. Rather, they are anti-heroes – or heroes.

Irish-American, Rice stems from the tradition of vampire folklore and storytelling associated with the land of her ancestors: Irish novelist Sheridan Le Fanu has given the vampire genre much of its contemporary form, drawing inspiration from old times. celtic fairy tales to write Carmilla (1872). This proto-surrealist and significantly lesbian classic later inspired Dracula, published in 1897 by Bram Stoker, contemporary of Le Fanu, born in Dublin.

Literary critics have speculated that Dracula himself was based on the British colonial conquerors of Ireland. (As Stephen King says in Dance of Death, his memoir: “We invent horrors to help us face the real ones. Stoker considered his elite Anglo-Irish compatriots to be vampires of sorts, in the sense that they and their English allies did much to ease the Irish potato famine. from 1845 to 1852. The peasants feared them.

However, when Rice wrote about vampires, she described them as sensitive seekers of justice – of their own dignity and human rights. She changed the genre of vampires by often making her bloodsuckers merciful.

In Queen of the damned – a mid-career classic – Rice crystallizes the moral weariness that so permeates his fiction. The words come in paradox form and, of course, out of a hooked mouth: “You get wiser when you live for hundreds of years, but you also have more time to turn as bad as your enemies have.” always said. “(A character in a fan favorite later, The story of the body thief, moans on a parallel track: “My conscience is killing me, isn’t it?” And when you are immortal, it can be a very long and ignominious death. “)

Rice’s creatures usually only prey on violent and evil people. These victims are therefore themselves evil executioners – their crimes otherwise unpunished, their death meaning freedom for innocent third parties. Perhaps the most practical fantasy in the books is that there are enough people like this to keep vampires alive.

Rice’s latest novel will be published next year. The book is co-authored with his son, Christopher Rice, and is titled Ramses the Damned: The Reign of Osiris. Like so many of the author’s writings, the title is grand and lush. The book promises to continue a series by Rice that explores ancient Egyptian mythology by leveraging our modern fascination with mummies. Rightly so, even in death, Rice seems ready to serve a brighter darkness.

Aidan Johnson is a lawyer in Niagara.

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