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The gentle pornography of Sleeping Beauty: Anne Rice answers her readers' questions

By Anne Rice
Published September 23, 1996 7:29PM (EDT)

Why do you think that your Sleeping Beauty series is so well-received
in the Midwest? It's true -- I've met so many people who just loved it
(as did I). Are we that repressed in the Midwest, or so starved for the
extraordinary?! I know that midway through the second book, I was
captured by the story. I couldn't wait to see what happened to Beauty on
her adventures, let alone the sexual aspect of it!
-- Beth Anne Ellis

Beth Anne, The Sleeping Beauty series is really well-received all over. I
think its success in the Midwest was due to a book club. At publication time, it was
offered through the "adult section" of this club, and was widely ordered in
areas where bookstores perhaps would not have carried it. Anyway, this last
tour confirms my impression that it is a gentle and embraceable pornography for
the people who eschew real violence. Its my gilded dreamworld for visitors who
want only to have a good time and hurt no one.

If, as it appears you realize, there is only love and fear and God,
why do we crave the frightening, the macabre, the terrifying? Why does a
society such as ours that spends so much of its waking hours protecting
itself from being afraid spend so much of its leisure time seeking to be
frightened by vampires, witches and other goblins of the imagination? I
would love to hear your perspective.
-- Richard Ahern

Richard, Loving God, we crave the macabre because it takes us perhaps closer
to God, than the conformist, materialistic and shallow world in which we live
our daily lives. America is in some ways a dull backdrop for its more
transgressive filmmakers, singers and writers. Vampires, witches, goblins --
these creatures echo the familiar saints and angels that surround the
tradition and image of God. They are supernatural. We crave that magic. Our
souls seem to know that the flesh is merely a housing for the soul, no more,
no less. There is some dazzling mystery in the sunrise which does not depend
upon the lawn being mowed or the sidewalks being swept. The vampires, witches,
goblins, et al, hint to us that they see beyond the conformity that constrains
us. They see beyond the solidity and authority of our corporate, academic and
government worlds.

I just finished reading "Servant of the Bones." I love it! I have
been delving deeper and deeper into mystical interpretations in my
personal life. To me, Babylon was not evil, it is the city of Lilith and
the feminine half of humankind in all her sexual power...the yin to the
yang. Because of this view, I may have missed your message. Others have
suggested that you were comparing the United States with Babylon. To me,
the violence in our modern world and the U.S. contrasted dramatically with
what I consider the balance of Babylon...and that drama drew me deeper and
deeper into the novel. What does Babylon mean to you and how did you
intend it to be interpreted in "Servant of the Bones?" Do you believe in
-- Monika Mayer-Kielmann

Monika, Babylon does not mean evil to me by any means. Nor do I see the
present U.S.A. as evil. On the contrary, I perceived Babylon as a thriving and
cosmopolitan capital and I thought it had positive similarities to the United
States. The evil which destroys Azriel does not come per se from Babylon, not
from its public fountains and gardens, its fun-loving population, its taverns
where people dance and sing. The evil that swallows Azriel comes from a temple
plot, a religious entanglement -- the machinations of a few people in a smoke-filled room.

The U.S.A. to me is far from evil. We are in my opinion the most compassionate
country in world history. We have a sense of ethics and rights which do not
depend on a revealed religion, but on the good will and consensus of thousands
who prefer peace to war, who want to see an end to poverty, who take no
pleasure in exploiting anyone.

My views are what some call capitalist utopian. I'm not sure I agree. But I
love the concept of Babylon, the city that absorbs rather than destroying. I
love the U.S.A., the country that strives to solve the questions of right and
wrong with the best minds of each era.

Anne, was curious how you felt about the New York Times review of
"Servant of the Bones." The reviewer, whose name escapes me, obviously
likes your work but felt that you had lost your direction in this current
-- Veronica Butler

Veronica, I did not read the New York Times review of "Servant." It has been years since I have read reviews. Having reviewed for the New York Times myself in years gone by, I know that reviewing amounts to one freelancer person expressing one opinion about a book. I have not, as yet, found a critic in America who is worth answering or who is some one from whom
I could learn. As a consequence I generally do not read reviews. Also,
reviews in my case in the past tended to be misleading. That is, the reviews I
received on "Interview with the Vampire" or "Cry to Heaven" or "The Vampire Lestat"
simply had nothing to do with reader response to the books. These reviews did
not come from potential readers and they did not serve their own audience, let
alone mine. These reviews provided no insight whatsoever. So reviews are not
part of my life.

I do think we could improve the book review tradition in America. We could
encourage more responsible reviews of books. But it would take an overhaul of
public consciousness. For now, all I can say is opera reviewing, restaurant
reviewing, even rock music reviewing -- these can tell you something. Book
and film reviewing is meaningless, irresponsible, misleading and of little
value to those who are serious about our vocation and craft.

I noticed that you are creating a great deal of things in Lestat's name
(the wine, the cafe and so forth). Considering that he "left" you, I was
wondering why you were continuing to use his name that way. Do you think
he'd appreciate it or resent it? (And if it's the latter, is this your
revenge for his leaving?)
-- Sebastian Michaels

Sebastian, Cafe Lestat is a long term dream of mine -- a magnificent
restaurant open 24 hours a day, and involving a very special ambiance
and atmosphere connected with Lestat and my works in general. It will take us
some six months or so to mount this cafe, but when we do, I think it will be a
world unto itself, well worth an immersion to those who come. Regarding your
questions, yes, I think Lestat will be more than thrilled to have a cafe named
for him; he will love it. The cafe will not only be a tribute to him and to
the aura that surrounds him but will be also be exactly like the many cafes in
which Lestat himself has spent his time, warming his hands around cups of
steaming coffee that he can not drink. If you notice, Lestat sits alone
watching the crowd. Cafe Lestat, New Orleans, will definitely be a place where
he will want to hang out. There is no resentment between me and Lestat.
Lestat belongs to me and I belong to him. If he doesn't like some little
detail in this cafe -- some statue or picture -- it's likely to go crashing to
the ground, either because I discard it, or he does.

Look for this cafe sometime around mid-1997. We're talking exquisite wax
statues of Byron, Shelley, Keats and other romantics. We're talking dolls and
wax statues in tableaux from the books. We're talking exquisite decor
suggestive of all Lestat's lavishly furnished apartments and houses over the
years. We're talking light food, and some wine and beer in the evening, and
maybe a Goth dance floor after midnight. Look for lots of velvet and lace, and
mirrors, statues, French furniture. Look for the very kind of tapestry and
tasteful glitter on which Lestat and all the vampires feed when they are in the
mood for it.

Anne Rice


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