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"I'm pop culture and proud of it." Anne Rice answers her readers' questions

By Anne Rice

Published October 7, 1996 9:10AM (EDT)

Anne, do you ever feel pop culture tarnishes and misunderstands your work even though it tries to embrace it?

-- Robert John Sturycz

Dear Robert:

Pop culture really embraces my work without prejudice. People of all ages do understand it. They really do. They get the message. I'm convinced of this from my phone line, the letter, and what I see and hear at my signings.

The people who snub my work do so because they haven't read it and they think
it's "just pop culture." I couldn't care less if they see my work as
"tarnished" by its popularity. If I'm pop culture -- if that's the reason for
having readers from all walks of life, from trailer parks and mansions,
universities and Dairy Queens, if I have evoked in them profound emotional
reactions and even life-changing moments as they say I have -- then I'm happy
to be part of pop culture. The really sad thing today is that the Literary
Elite have NOTHING to give the culture.

POP CULTURE IS OUR CULTURE and it's rich, diverse and wonderful.

What I'm saying is that the movers and shakers of today are in Pop Culture --
Madonna, Roseanne, Mel Gibson, Oliver Stone, Martin Scorsese -- so I'm happy to
be thought of as a member of the gang.

There is no real literary culture or high culture alive today. There is an
anemic, cynical elite who control the top echelons of painting, poetry, novels
and some films, but they don't have GOOD POWER OR INFLUENCE. THEY HAVE NOTHING
TO OFFER. The fashion world is their ludicrous parody and is
representative. It's wonderful to laugh at Elsa Clench's reports of fashion on
CNN, because they are so ludicrous -- people are talking about the same old
clothes my readers have been wearing for years -- black, lace, gold,
costumery -- as if THEY, THIS FASHION ELITE discovered it. It's a hoot. The fashion industry is the only visible high culture, and that's probably because
it is so funny.

I do understand the spirit of your question, however. And my answer is I LOVE
BEING A POPULAR WRITER. If it was good enough for Charles Dickens -- and the
upstart Will Shakespeare from Stratford -- then it's plenty good enough for me.

Have you ever read any of G.K. Chesterton's fiction, like "The Man Who Was Thursday" and "The Poet and the Lunatics?" Although he came across as such an optimist, I always found lurking around the edges of his stories a sadness and a darkness that he never dared address directly.

-- Jim Paris

Dear Jim:

Thank you for reminding me of G.K. Chesterton, and how much I read of his "Father Brown" stories when I was a child. I had forgotten
that. Being in a Catholic household, we had most of Chesterton's books. I
remember distinctly the old hardcover, "Orthodoxy: Why I am a Catholic." And I
do remember discussing "The Man Who Was Thursday" with my Mom and
Dad, who seemed to regard it as quite a puzzle, but I never read it.

What I did read -- and what influenced me powerfully -- were the "Father Brown"
stories, and I loved the style of them, as well as the intricate
detail of the plots. I adored them. As I was very young and a poor reader, it
took me a while to get through any one story, but they provided a rich,
meaningful escape. Surely I imbibed the moral tone of the stories, or let me
say it this way: I agreed even then that fiction had to have a moral substance.
Those stories always did.

I am a huge fan of your work and of your style. I saw you on Politically Incorrect the other night and I was really impressed with the way you held your own with those guys (not that I would think for a moment that you couldn't). My question to you is what do you think this country needs right now more than anything?

-- Debbie Sine

Dear Debbie:

Thanks for your kind words on Politically Incorrect. I loved
being on the show and am not surprised that they have already invited me
back. Weren't the dumb-dumb guys a hoot?

What I think the culture needs right now is RADICAL CHANGE in a moral liberal
spirit. We have to overhaul the police system in our cities. We have to
decriminalize drugs so we can treat drugs the way we do alcohol; we have to
take the market away from the South Americans who are dumping poison into our
country, making addicts into thieves and killers.

We have to overhaul welfare and the IRS and I think it's time for a flat tax,
and a flat minimum income.

But who could possibly win an election saying these things?

My hope is that President Clinton will continue to work for change in his own,
brilliant way, even more valiantly after being reelected than he has before.
The guy's smart. He knows. But he's dealing with a nation that has decided
that "liberal" is a dirty word. So how can anyone say "radical?" But
"radical" is what's needed.

And let us always be CONSERVATIVE in that we conserve what we have
accomplished, our constitution, our rights, our laws, our traditions. Yet
we need the courage to make RADICAL CHANGES TO SOCIAL PROGRAMS.

I met you recently in Lexington, Kentucky. I was just one face in the great procession I'm sure. I had one burning question in mind as I approached you but chose instead to make small talk while you scribbled your name in the cover of my book. The question: do you prefer to consider yourself famous, or notorious?

-- Steven Ingram

Dear Steven:

Notorious? No, I don't want to be notorious. I want to be
a major player in the culture, so I'd have to opt for "famous." Being famous
gives me power to draw attention to my best thoughts. My novels reach a big
audience. My newspaper ads don't go unnoticed (I do place political opinion
statements in Variety, The New York Times and the local New Orleans papers). I
rather love having this opportunity.

Notorious? It's a bad word. I'm not reaching for the dictionary, but off
hand, I'd say the notorious don't generally get the benefit of credibility. I
want people to believe in the seriousness of what I say, and that I'm sincere
about it.

Oh Anne, there are so many questions and ideas I would like to present to you! However, my heart races and I get goose bumps just thinking you may read this. I've just finished reading "Memnoch the Devil" and I must say I was so taken with Lestat's intimate conversations with him that I've recommended the book to friends who have not read the rest of the series. My question is about "Interview" the movie. I love Antonio as much as anyone might, but I was disappointed with how old the character Armand looked. In the book he is but a child when he is given the dark gift. I know this is a small difference and believe that otherwise his performance was marvelous. Did you have any reaction to this?

-- Heather Wickiser

Dear Heather:

Thank you. You are so right that in "Interview with the Vampire,"
Antonio was not allowed to show his full beauty. Had they let him have his
curls, he could have been our Armand. But they opted for some different
image. I do see Armand as boyish, with curls and an innocent face, and hope
to be writing about this quite soon. I wrote some material on Armand this
weekend. He is fully described in all my books as an auburn haired boy of 15
in appearance.

As for Antonio, I still adore him as an actor and a man. I did dedicate the
character of Azriel in "Servant of the Bones" to him, and that is a role in which
I think he would be magnificent. I used Antonio as the model for Azriel, A
beautiful. And that is Antonio.

Of course now we are not selling the movie rights to "Servant of the Bones." We
intend a live radio show based on "Servant of the Bones" to broadcast nationally
out of New Orleans. We need time to get it together with local radio talent
and fine voices. Look for it in 1997.

More Notes to Salon Readers:

KEEP CALLING MY HOME MESSAGE LINE: 504-522-8634 with your opinions on "Servant."
I keep this for those who aren't online, and I will have a
sixth issue of "Commotion Strange" out before the end of October. Again my phone
messages and the contents of the newsletter are always loaded online by some
one, which is fine but I keep the old fashioned phone for those who want to
hear a voice, even if it's recorded, and the old fashioned printed "Commotion Strange" for those who do not use computers.


Anne Rice


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