When I watch the WB's hit show "Smallville", now in its 5th season, I marvel at the writers' abilities to take a typical teenage boy's feelings of alienation, hormonal imbalance, allegiance to family and friends and the ups and downs of first love and amplify the strangeness of treading on new adult territory by making the angst focal point the ultimate kid from out of space, Clark Kent a.k.a. Kal-el or Superman. Each very normal stage of development assumes a power-upped manifestation of budding superpowers, yet the emotions struggle only at a wonderfully empathetic human level that the viewer can well comprehend or remember. This witty combination of classic Superman lore with 21st century savvy teenagers who thrive in a computer bolstered information age results in nothing but good storylines and corresponding viewer smiles of excitement.
In her book, "Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt", vampire aficionado Anne Rice targets the same feel, but she ups the ante. Switching from her usual conscious-besmirched undead fiends, she selects the ultimate superhero and immortal, a seven-year old Jesus Christ on his way back to the Holy Land with his family from Egypt to narrate his own simply stated and unparalleled version of the greatest-story-ever-told bildungsroman, the first of perhaps four installments of a definitive Rice vision of Christ's life.
Rice states in her afterward that her change of focus is derived from a struggle to discover meaning in a world without God not unlike those of her most famous vampire and witch characters. Born and raised a Roman Catholic in traditional New Orleans, she had left the church and its teachings after her college years and sought the supposed enlightened skepticism of her intelligent literary circles. While researching the mystery of how and why the Jews endured through the ages, the idea that God might truly exist galvanized her mind and eventually brought her back to the church.
In a sense, "Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt" represents the end of a DaVinci-Code-type quest for Rice. Her pilgrimage to understand Jesus and how the emergence of Christianity from his ministry manages to imbue every word her young narrator speaks while simultaneously filling both author and reader with a clear sense of simple Gnostic truth that supersedes the actual verbiage.
Now traditional Christians may tremble and balk at the thought of any human voice attempting to speak the mind of the Almighty, but I will argue in the name of Rice's creative license and her most sincere desire to bring life to an obsession that she has held coiled within her for so many years. She brings her considerable talent of conveying infinite knowledge, compassion and the bittersweet to the inquiring, still innocent mind of her hero, revealing him as a child to whom her readers can relate while giving him the added dimension of something infinitely probing and unknown. She enables audience participation within that depth of mind without a full understanding of it. How else can one with human limitations define an absolute like God?
The more familiar gospel renditions provide the novel's most satisfying and poignant segments. My favorites include Jesus' revelation of his birth and the slaughter of the innocents by a jealous Herod. The interplay between Joseph's older son, James (the eventual disciple) and the younger Jesus reveals the usual envious dynamic between siblings with the added dimension of coming to terms with characteristics that are inexplicable and advocated by the secret-keeping adults. Charming stories from the Gnostic gospel of Thomas come to life as Jesus fashions clay birds and brings them to life, strikes a bad-mouthing friend dead and then resurrects him and wishes for snow and then revels in its coldness the following day.
Rice most lovingly allows Jesus adult and childlike epiphanies while allowing him to operate with seriously enhanced sensory perceptions that are outside of our range of comprehension.
Bottom line? Rice's 1st century portrayal of Christ and his world works on many levels. Researched impeccably while taking some creative liberties, Rice presents a delightful first volume of the young Christ and his coming to terms with his greater mission. I invite die-hard literal Christians to celebrate Rice's return to God as she retells life of Christ, the greatest superhero immortal from the vantage point of her own inner revelations. Diana F. Von Behren "reneofc"
Anne Rice's latest is an interesting if slow book concerning the early days of Christ's Childhood to about the age of 8. The book starts strong in Egypt, the interplay between young Jesus and his step-Brother James is interesting and at some points comic, but the story drags during the painfully slow trek from Egypt to the Holy Land and finally to Nazereth itself where it seems to find itself again. The basic plot line revolves in Jesus trying to find … more
A strength of this book is that it is written in a considerable belles lettres -light literature style. Accordingly, the diction will appeal to a wide public constituency. The volume depicts the early life of Jesus as a healer and a prophet. At one point, James critiques Jesus making sparrows out of clay on the Sabbath. The death of Herod is covered, as well as the prior knowledge by Joseph. Coincidentally, Herod … more