Like so many once-goth teens who grew up in the 1990s, I am a huge Anne Rice fan. Although the last Rice novel that I read was 1998’s The Vampire Armand, I read and reread, often several times, everything she had written before that. Almost all of those books I would heartily give five stars. Since then, though I’ve lost contact with her novels, I have kept up with a lot of her other work, checking in every so often on her website, AnneRice.com.
I love, for example, her 102 YouTube videos of writing advice, where she also answers questions from her fans and discusses topics like “Your Favorite Anne Rice novel” and the recent resurgence in “Vampire Hype.”
But I am, at heart, a fan of her written words, and in the past few years, nothing has enchanted me so much as her Amazon.com reviews. I have read all 185 of them, which she has been lovingly churning out since 2004. Many of them I have read several times.
Just allow yourself a moment to take it in.
“Myself, I do not subscribe to any comprehensive theory as to whether spirits are real, or what their nature and goals might be, etc. But I deeply value books like this which draw together so much evidence with regard to spirit contact in all ages and explain and reflect on the evidence in simple and often elegant terms.” That’s Anne Rice in June of this year, on a book — Whisperers: The Secret History of the Spirit World — which has only just been published. Her reviews, which I have read chronologically (just as I did her vampire novels), are a peephole into whatever she happens to be reading at whatever moment, and they are written with classic Anne Rice gusto and her trademark cutting candor: “I do not recommend this book to everyone. Far from it. However if you are interested, as I am, in Victorian flagellation erotica,…well, then you might find this interesting as I did,” she says of Gynecocracy: A narrative of the Adventures and Psychological Experiences of Julian Robinson (five stars).
In reading through her flourish-filled reviews, I have found that Anne and I have a lot in common. I, like Anne, prefer the Constance Garnett translation of Anna Karenina (five stars), and I also read Wuthering Heights (five stars) every year or so. She mentions that she enjoys watching all of the film versions of Wuthering Heights but doesn’t say which is her favorite. Maybe she will review it again sometime and mention that detail.
Anne has long struggled to find a religious identity that works with her personal belief system of vampires, witches, and support of LGBT rights, and so I know that her many reviews of Christian — and mostly Catholic — works reflect part of that journey. I so appreciate her honesty when she says, of Water into Wine and the Beheading of John the Baptist: Early Jewish Christian Interpretation of Esther 1 in John 2:1-11 and Mark 6:17-29 by Roger David Aus (five stars), “I disagree totally with the conclusions. I think they’re naieve [sic].”
We don’t always see eye to eye. For instance, I do not agree that The Passion of the Christ (five stars) is a masterpiece, but I very much enjoyed her review of it.
As I read her reviews, I am struck by how much five-star content she consumes, and I am genuinely moved by her positivity. I mean this 100 percent in earnest. Even when she disagrees with a book’s content and conclusions, she still often plunks down a rating of five stars. I like this very much about her and wish there were more genuine energy like hers warming up the often cold and dark internet. She doesn’t shy away from negative opinions, but her tone is one of a true fan of reading and self-enrichment, on a web that has become increasingly less about the journey and more about the “that’s already been done, hated it” attitude. I read these reviews not as literary criticism, but as a sort of journal of her enthusiastic reading.
As I read forward chronologically, a lot of the reviews became — like her novels — longer, which I was happy about, because I am captivated by her words. But I also liked her short and sweet reviews of films such as Benny and Joon, (five stars), especially her advice at the end: “When darkness comes, when stress is all around, take out the DVD of this film and watch it.” I followed her advice and did that, and it was great, I agree. Five stars. Of course, I also concurred with her opinion — as stated in her review of What’s Eating Gilbert Grape — (five stars) that “Depp can do anything as an actor!”
Like Anne, I too found success with omega-3 supplements (as noted in her review of The Omega-3 Connection: The Groundbreaking Anti-Depression Diet and Brain Program (five stars). Like Anne, I sometimes have trouble keeping track of who is who on Game of Thrones, Season One (five stars) because I haven’t read the books. Well, I read one of them, but then the TV show was so good, I figured it was safe to stop. I wonder if she ever decided to go back and read the books?
I’m going to take her up on her suggestion of giving out DVDs of Little Women (the one from 1994, starring Winona Ryder, five stars) as Christmas gifts.
My favorite of her Amazon reviews, however, is the one for the Tom Cruise vehicle Interview With the Vampire (five stars), so I hope she won’t mind if I quote her own words at length. “This is the author talking. The film is shattering. For me, and of course I lack objectivity, it is The Red Shoes of Horror Films. It got my book, it got my script, and the person responsible was the producer David Geffen … He is the one who sent me a video of the film even though I objected to casting and might have screamed. I loved it … It’s a piece of sublime work in which genius ‘happened’ as it can in film when great directors like Neil Jordan, and great actors, and great professional on all levels are giving it everything that they can — when they have but one goal and that is to be true to something in which the author was true to himself or herself. It worked. It’s magic.”
And – to borrow her unabashed enthusiasm — so is Anne. I hope that she reads this, and I believe that, unlike most celebrity authors, she just might. Because Anne’s real charm is that, after all these years and so many best-sellers, she still actually cares about and communicates with her fans — and, as her Amazon.com reviews show, she herself is an unapologetic fan of many many things. Though her novels are dark and often brooding, Anne Rice’s Amazon reviews reveal a woman who is just like me, reading to discover and enjoying herself wholeheartedly along the way. The internet is better for it.