Some of the best advice I ever got regarding books and reading was from Mrs. Janney in the eighth grade. Read the first fifty pages before you make a judgement, she said. I still follow this rule. Last week, I read the first fifty pages of two of Anne Rice's vampire novels. I didn't finish either. Now, I know some people really love her books and, I admit, her attention to historical detail is meritorious. But, frankly, I think they might be harbingers of the Fall of the Western World. Seriously. When the appetite of the American reader is so easily whetted by the skillful substitution of superfluous erotica for good writing, the end is near.
So, I don't know why I stared Christ the Lord. I certainly didn't expect to finish, and I wasn't sure I could suffer fifty pages. But what I found in those first fifty pages, and in the two hundred sixty-nine to follow, was a work of art. There were times during my read (which took place in one spot on my comfy leather sofa over a period of a day and a half) when I had to remind myself that I wasn't reading the inspired Word. It is a craftsman's book, written by a skilled master of the language and capable of opening a hole in the head of the reader to expose her to a side of reality not previously considered. Rice writes the childhood of Christ, detailing how he came to discover his divinity as his ability to understand the will of God developed. Up until now, the best answer I had for the question all of us must ask (How did Jesus know?) was something like "Well, how did you know you were a girl?" I finally feel I have some sort of a real answer.
In the portrait of a very real boy, I saw a glimpse of divinity and gained a sense of the wonder of the Nativity that I hadn't considered. That God would make his son venture to earth as a baby and trust him to the care of ordinary people is more amazing to me then ever. To me, this fact dignifies the human condition in a way we long for. It purges the last hint of gnosticism from the religious ambrosia I've been concocting unknown all these years. Christ came to earth as a Child. A gift of God to be nurtured and cared for by ordinary people. To me, this is as much evidence of the love of God for his creation as Christ's eventual death on the cross. Rice offers a precious gift with her story of a boy-Christ growing in wisdom and knowledge. Come and wonder with me, she says, knowing as only a lover of Christ could know what joy comes from the contemplation of the greatest mystery of all: Christ came. Christ died. Christ will come again.
I wrote many novels without my being aware that they reflected my quest for meaning in a world without God. Anne Rice