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A Novel

Written by Anne RiceAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by Anne Rice



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On Sale: August 10, 2011
Pages: 368 | ISBN: 978-0-307-55506-9
Published by : Fawcett Ballantine Group

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On Sale: November 01, 2005
ISBN: 978-0-7393-1377-0
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ABOUT THE BOOK ABOUT THE BOOK
ABOUT THE AUTHOR ABOUT THE AUTHOR
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EVENTS EVENTS
Synopsis|Excerpt

Synopsis

Having completed the two cycles of legend to which she has devoted her career so far, Anne Rice gives us now her most ambitious and courageous book, a novel about the early years of CHRIST THE LORD, based on the Gospels and on the most respected New Testament scholarship.

The book’s power derives from the passion its author brings to the writing and the way in which she summons up the voice, the presence, the words of Jesus who tells the story.


From the Hardcover edition.

Excerpt

I was seven years old. What do you know when you’re seven years old? All my life, or so I thought, we’d been in the city of Alexandria, in the Street of the Carpenters, with the other Galileans, and sooner or later we were going home.

Late afternoon. We were playing, my gang against his, and when he ran at me again, bully that he was, bigger than me, and catching me off balance, I felt the power go out of me as I shouted: “You’ll never get where you’re going.”

He fell down white in the sandy earth, and they all crowded around him. The sun was hot and my chest was heaving as I looked at him. He was so limp.

In the snap of two fingers everyone drew back. It seemed the whole street went quiet except for the carpenters’ hammers. I’d never heard such a quiet.

“He’s dead!” Little Joseph said. And then they all took it up. “He’s dead, he’s dead, he’s dead.”

I knew it was true. He was a bundle of arms and legs in the beaten dust.

And I was empty. The power had taken everything with it, all gone.

His mother came out of the house, and her scream went up the walls into a howl. From everywhere the women came running.

My mother lifted me off my feet. She carried me down the street and through the courtyard and into the dark of our house. All my cousins crowded in with us, and James, my big brother, pulled the curtain shut. He turned his back on the light. He said:

“Jesus did it. He killed him.” He was afraid.

“Don’t you say such a thing!” said my mother. She clutched me so close to her, I could scarcely breathe.

Big Joseph woke up.

Now Big Joseph was my father, because he was married to my mother, but I’d never called him Father. I’d been taught to call him Joseph. I didn’t know why.

He’d been asleep on the mat. We’d worked all day on a job in Philo’s house, and he and the rest of the men had lain down in the heat of the afternoon to sleep. He climbed to his feet.

“What’s that shouting outside?” he asked. “What’s happened?”

He looked to James. James was his eldest son. James was the son of a wife who had died before Joseph married my mother.

James said it again.

“Jesus killed Eleazer. Jesus cursed him and he fell down dead.”

Joseph stared at me, his face still blank from sleep. There was more and more shouting in the street. He rose to his feet, and ran his hands back through his thick curly hair.

My little cousins were slipping through the door one by one and crowding around us.

My mother was trembling. “He couldn’t have done it,” she said. “He wouldn’t do such a thing.”

“I saw it,” said James. “I saw it when he made the sparrows out of clay on the Sabbath. The teacher told him he shouldn’t do such things on the Sabbath. Jesus looked at the birds and they turned into real birds. They flew away. You saw it too. He killed Eleazer, Mother, I saw it.”

My cousins made a ring of white faces in the shadows: Little Joses, Judas, and Little Symeon and Salome, watching anxiously, afraid of being sent out. Salome was my age, and my dearest and closest. Salome was like my sister.

Then in came my mother’s brother Cleopas, always the talker, who was the father of these cousins, except for Big Silas who came in now, a boy older than James. He went into the corner, and then came his brother, Justus, and both wanted to see what was going on.

“Joseph, they’re all out there,” said Cleopas, “Jonathan bar Zakkai, and his brothers, they’re saying Jesus killed their boy. They’re envious that we got that job at Philo’s house, they’re envious that we got the other job before that, they’re envious that we’re getting more and more jobs, they’re so sure they do things better than we do—.”

“Is the boy dead?” Joseph said. “Or is the boy alive?”

Salome shot forward and whispered in my ear. “Just make him come alive, Jesus, the way you made the birds come alive!”

Little Symeon was giggling. He was too little to know what was going on. Little Judas knew, but he was quiet.

“Stop,” said James, the little boss of the children. “Salome, be quiet.”

I could hear them shouting in the street. I heard other noises. Stones were hitting the walls of the house. My mother started to cry.

“You dare do that!” shouted my uncle Cleopas and he rushed back out through the door. Joseph went after him.

I wriggled out of my mother’s grasp and darted out before she could catch me, and past my uncle and Joseph and right into the crowd as they were all waving and hollering and shaking their fists. I went so fast, they didn’t even see me. I was like a fish in the river. I moved in and out through people who were shouting over my head until I got to Eleazer’s house.

The women all had their backs to the door, and they didn’t see me as I went around the edge of the room.

I went right into the dark room, where they’d laid him on the mat. His mother was there leaning on her sister and sobbing.

There was only one lamp, very weak.

Eleazer was pale with his arms at his sides, same soiled tunic, and the soles of his feet very black. He was dead. His mouth was open and his white teeth showed over his lip.

The Greek physician came in—he was really a Jew—and he knelt down, and he looked at Eleazer and he shook his head.

Then he saw me and said:

“Out.”

His mother turned and she saw it was me and she screamed.

I bent over him:

“Wake up, Eleazer,” I said. “Wake up now.”

I reached out and laid my hand on his forehead.

The power went out. My eyes closed. I was dizzy. But I heard him draw in his breath.

His mother screamed over and over and it hurt my ears. Her sister screamed. All the women were screaming.

I fell back on the floor. I was weak. The Greek physician was staring down at me. I was sick. The room was dim. Other people had rushed in.

Eleazer came up, and he was up all knees and fists before anyone could get to him, and he set on me and punched me and hit me, and knocked my head back against the ground, and kicked me again and again:

“Son of David, Son of David!” he shouted, mocking me, “Son of David, Son of David!” kicking me in the face, and in the ribs, until his father grabbed him around the waist and picked him up in the air.

I ached all over, couldn’t breathe.

“Son of David!” Eleazer kept shouting.

Someone lifted me and carried me out of the house and into the crowd in the street. I was still gasping. I hurt all over. It seemed the whole street was screaming, worse than before, and someone said the Teacher was coming, and my uncle Cleopas was yelling in Greek at Jonathan, Eleazer’s father, and Jonathan was yelling back, and Eleazer was shouting, “Son of David, Son of David!”

I was in Joseph’s arms. He was trying to move, but the crowd wouldn’t let him. Cleopas was pushing at Eleazer’s father. Eleazer’s father was trying to get at Cleopas, but other men took hold of his arms. I heard Eleazer shouting far away.

There was the Teacher declaring: “That child’s not dead, you hush up, Eleazer, who said he was dead? Eleazer, stop shouting! Whoever could think this child is dead?”

“Brought him back to life, that’s what he did,” said one of theirs.

We were in our courtyard, the entire crowd had pushed in with us, my uncle and Eleazer’s people still screaming at each other, and the Teacher demanding order.

Now my uncles, Alphaeus and Simon, had come. These were Joseph’s brothers. And they’d just woken up. They put up their hands against the crowd. Their mouths were hard and their eyes were big.

My aunts, Salome and Esther and Mary, were there, with all the cousins running and jumping as if this were a festival, except for Silas and Justus and James who stood with the men.

Then I couldn’t see anymore.

I was in my mother’s arms, and she had taken me into the front room. It was dark. Aunt Esther and Aunt Salome came in with her. I could hear stones hitting the house again. The Teacher raised his voice in Greek.

“There’s blood on your face!” my mother whispered. “Your eye, there’s blood. Your face is cut!” She was crying. “Oh, look what’s happened to you,” she said. She spoke in Aramaic, our tongue which we didn’t speak very much.

“I’m not hurt,” I said. I meant to say it didn’t matter. Again my cousins pressed close, Salome smiling as if to say she knew I could bring him back to life, and I took her hand and squeezed it.

But there was James with his hard look.

The Teacher came into the room backwards with his hands up. Someone ripped the curtain away and the light was very bright. Joseph and his brothers came in. And so did Cleopas. All of us had to move to make room.

“You’re talking about Joseph and Cleopas and Alphaeus, what do you mean drive them out!” said the Teacher to the whole crowd. “They’ve been with us for seven years!”

The angry family of Eleazer came almost into the room. The father himself did come into the room.

“Yes, seven years and why don’t they go back to Galilee, all of them!” Eleazer’s father shouted. “Seven years is too long! That boy is possessed of a demon and I tell you my son was dead!”

“Are you complaining that he’s alive now! What’s the matter with you!” demanded my uncle Cleopas.


From the Hardcover edition.
Anne Rice|Author Q&A

About Anne Rice

Anne Rice - Christ the Lord

Photo © Becket Ghioto

Anne Rice is the author of thirty-two books. She lives in Palm Desert, California.
 
www.annerice.com

Author Q&A

A Conversation with Anne RiceQ: What led you to the idea of writing this book, and then to the actual writing of it?A: Obsession led me to write this book, and it’s been that way with every book I’ve ever written. I become completely consumed by a theme, by characters, by a desire to meet a challenge, and the book begins to grow. With Christ the Lord, the obsession began in my earliest childhood in pure religious devotion. Though I broke with my religion in college, I was still obsessed with religious questions, the basics–Why are we here? Why is the world so beautiful? Why is it so important that we lead good lives, even when we don’t believe in an afterlife? I never stopped with this obsessive thinking and exploring, and the idea for the book–Jesus in his own words–was always there. I went back to the Catholic Church in 1998, completely. In 2002, when I was sitting in church before Mass one Saturday evening, I made the declaration to Christ that I would do this book and nothing else. And the entire purpose, shape, tone–all of that came together.Q: Those familiar with your work will immediately recognize this subject matter as a departure for you. Assuming you agree, why head down this particular road?A: This subject is in no way a departure from that of my previous works; no one who knows my work could possibly think so. The whole theme of Interview with the Vampire was Louis’s quest for meaning in a godless world. He searched to find the oldest existing “immortal” simply to ask “What is the meaning of what we are?” I was always compelled to seek the “big answers.”Q: Jesus Christ narrates this book. Explain your decision to make him the narrator.A: Jesus is the first-person narrator of this book because the use of first-person narrators is the way I know how to write a book with the greatest power and chance of artistic success. The intimate voice of the narrator in earlier novels worked powerfully for me. My first novel was written that way. Though I’ve written many novels in the third person, I’ve never felt as close to the characters as I felt to Louis, Lestat, Marius, and, finally, to this character, this fictional “creation” of Christ the Lord. Q: The Author’s Note in the book touches on the research that you did. What did that research comprise? What types of texts did you consult?A: Research was as total as I could make it. As I explain in the Author’s Note, I explored the ancient authors–Josephus, Philo of Alexandria, the writings of the sages, the rabbis, the Evangelists, the Bible itself relentlessly. But I also studied as much as I could of current archaeology having to do with first-century Palestine. I read as much as I could in New Testament scholarship, reading books by cynical critics of Christ, skeptics who wanted to debunk Him, and also great scholars. I read the great Catholic scholars Meier and Brown, and others. The field is far too vast for me to be comprehensive, and my work is ongoing. I do not read the ancient languages, but I am beginning to study Greek. Q: How did you sort out issues of artistic license when it came to a story the basics of which are almost universally known (if not universally believed to be true)?A: When it comes to this book, artistic license does not really exist. What I did was take the Jesus of the Gospels, the Son of God, the Son of the Virgin Mary, and sought to make Him utterly believable, a vital breathing character. Of course I created fictional scene and dialogue. But it is all within an immense and solid frame. This was a huge challenge. I had to move in His world, and know His world, and that took the immense research. But license? I took as little as possible. I worked within the strictures of what we have been taught about Christ the Lord. That’s why I used the title. Q: Would you hope that readers would come away from this book understanding and knowing more about Christianity and the figure of Christ, or did you write it for people to simply enjoy as a novel? A: I wrote this book to make Christ real to people who had never thought about Him as real. I wrote this book to make the readers care so much about Him that they see him perhaps as never before. I wrote it for all my readers and for all readers. Re-telling the Christian story is the essence of my vocation. And we re-tell that story so that it can be heard anew. That has been going on since the Evangelists in one form or another. I am no Evangelist. But I am an artist who wants to make the most significant art I can make. And for this art to have value, it must be utterly true to the spirit of Christ as I have received it from multiple sources: the Gospels, my church, my prayers, my meditation.Q: For people who are not coming to the book from any particular religious background, what do you hope they’ll take away from it? Put another way, do you think an atheist could ever like this book?A: I hope readers will come away caring passionately about this character, Jesus Christ, and wanting to know infinitely more about Him. We have become so de-sensitized to language pertaining to Jesus. I've tried to re-invent Jesus for those who don't want to think about Him or know Him. I hope that readers who do not come from a religious background will take away a sense of Jesus, the Jew, and Jesus, the child of miracles. And I hope that the book will give pleasure and satisfaction for those who do know Him and care about Him, and that does seem to be happening. I hope biblical scholars will see something here they can recommend. I hope atheists will feel a part of the world inside the book, and say “I was there!” I hope my oldest readers will embrace this character as they have Marcel, or Tonio, or Lestat or Louis in the past. Of course I think an atheist could like this book, because it brings to life the period, the milieu, the people who brought about one of the greatest religious revolutions in history.I tried to do justice to Jesus in every conceivable way I knew in this book. I can’t give any more to anything than what I’ve given to this book.Q: Were you nervous about writing this story, either from a personal standpoint or because of any concern about how closely or intensely it would be scrutinized?A: No, I wasn’t nervous. I was scared to death. I was so scared I couldn’t do it, yet I felt so compelled to. I went almost out of my mind as I sank into this material and as I prayed and studied and wrote. I was terrified. But I knew I had to do this. I felt strongly that no one had done it in the way that I was doing it. There have been many novels about Jesus Christ, but there has not, to my knowledge, been one like this, one that accommodated entirely all the knowledge we are given about Jesus while maintaining that Jesus is who He said He was: The Son of God. I was scared to death of being attacked and misunderstood, and pre-judged. Above all, I was and am scared of being dismissed. But it does not matter. I will go on writing the best books I can possibly write about this subject no matter what happens to me. Q: Will you ever write another Vampire novel?A: I can’t see myself doing that. My vampires were metaphors for the outsiders, the lost, the wanderers in the darkness who remembered the warmth of God’s light but couldn’t find it. My wish to explore that is gone now. I want to meet a much bigger challenge. Q: The book ends when Jesus is still a boy. Is there a sequel on the way? A: Yes, there are sequels on the way. I feel that keenly and can’t deny it–I don't want to deny it. But this book must stand on its own. And I did what I set out to do in so far as I talked and walked and saw with my character within the Gospel framework, and in light of the latest research in many fields. I feel a great satisfaction in having done that.Q: What do you make of the current religious climate in this country?A: I wish that we had more visible Christian and Catholic leaders who talked about love. We have many, but we could use more. It is tragic that many in America think of us–the Christians–as being people who hate others. We need leaders who open their arms to others. We need leaders like Fulton Sheen and Billy Graham and Rick Warren and N. T. Wright. We need to love one another; we need to acknowledge the goodness and the good intentions of our brothers and sisters; we need to stop fighting Christian against Christian. I have no time now for anything but trying to love other people. That is a full-time job. To fill my writing with that will take everything I have. I want to love all the children of God–Christian, Jew, Moslem, Hindu, Buddhist–everyone. I want to love Gay Christians and straight Christians.But the point is, we need people to make visible the great embracing and compassionate message of Christianity, people to continue the revolution started by Christ Himself, people to bear witness that the story of Jesus Christ is going on and on without end, gaining power with each century, and reaching more and more people. We need saints. We have to become saints. We have to become like Christ. Anything less is simply not enough. The world doesn’t need any more mediocrity or hedged bets.

Praise

Praise

Praise for Christ the Lord

“Riveting. . . . Rice's book is a triumph of tone -- her prose lean, lyrical, vivid -- and character. As he ponders his staggering responsibility, the boy is fully believable -- and yet there's something in his supernatural empathy and blazing intelligence that conveys the wondrousness of a boy like no other. . . . With this novel, she has indeed found a convincing version of him; this is fiction that transcends story and instead qualifies as an act of faith. Joins Nikos Kazantzakis's The Last Temptation of Christ and Endo's A Life of Jesus as one of the bolder re-tellings.”
Kirkus Reviews (starred)


Praise for Blood Canticle

“When Anne Rice releases a new book in The Vampire Chronicles series, cheers from her huge fan base can be heard everywhere.”
The Edmonton Journal


From the Hardcover edition.
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