The Wolves of Midwinter

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Wolf Gift Countdown:

Anne Rice "Wolf Gift" Signing in Philly: A Real Upcoming Event!!

          Philly has often been overlooked by publishers when book tours of any kind are formed. The reason for this could possibly lie with Philly's proximity to New York where most book tours commence. I couldn't believe my eyes several days ago when seeing for myself that the signing that I had hypothetically written about a few weeks ago   had become a very real thing. Part of me wondered if my post had any influence on the decision to have the Philly signing occur on the official release date of "The Wolf Gift." Hopefully, I'm not being boastful in any way, but there is definitely a chance that some individuals connected with Anne Rice's publisher might have very well read that post, and have been inspired to plan a signing at the very location that I suggested. Then again, the Philadelphia Free Library has had a slew of several famous writers as it is the main venue for book-signings within the city.

Anyways, for all Philly residents, this is very exciting news either way!! If you live within the area, and happen to be an Anne Rice fan, I implore you to consider attending the signing because it will be worth the admittance price to meet such a talent.

Here are the details for the signing, taken from the Free Library of Philadelphia site:
Date and Time: Tuesday, February 14, 2011 at 7: 30pm.
Prices: 7 dollars for Students, and 15 dollars: General Admission.
Additionally, tickets go on sale January 12, 2012 at 10 am.

By the way, another new post will appear tomorrow that will relate with the ongoing discussion about "death" that reappears within Anne Rice's books. How does this relate with the mummies? Why were the Egyptians so fastidious when embalming bodies and preserving them in the hopes that they'd properly enter the afterlife? What does their idea of the afterlife consist of? How does it differ from our Mainstream ideas?

"The Wolf Gift" Countdown:

Mummy Month Part 1:

Review of Anne Rice's "The Mummy"

Nearly all Anne Rice's books are seemingly conventional though she usually employs unconventional elements, philosophical concepts, and colorful characters to differentiate the story from other novels that feature witches, vampires, mummies, etc. Anne Rice's "The Mummy," or Ramses the Damned follows this same formula and thus might appear formulaic if you're familiar with her novels. In actuality, this novel contains its own unique paradigm with different types of characters and far more action sequences than "Interview with the Vampire." In many ways, this novel is stylistically similar to  "The Tale of the Body Thief" where there were many more fast-paced action sequences than the usual Anne Rice book which are primarily filled with  dialogue and descriptions that focus partially on the sensual details of her fictitious worlds, or philosophical questions. This isn't a criticism necessarily.These are the most rewarding elements that make her novels stand apart from other books.

    From the beginning, the novel begins with the momentous discovery of Ramses the Damned's tomb. The main archaeologist, behind this discovery, happens to find written evidence that Ramses might have lived during Cleopatra's reign. Using meticulously researched historical facts, Anne Rice crafts a story that hypothetically explores the idea of the "mummy" of a famous pharaoh being an immortal. During this rather interesting beginning sequence, Anne Rice also constructs the template from which the 400-page novel will follow. Whether she outlines or not, the scene works perfectly as an effective beginning sequence that captures the reader's attention because it is staged to stir questions in our minds. Interestingly, we are vicariously discovering these archaeological finds which makes us raise some of the same questions that some of the characters form about these odd archaeological findings: How could Ramses have been able to live past his alleged death? Where is the irrefutable proof behind this?

After the beginning, the novel becomes very rapidly paced as more elements of the story are slowly unraveled. Using a mummy analogy, the mummy's white linen much like the story itself is slowly unwrapped till we behold the whole story which still elicits questions even when we finally come upon the resolution.  Another effective element within Anne Rice's novels, especially "The Mummy," lies with her ability to incorporate exposition without hindering the flow of the story. Some writers tend to inundate the reader with meaningless exposition whereas Anne Rice, and several other writers with similar talent (Madeleine L'Engle, Margaret Atwood,etc.) artfully place the exposition in places which bolster the quality of the story rather than make the exposition appear too contrived. Perhaps, the reason behind this lies with the ability for these writers to focus more upon "showing" us the story that unfolds in their mind rather than forcefully pull together something mainly for financial compensation.

One of the drawbacks of the novel though for me was the way Julie Stratford, one of the main female characters within the stories, partly disappears from the second part of the story as if she was only an important force within the first part of the story. During the first half, Julie Stratford remains one of Anne Rice's more dynamic female characters who is an active participant during this segment of the story. Towards the end, she seems to slowly fade into the background and thus loses the capacity for further development. Perhaps, the reason for this lies behind a greater focus on another female character (whose name will not be revealed due to my anti-spoiler policy). Or, Anne Rice unconsciously focused more upon the characters who were integral to the main plot though I thought Julie Stratford was a fairly important piece to the novel. She seems to be eclipsed by that other female character "whose name, again is "She who shall not be known.. spoilers."

Overall, I loved the recurrent philosophical discussions about "death," and how the inevitability of death shapes our lives. Would immortality have a greater ability to grant us more time to create more meaning? Or does the longevity of our lives only contribute to the overweening melancholy that occasionally fills our lives? Anne Rice's novels has always been about escaping the imminent nihilism that floods our lives. Her vampires metaphorically depend upon "human blood" or vitality to sate our hungry spirit that earnestly searches for meaning. Her mummies are no different: They need a myriad number of pleasures to imbue them with satisfaction that eliminates the moroseness of an unfulfilled life spent reflecting upon the possibility that life itself might be overwhelmingly purposeless. All Anne Rice's books are illustrative of this necessity to live a purposeful existence to purge this fear that can leave us as comatose as Louis in "Interview with the Vampire" because he refused himself those carnal pleasures that might have kept him divided from the dark thoughts of existence.

Overall, this book has a frenetic pace and it is very well structured! It comes highly recommended as a book to savor while waiting impatiently for "The Wolf Gift:" It's coming out Feb. 14, 2012!!!!! That is a little less than two months from now.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

TOR/Macmillian features Madeleine L'Engle Reread Series!

     Right now, there is ongoing discussion about several Madeleine L'Engle titles. As of now, there are two posts dedicated to Camilla and Both were Young. I highly recommend for people to read these posts especially if you happen to be a fan of Madeleine L'Engle's works as I am. Sometime in March, due to the anniversary of "Wrinkle In Time, I'll have a number of comprehensive posts in celebration of this momentous occasion.

A Ring of Endless Light Review:

The earth will never be the same again.
Rock, water, tree, iron share this grief
As distant stars participate in pain.
A candle snuffed, a falling star or leaf,
A dolphin death, O this particular loss
Is Heaven-mourned; for if no angel cried,
If this small one was tossed away as dross,
The very galaxies then would have lied.
How shall we sing our love's song now
In this strange land where all are born to die?
Each tree and leaf and star show how
The universe is part of this one cry,
That every life is noted and cherished,
And nothing loved is ever lost or perished. (p. 166)

As evidenced in the poem above, Madeleine L’Engle was definitely endowed with a true gift of writing lucidly and poetically. Also, she brought much desired depth and artistic ambiguity to the world of Christian fiction that often suffers from being didactic. To be fair, many writers from different religious and ideological backgrounds struggle with this problem. Often, our insular worldview presents itself as a preachy voice that is jarring to the flow of any story that we set out to write. It takes a while for many writers to overcome these problems and focus entirely on the shaping of deeply complex human characters who are never superficial. One of the greatest examples of a writer who could naturally fit their ethical message into the framework of the story was Charles Dickens and his wonderful novel, Hard Times. In that, we see proof that its possible for an ethical message to be intertwined with the content of the story in a way that is natural and seamless.

  Madeleine L’Engle always incorporates her Christian worldview into her novels in a way that greatly enhances her work. As an agnostic or seeker who has no definitive views on religion, I find the Christian message of hers to be very nuanced. It is not Christian in the way we often see it being poorly represented by fundamentalist groups. Madeleine L’Engle instead focuses on the sacred mystery of God rather than the God of certitude and firm belief. Her God often makes us feel healthfully doubtful more than feel tritely fullfilled. It is this intellectual humility present in her spiritual beliefs that often did not make me feel uncomfortable. Instead, the humility of her writing focuses more on the universal struggle for meaning rather than a struggle exclusive to Christianity. Remarkably, St. Augustine often depicted all people, regardless of religion, as struggling to follow the good intentions of their soul rather than the bad intentions. We are all meaning-seeking creatures.

       In Ring of Endless Light, there are no silly arbitrary classifications between Christian, atheist, and agnostic. Instead, Madeleine L’Engle presents a world with humans who are valiantly struggling to comprehend this chaotic world that we’ve miraculously find ourselves in. Vicky Austin, the main female voice of the story, represents the most inquisitive individual of the story.  Recently, the reality of death is threatening her tidy worldview. Fascinatingly, Vicky has three guys who are vying for her attention. The father to one of them had recently died when rescuing Zack, the atheistic voice of the story. On the other hand, Adam portrays the openness of the world of nature. Adam struggles with all the same existentialistic questions that plague Vicky’s artistic mind. Yet, he studies the dolphins and tries to see how they come to grips with death.

  Many Christian books never appear to present the true difficulties that plague human existence. Except, many of these struggles over doubt and depression seem to vanish once someone is “born again.” Madeleine L’Engle’s books never end the lifelong struggle of trying to comprehend the world and God. If anything, our relationship with God is never static. It is always evolving. In “Ring of Endless Light,” we are given the far more artful portrait of this struggle. There are no clear answers. Within Ring of Endless Light, we are instead given the opportunity to accept the fact that our doubts or thoughts revolving around the divine are never settled. They are merely the dynamics of this existence within a world that is so vast and incomprehensible.

      There is a rich subtlety and silence within many parts of this book. One of my favorite character was Vicky Austin’s grandfather who represents the epitome of a good minister. Her grandfather refuses to define God or have his faith hinge on a certain litany of beliefs. Instead, her grandfather’s spiritual belief represents the wisest form of spirituality that accepts the mystery and finds solace in the search for theoretical answers to those big questions. In Vicky’s world, spirituality can be constrained by religious legalism and even rigid atheism. By condensing the spiritual search to a  “Yes” or “No,” question about whether or not he/she/ it “exists,” we are greatly denying our place in the universe. We are a mote of dust that contains a lot of depth. If we fail to understand others adequately, How can we be so  confident about what or who God is?It is our greatest pitfall that limits our ability to see the “ring of endless light” hiding beneath the fabric of the supposed  meaningless universe. Like Shakespeare, Madeleine L’Engle’s way of showing us God is not by telling us about God, but showing us a reflection of our difficult lives where we are constantly wrestling with these complicated matters about "Why we are even here?" "Does death equal dissolution into nothingness?" We don't just have certain recycled answers that we're always complacent with. Lately, it seems like that is all that people do at church: Find complacency in easy beliefs to insure we're going to heaven. Yet, How can we ever be so certain in a universe so much bigger than ourselves?

         To me, this book is the pinnacle of Madeleine L’Engle’s literary successes that masterfully evokes the experience of the universal search for meaning within this world. All aspiring writers should read Madeleine L’Engle to learn the art of creating stories that grant us an emotional experience rather than give us direct answers about things we cannot possibly fathom.