Friday, May 17, 2013

The Wolf Gift--Overview and chapter one

Ann Rice is famous for two things: Vampires and sucking.

I have read two thirds of Interview with a Vampire, most of The Vampire Lestat, and all of Queen of the Damned.  Interview was readable as long as Lestat was onscreen. Lestat was a love letter to its main character's ego, and Queen of the Damned...let's just say the best thing the movie ever did was dump the entire Egypt sequence in favor of focusing on Stuart Townsend's pectorals. I do happen to own a copy of Tales of the Body Theif but have not read one page. I can't make it through the "I know I fucked up" introduction. The writing itself is very stuffy. It's self important, VERY self-centered, and very "I'm pissed at God but we're not talking about that", if that makes any sense.

As for Ann Rice herself...she's got a bit of an ego problem.

Somewhere between deciding that she didn't need an editor and deciding that not only is she the Best Christian Evar11!!one! but that it's perfectly acceptable to write the life of Christ in the first person from the POV of Jesus (Click on the "look inside" feature and read it. OH MY FUCKING GOD) she kind of lost her tenuous grip on reality. Among her greater hits is taking out a full page add to harass the owner of a restaurant just because Lestat happened to look into its window back when it was a used car dealership, and she's a little miffed that the new owner changed things around and of course the already linked and classic attempt at flaming her critics (SPOILER! IT DIDN'T WORK!)

Suffice to say that if I were ever going to respect her, it died about the time Mekare ate her sire's brains (also: WHAT THE FUCK WAS WITH THE GLORIFICATION OF FUNERAL CANNIBALISM? WHY DID YOU HAVE TO DO THIS ANNE RICE? WHY?)

However, my stepfather purchased The Wolf Gift, something that Anne apparently thought was a good idea. And he loved it! Of course, this isn't saying much, given that my stepdad's other favorite things are the WWE (...Yeah, CM Punk needs to die, but it's worth it for the close up of Randy Orton's abs) and, I shit you not, Twilight. (This is all the evidence you need that there is a God, and that he is a sadist) It has been sitting in the bathroom for the last month, and as all the other options are the most misogynistic westerns in the history of Things (one of them is White Squaw, and it is about as good as a western named White Squaw would be) I have been reading random paragraphs out of it for the last month.

As far as I can see, Anne Rice hasn't changed one iota.

However, I have not read the thing cover to cover yet. And there are a small handful of books that I like that are horribly written (...I am a fan of David Eddings and Terry Brooks. I know. You don't have tell me. Here's my critic badge. You may set it on fire) so who knows? Maybe this will be tolerable. Let's dive in, shall we?

Here's the first paragraph:

REUBEN WAS A TALL MAN, well over six feet, with brown curly hair and deep-set blue eyes. “Sunshine Boy” was his nickname and he hated it; so he tended to repress what the world called an irresistible smile. But he was a little too happy right now to put on his studious expression, and try to look older than his twenty-three years.
Oh my god, this is really going to suck, isn't it?

Let's get the biggest fail out of the way first, shall we? Simi colons do not work that way.  That's one of the best graphics in the universe and any writer should have a print out taped to their wall, minimum. You may have a simi-colon, or you may have a "So". You may not have both.

Tell me again how your perfectly edited books don't require an editor, Anne.

Two, and this is a big one, kids: OUR MAIN CHARACTER IS TWENTY THREE.

I remember being twenty-three. I remember being dumber than a bag of rocks at twenty-three. There's a head-up-your-ass sense of entitlement that comes with being twenty-three, and it takes a couple more years to flush that out of your system. I can already predict that our hero is going to act like he's forty, and have the maturity to not do twenty-three ish things like, oh, not finish a bottle of vodka in one sitting (to my credit, I never did that) or trust the strange man when he says he absolutely can sell your first book to an agent (...I did that, though. And that's dumber than swallowing a bottle of vodka)

So Ruben, no last name, is walking up a pretty hill with lots of adjectives and a woman named Marchant Nideck. 

This is the point where I've stopped reading every single time. Mostly because Marchant is not only beautiful, she has beautiful blond hair that has never faded. Ever.

My mother is a natural blond. My mother is younger than Marchant. My mother had to start dying her hair at thirty because fading is what hair does when you get old.

Reuben is here to write a story about Marchant's house. Oh, yes. He's a celebrated journalist. AT TWENTY THREE. And he's been asked to do a puff piece on Marchant's beautiful old mansion because she's selling it and...uh. Yeah. It's a nice old house.

Reuben wasn’t dressed for this, really. He’d driven north in his usual “uniform” of worsted-wool blue blazer over a thin cashmere sweater, and gray slacks. But at least he had a scarf for his neck that he’d pulled from the glove compartment. And he really didn’t mind the biting cold.

HE IS TWENTY THREE YEARS OLD IN TWENTY THIRTEEN. I DO NOT THINK HE WOULD BE WEARING THAT THANK YOU. God. I collect scarfs and the only one I've ever actually worn in public is the cheap-as-shit yellow thing my mom gave me the same week my boss instituted an all black uniform. Because good fabric is cooler than costume jewelry.

 Also, Anne Rice has a love affair with adjectives. But I don't think they like her back.The description of the house is full of them. Every noun is wagging one. There is rough-hewn stone and steep gables and an awful lot of sprawling. The thing missing is atmosphere and connection and anything even remotely interesting.

Ruben loves the house. He then goes on to list every address he's ever lived in, and while I don't know Californian geography as well as I do Texas, I have a feeling that most of these places are basically River Oaks. He goes on about the archetecutre, and how he dreams of having a house like that when, and I quote, "he was a famous writer and the world beat too broad a path to his door."

Ruben? Honey? I wouldn't start placing bets on that career until you've figured out that adding words to a cliche doesn't make it any less of one.

And then they start talking.

“What’s wrong with you, Reuben, what’s the matter?” asked Marchent. “You had the strangest look in your eye.”

Yeah, Ruben wants the house. Ruben wants the house. RUBEN wants the house. In case I haven't made this really clear, RUBEN REALLY WANTS THE SHINY HOUSE. And just in case we miss the fact that Ruben has money out the yin-yang, this happens:

His father might actually love this place, he thought. Yes, Phil Golding was in fact a poet and he would surely love it, and he might even say so to Reuben’s mother who would scoff at the whole idea. Dr. Grace Golding was the practical one and the architect of their lives. She was the one who’d gotten Reuben his job at the San Francisco Observer, when his only qualification was a master’s in English literature and yearly world travel since birth.
Oh FUCK YOU, Rubes. The closest thing I've ever gotten to world travel was a couple trips to Canada.

And Ruben isn't just a reporter, he is apparently Cameron Buck Williams, reincarnated as an Anne Rice  character. I hope Jerry B. Jenkins is getting good money for the character timeshare. Seriously, he's been with his paper six months, he is twenty fucking three years old, and he's writing feature stories that have gotten criminals put behind bars.

Apparently he and Marchant are now best buds and they will be spending days together.

Pity me, my dear loyal blog readers. Pity me greatly. The dialogue is abysmal.

“Now, I really have insulted you, haven’t I?” asked Marchent. “Forgive me. I think all of us ordinary mortals tend to mythologize people as good-looking as you. But of course what makes you so remarkable is that you have a poet’s soul.”

And it's already been covered that Ruben really wants to fuck Marchant.


As for the descriptions...well...

There were no trees to the west of them. The view was open for all the obvious reasons. But the wind was positively howling off the ocean now, and the gray mist was descending on the last sparkle of the sea. I’ll get the mood of all this, he thought. I’ll get this strange darkening moment. And a little shadow fell deliciously over his soul.

Oh, yeah, and Ruben is wealthy enough to buy the World's Perfect Mansion right now, no questions asked.

Then we find out that Marchant's uncle, the one who left her the house, was an enviromentalist who disappeared. That's totally going to come up in a later chapter.  Eventually, they get out of the wind and go inside the World's Perfect Mansion.

Ruben thinks about all the reasons why he shouldn't buy it. In cash. And he proves that he's kind of an entitled son of a bitch in the process:

He’d quit the English Ph.D. program over the foreign-language requirements, and really didn’t have a life plan at all. Wasn’t it his right to listen to opera, read poetry and adventure novels, go to Europe every couple of months for some reason or another, and drive his Porsche over the speed limit until he found out who he was?
I'm working as a waitress for people who think I'm furniture. I haven't had a weekend off in over a year. FUCK YOU RUBEN.

 So then Ruben and Marchant--neither of whom have a personality other than 'Gimmie"--move on to the huge photo of Marchant's uncle Felix. It was, we find out, very expensive. There are interesting people in it. One interesting person is named Margon Sperver. What there isn't, is any hint of a story. Can we get to the point please?

Marchant figures that all six of the men in the expensive photograph vanished with Uncle Felix. Because plot, I guess.

They continue to tour the house. It's a very nice house.

We get Marchant's life history. Her parents are dead. She has two brothers who didn't get money from Uncle Felix. She got a lot of money from Uncle Felix.

They continue to tour the house.

It's nice, but it's not this nice.

 Oh, and Marchant's brothers are unrepentant drug addicts who use rehab to get as many drugs as they possibly can before being discharged. Because they give you drugs in rehab. And Marchant is going to give them lots of money because she has family guilt.

I have no sympathy for this family.

extortion— you know, drunken calls in the middle of the night, threatening suicide, and I usually end up sooner or later writing a big check. They bear with the lectures, the tears, and the advice for the money. And then they’re gone again, off to the Caribbean, or Hawaii, or down to Los Angeles on another bender. I think their latest scheme is to break into the pornography business. They’ve found a starlet that they’re cultivating. If she’s underage they may end up in prison, and perhaps that’s inevitable. Our lawyers certainly think so. But we all behave as if there’s hope.”
You know, it takes a lot for me to sympathize with an unrepentant addict, but that speech managed to pull it off. How do you manage to be both an enabler and an ass in the same fucking paragraph?


Oh, and Ruben is a literary genious because he can quote Nathanial Hawthorne from memory.

And then he tells her he'll buy the house and they start kissing.


...and it does, about three paragraphs later, when Ruben gets a good look at Marchant's bed.

This is going to suck.


  1. To be fair when I was twenty three I had a grey cashmere sweater I wore quite often. When I tried it on in the store it was three hundred dollars. A bit rich for someone living on a disability check. However I searched for it on the internet for several months until I scored it for fifty bucks. And I collect scarves, so I buy that this guy might take that kind of care with his appearance.

    Yes he sounds like a spoiled brat and if this were a better author I'd think he was intended that way, but since it's Rice I don't know. She's a funny writer for me because half of her stuff I adored (including universally hated books like The Violin) and the other half is just terrible.

  2. I read the first four chapters last night. I’m trying to make this a read-a-long!

    I’m 23 so I probably should take offense, but since I can remember what an asshole I was as a teenager, I am reasonably sure that I will also look back at when I was this age and laugh/cringe too.

    Scarves are actually really hip for early-twenties folk in some circles, and I can see some of my sister’s crowd wearing that outfit, albeit for a job and not casually.

    Yeah, people do not talk normally in this book. At least Reuben and Marchent don’t, I haven’t gotten to anyone else yet. Maybe it’s to show how intelligent and special they are, maybe she just never got out of writing that way for her vampires.

    I rolled my eyes so hard at the bit about his story helping to catch a crook.

    btw, be prepared/careful---recently someone gave a bad review of Pandora on her blog, and Rice found it, linked it on her facebook page, and all her worst fans were sicced upon the poor girl.

    1. I will attempt care.

      That was the decoupaging incident, right? Yeah, I wouldn't go that far. Maybe utilize as an altered book artwork...those are really awesome:

      (but probably not. You can't do that with paperbacks...:( )

    2. Oh, and I do remember thinking I had everything figured out at twenty three. We always think we've got everything worked out when we're at whatever age we're at. It's like some kind of age induced psychosis and you never grow out of it, unfortunately.

  3. Rice likes her male characters rich, pretty, and entitled. That would be bearable if they ever got over being rich, pretty, and entitled - Hell, I'd settle for just getting over being entitled - but they never really do.

    Scarves aren't an accessory, they're a neccessity.

    This dialogue is awful. Lois McMaster Bujold writes dialogue that sounds like written dialogue, but it sounds like the right kind of written dialogue for the characters. Anne Rice dialogue just sounds like something no one would say outside of a cheap direct-to-download video. And those names...

    I think their latest scheme is to break into the pornography business. They’ve found a starlet that they’re cultivating.

    Five seconds on the Mighty Google tells me that The Wolf Gift came out in 2012, nearly two decades after the internet created all sorts of job opportunities for people who are willing to take off their clothes for money. I'm willing to believe in werewolves and vampires. I'm not willing to believe that a teenaged girl wouldn't know of a half-dozen sites she can sell video to without having to give a cut to a couple of middle-aged junkies.