Thursday, November 13, 2014

A hardbound wish

I cannot recall now specifically. The first hardbound Anne Rice I owned was Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt. I walked out of the bookstore holding this wonder, this volume. It was a sharp departure from all the other Anne Rice titles I owned. It was heavier. It was in hardcover.

At that time I had a full-time job. When I first began reading Anne I read mass market paperbacks. I was a student. I needed to economize.

And then, in 1998-1999 I had dropped out of college. I wasn't ready for it. Or, I clearly disliked the teaching style in UST. Professors would come in with a microphone and a portable speaker. They would talk into the mic for an hour. None of them sought to engage us students in a meaningful way. I was bored to death. High school was more fun. We had more creative teachers. What was this?

I found a Christian theatre group called YESHUA, or the Young Evangelistic Heralds' Union of Artists. I was floating, an out-of-school youth with too much energy and free time and no sense of self. All I knew was I had this mad love for reading, for Anne Rice's books, and for writing my own stories by hand in notebooks now lost.

Our mentor in YESHUA disapproved my reading of Anne Rice. He thought her books detrimental to my faith. I was to read instead Christian non-fiction. Max Lucado was all the rage those days. So was Harold Sala. And Dobson. I didn't like their writing. I encountered Philip Yancey, the doubter, the faith seeker, the investigative writer who wrote to plumb the depths of his heart: not to provide answers to the reader as in a sermon, but to show he, too, was searching for a God to believe in. I forsook Anne for Philip. In a "Christian" ceremony of severing ties with the occult, I was to burn my Anne Rice pocketbooks. I had no heart for this. I put them in a plastic bag. I left them out on the street. Perhaps another reader, a book lover, would encounter them and bring them home. I was hopeful.

I was chastised for that action. Why did I not burn the evil? How dare I pass on the curse to another person? I would pay somehow the consequences of my disobedience.

I soon found myself in a university that fostered individual thought: the University of the Philippines. There, the professors challenged me to find my own mind, to nurture it, and to express it creatively. Soon after I found jobs, here and there. I was earning my own money.

Little by little I began to acquire back my lost friends, the Anne Rice books. I would find a hardcover edition in Book Sale. I would buy it. I would peruse secondhand bookstores in my free time. I would buy what I could afford. That's how I acquired Lasher, Taltos, Memnoch, Body Thief. That's where I found in Trade Paperback The Mummy and Cry to Heaven. I went on to purchase Violin. I rummaged bookstores. I had to get these books back.

I no longer believed I could go to hell by reading Anne. I no longer held a small view of God. God was not a puny, insecure man. God is Radical Love, boundless with Amazing Grace. Why, God must love Anne, too!

So when I walked out of the bookstore carrying Christ the Lord, I knew it is my true heart's desire to complete my collection of hardbound Anne Rice titles. If I had a camera, if I had the sense for it, I could have made a documentary of this. How I would spend at least an hour going through badly organized bookshelves in Book Sale. How, when Typhoon Ondoy consumed our basement level apartment, it was my books that we first salvaged. Never mind the TV, the refrigerator, the microwave. The books were more important.

And how, in the advent of the Internet, and Facebook, people now sell previously-"'loved" books online. You wire them payment, and they either meet up with you or ship the books to you. How I acquired my hardbound Interview and Armand from a bookseller in Baguio! Now there's a reason to climb up there and get the books!

How I would make reservations for the more recent titles since Christ the Lord so I could purchase them on the first day they became available in local Manila bookstores. The Songs of the Seraphim, The Wolf Gift Chronicles. I acquired them on the first day of release. And also how there was a mad scramble for Prince Lestat, that Fully Booked ran out within 24 hours of its release, and one had to wait for weeks for National Bookstore and PowerBooks to receive their shipment. And how when those bookstores got their copies, the books rarely touched the shelves. They were gone within hours, too.

I was fortunate to have a friend in the book industry to reserve Prince Lestat for me.

I am still in the process of completing my collection. This is my hardbound wish. And once my collection is complete, I shall begin to read all of Anne Rice's books in the order they were published. And to post here the meeting of our minds.

Natalie Goldberg, bestselling author of Banana Rose, described reading as a meeting of minds: the reader's with the writer's. She said, "When we read we not only take on the author's mind and its structure, but we are also actively using our eyes, deciphering words and connecting these words to our imagination, visualizing the scene we read. Though from the outside we seem to be sitting still, a book opened in front of us, all our mental machinery is roaring away. Our brains are becoming fully alive" (Thunder and Lightning, Bantam, 2000).

I want to meet the mind of Anne Rice.

Naturally I will read other novelists, not just Anne, for this year, or the years to come if it takes longer than that. But now I will deliberately read Anne at a slower pace. Trying to see what she sees, trying to understand what the characters think and feel. If there's a word I do not understand, there's google. If there's flowers and trees I'm not familiar with, there's Google Images or Wikipedia. It should be easier these days to read novels because of technology.

Wish me luck. And if you ever find these books in Hardbound, please, let me know!

  • The Feast of All Saints
  • Cry to Heaven*
  • The Vampire Lestat*
  • The Queen of the Damned*
  • The Mummy*
  • The Witching Hour
  • Vittorio, the Vampire
  • Blackwood Farm
  • Blood Canticle
  • Beauty Trilogy*
* I already have these titles in some form: mostly satisfying trade paperback. But I still am hopeful that a hardbound edition surfaces.

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