Monday, March 5, 2012
One of the little treats I afforded myself upon securing my tenure track English Assistant Professorship was a day to devour Anne Rice's recent novel, The Wolf Gift. I'd heard Rice on NPR talking about venturing into the werewolf as a new territory for her, and I'd recently been reviewing my reading notes/marginalia in Capital, Volume I, where I had noted all of Marx's monsters, including werewolves. Marx's vampires are much more well known; the werewolves have on occasion been noted, but they to a much less degree, quantitatively and qualitatively with regard to sustained analysis. As it turns out, amongst the few werewolves Marx folds into that particular book is one of Martin Luther's werewolves. And Luther's three werewolves contribute to his vitriolic attack on the pope.
But, to get back to Rice's novel, one of my favorite elements of The Wolf Gift is the micro-literary history of the werewolf integrated into its narrative. The werewolves are themselves versed in this literary/cultural history and struggle with their own identity in relation to this ideology as it intersects with the material reality of their being. All of our classical monster narratives today cannot but be consumed with the literary/cultural history into and outof which they are inscribed. Yet, Rice's narrative makes this inscription explicit and finely nuanced--in fact, the novel left me wanting to know more from these characters on their self-consciousness of their being-in-monster-trope/tradition.
The other recommending aspect of Rice's novel is her treatment of liminal struggles. After the wretched 2010 film The Wolf Man, with its ending line: "It is said there is no sin in killing a beast, only in killing a man. But where does one begin and the other end," Rice's complex borders provoke rather than set off a gag reflex.
I read The Wolf Gift just months after reading Jacques Derrida's 2001-02 lectures The Beast & the Sovereign, much of which is devoted to what he calls a genelycology, and what I'd modify into genelycanthropology, in reference to Rice's novel, which is a little hyperlink of irony, since I always remember that scene in the film Derrida, where he is in his home library and is asked if he's read all the books covering the walls. No, Derrida replies with several Anne Rice vampire novels in his hand and explaining that these were a gift when he was doing lectures on vampirism, and he finally says to the effect, I have only read 4, but I read them VERY WELL.
Posted by Andy Hageman at 4:01 PM