Though autobiography is touched onRice's Catholic girlhood, her rebellious early marriage to an atheistic poet, her daughter's death from leukemia, the disaffected return from San Francisco to funky New Orleans, her kind of townthe emphasis of these near- monologues is on Rice's fluctuating inner state and her emotional involvement with her work. Fascinated as only the initially repressed can be by what she calls "transgressive" fiction, Rice explains how writing pornography under pseudonyms freed her to find the unique Rice voice and unify all her recent novelswhether about vampires, witches, or demonsinto the Rice "world" or "franchise," in which her many, many admirers take a proprietary interest. Though a reader of Flaubert and Yeats and a devourer of religious history, Rice endearingly states that she has "never been a sophisticated writer" and indeed that intellectuals can be "rather merciless people." She continues to resent negative reviews but finds validation in a popularity that ranges "from teenagers . . . to truck drivers" and includes fans who tend to a neo-Victorian, S&M aesthetic. Though not foolish when it comes to dealing with publishers and filmmakersher lengthily described duelling match with Hollywood on the way to filming Interview could try the patience of the undeadit is true that Rice's obsession with the configurations of sex, power, and violence partake of a self-regarding naiveté, an almost militant lack of irony, that inflames both her friends and her enemies. It is the source, that is, both of mass love and not inconsiderable dislike.
Riley lets Rice have her say. The result is essential for aficionados and basic homework for any critic.