PopMatters is moving to WordPress. We will publish a few essays daily while we develop the new site. We hope the beta will be up sometime late next week.

No Shaggy Dog Story: 'The Wolf Gift' is Anne Rice Back With a (Bloody) Vengeance

Anne Rice, with her (sometimes bloody) dissection of issues such as morality and desire, is answering the acquisition of the Gothic by the mainstream YA market -- and retrieving it for us grown-ups.

The Wolf Gift: A Novel

Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf
Length: 404 pages
Author: Anne Rice
Price: $25.95
Format: Hardcover
Publication date: 2012-02

It isn’t really fair, is it, when a member of the old posse comes riding back into town? When a ringer is sent it to trounce the opposition? It’s cheating, really. Anne Rice – you’re cheating! Because let’s face it, the Catholics have cornered the market on creepy Gothic and metaphysical otherness, haven’t they (or I should say – we – as my background is not dissimilar to Rice’s)?

It’s all very well these young Mormon upstarts trying to dazzle us with their sparkly, clean-living, vegetarian vampires and upright, earnest young werewolves (Stephanie Meyer, we mean you!). If you really want to get down and dirty, you can rely on an ex-convent school girl to excite your supernatural urges!

Since Rice’s wholehearted embracing of her new liberal Catholic beliefs, prompted by her own personal health problems and the loss of her husband in 2002, she has regularly published more contemplative life-writing and fiction that uses methods other than the Gothic to consider the human condition and personal theologies. But with The Wolf Gift she is back to her old style, and with a (bloody) vengeance.

This work contains an ambiguous portrayal of a central character who is truly conflicted about the ‘gift’ he has received. Reuben has youth, flair, money, and good looks on his side; but he undergoes a genuine ‘conversion’ with the onset of the mysterious ‘gift’. And things occur in a satisfyingly visceral and gory fashion – you won’t be disappointed on that score. Plus, there is no agonising over abstinence – true love certainly does not wait, in Reuben’s case.

If the Gothic is about the articulation of social, domestic, and moral anxiety in different times and in different cultures, then this novel of Rice’s serves as a mature articulation of such difficult social and moral times in contemporary America. The wealth and privilege of the central characters is contrasted with the guilt they feel about it and the gift/curse antagonism of the supernatural ‘Chrism’ – the name that the werewolf cult give to the infection that changes them, and turns them into the ‘Morphenkinder’.

Rice explores bio-chemical and genetic territory as well, investigating the possibilities of a medical explanation for what afflicts her hero. But throughout it all there is the struggle: with lust, justice, acquisition, and desire. This is a brilliantly mature and thought-provoking Gothic novel with at times a genuinely baffling and exciting plot and some actual mystery, eroticism and romance. In other words, things actually happen, as opposed to the anguished postponement of anything like fulfilment or action. Granted, this is Gothic for grown-ups.

And Rice is, in this dissection of certain issues to do with age and desire, answering the acquisition of the Gothic and the blood-thirsty by the YA market. She is insistent about the process of growth that her hero experiences, rather than the arrested development of the vampire clans. The Gothic, she reiterates, is the territory of the ground-breaking and disturbing novel for readers accustomed to the traditions that deal with the concerns of society at large and not just the discomforts of high school. Her cleric, biologists, historians, and writers that gather towards the end of the novel engage in a debate about the future and the past of the werewolf myth. They also provide the groundwork for what will probably become a 21st century series that will up-date said myth.

The roll-call of characters is most intriguing: along with Reuben and Stuart (the new generation) there are the older members of the ‘Morphenkinder’ – Margon, Felix, Sergei, and Thibault. Each one has a unique history and Rice has skilfully introduced them to us via literary and cinematic references. This howling, dangerous, energetic troupe have legs – they will run and run.


Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology and hosting provider that we have less than a month, until November 6, to move PopMatters off their service or we will be shut down. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to save the site.





Bishakh Som's 'Spellbound' Is an Innovative Take on the Graphic Memoir

Bishakh's Som's graphic memoir, Spellbound, serves as a reminder that trans memoirs need not hinge on transition narratives, or at least not on the ones we are used to seeing.


Gamblers' Michael McManus Discusses Religion, Addiction, and the Importance of Writing Open-Ended Songs

Seductively approachable, Gamblers' sunny sound masks the tragedy and despair that populate the band's debut album.


Peter Guralnick's 'Looking to Get Lost' Is an Ode to the Pleasures of Writing About Music

Peter Guralnick's homage to writing about music, 'Looking to Get Lost', shows how good music writing gets the music into the readers' head.


In Praise of the Artifice in George Cukor's 'Sylvia Scarlett'

George Cukor's gender-bending Sylvia Scarlett proposes a heroine who learns nothing from her cross-gendered ordeal.


The Cure: Ranking the Albums From 13 to 1

Just about every Cure album is worth picking up, and even those ranked lowest boast worthwhile moments. Here are their albums, spanning 29 years, presented from worst to best.


The 20 Best Episodes of 'Star Trek: The Original Series'

This is a timeless list of 20 thrilling Star Trek episodes that delight, excite, and entertain, all the while exploring the deepest aspects of the human condition and questioning our place in the universe.


The 20 Best Tom Petty Songs

With today's release of Tom Petty's Wildflowers & All the Rest (Deluxe Edition), we're revisiting Petty's 20 best songs.

Joshua M. Miller

The 11 Greatest Hits From "Greatest Hits" Compilations

It's one of the strangest pop microcosms in history: singles released exclusively from Greatest Hits compilations. We rounded 'em up and ranked 'em to find out what is truly the greatest Greatest Hit of all.


When Punk Got the Funk

As punks were looking for some potential pathways out of the cul-de-sacs of their limited soundscapes, they saw in funk a way to expand the punk palette without sacrificing either their ethos or idea(l)s.


20 Hits of the '80s You Might Not Have Known Are Covers

There were many hit cover versions in the '80s, some of well-known originals, and some that fans may be surprised are covers.


The Reign of Kindo Discuss Why We're Truly "Better Off Together"

The Reign of Kindo's Joseph Secchiaroli delves deep into their latest single and future plans, as well as how COVID-19 has affected not only the band but America as a whole.


Tommy Siegel's Comic 'I Hope This Helps' Pokes at Social Media Addiction

Jukebox the Ghost's Tommy Siegel discusses his "500 Comics in 500 Days" project, which is now a new book, I Hope This Helps.


Kimm Rogers' "Lie" Is an Unapologetically Political Tune (premiere)

San Diego's Kimm Rogers taps into frustration with truth-masking on "Lie". "What I found most frustrating was that no one would utter the word 'lie'."


50 Years Ago B.B. King's 'Indianola Mississippi Seeds' Retooled R&B

B.B. King's passion for bringing the blues to a wider audience is in full flower on the landmark album, Indianola Mississippi Seeds.


Filmmaker Marlon Riggs Knew That Silence = Death

In turning the camera on himself, even in his most vulnerable moments as a sick and dying man, filmmaker and activist Marlon Riggs demonstrated the futility of divorcing the personal from the political. These films are available now on OVID TV.


The Human Animal in Natural Labitat: A Brief Study of the Outcast

The secluded island trope in films such as Cast Away and television shows such as Lost gives culture a chance to examine and explain the human animal in pristine, lab like, habitat conditions. Here is what we discover about Homo sapiens.


Bad Wires Release a Monster of a Debut with 'Politics of Attraction'

Power trio Bad Wires' debut Politics of Attraction is a mix of punk attitude, 1990s New York City noise, and more than a dollop of metal.


'Waiting Out the Storm' with Jeremy Ivey

On Waiting Out the Storm, Jeremy Ivey apologizes for present society's destruction of the environment and wonders if racism still exists in the future and whether people still get high and have mental health issues.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.