Friday, September 09, 2005

How do you like your Rice?

posted by Rob at 1:47 PM

I'm a mark for Anne Rice. Her book, "Interview with a Vampire," is one of my favorites (as is the movie). I also enjoyed its sequels.

When I was last in New Orleans back in 2000, I stalked her. I asked a cabbie where she lived. He called his base and found out. I headed to the Garden District and found her home. It was just like I imagined - it had the cutest demon dog statues on the second-floor balcony, with cute Santa hats on their heads. I have a photo somewhere buried at home.

Politically, Rice is 180 from me. Her books bear this out, as they tend to be overwrought with homo-erotica imagery and metaphor (Lestat *really* loves him some Louie). I've also caught her on Bill Maher's old show "Politically Incorrect."

She had a column in the New York Times recently, during which she painted a deep, cultural portrait of New Orleans. She covered the poverty and violence with a nice shade of "tolerance had always been able to outweigh prejudice, where patience had always been able to outweigh rage."

And, I might add, a place where poor black children spend hours a day entertaining tourists for coins by tapping on sidewalks with ragged tennis shoes adorned with bottle caps. A place where anyone at two in the morning can be offered a rock of crack for $10, as I once was (and yes, I declined).

Nonetheless, like Richard Simmons and the Manning brothers, Rice speaks with a honest love of her hometown. She then turns a cutting eye to her country:
But to my country I want to say this: During this crisis you failed us. You looked down on us; you dismissed our victims; you dismissed us. You want our Jazz Fest, you want our Mardi Gras, you want our cooking and our music. Then when you saw us in real trouble, when you saw a tiny minority preying on the weak among us, you called us "Sin City," and turned your backs.
I have no idea why or where she got this impression. There has been an overwhelming outpour of love and aid to her colorful home. Someone needed to point this out to her. Thankfully, Jim Geraghty did more than that. He took a pen and, like a soap opera doctor treating an overacting patient, he slapped her across the face:

But it’s not like state and local officials could have seen this coming. They have never had a hurricane bearing down on them before and… oh, wait, there was Hurricane Ivan just last year. And after that dodged bullet, Blanco and Nagin both acknowledged they needed a better evacuation plan.

I would note that we’ve seen some pretty intense disasters in other parts of the country, like planes crashing into skyscrapers and subsequently collapsing, earthquakes, tornadoes, blizzards, and yet somehow, none of these disasters had the total breakdown of law and order, civil society, etc. Jonah Goldberg’s early joke about a Mad-Max style post-apocalyptic tribal anarchy may have been in poor taste, but it has turned out to be nightmarishly prescient.

We failed you? No, oh brilliant creator of Exit to Eden, you failed. You might not think of it this way, but: Your leaders failed to upgrade the levees. You elected a bunch of weepers and blame-shifters who lost their head in a crisis.

You have to read the whole thing to feel the full sting.

My sympathies to Rice and others who feel sorrow at the damage to their home. But your country is responding. Don't pretend it is not.

And yes, I will still read your next book.


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