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literature

Alpha Index:  A-B  C-F  G-K  L-Q  R-S  T-Z

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Rice, Christopher (b. 1978)  
 
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As Anne Rice herself explained to the Advocate in 2000, "People respond in very different ways to what being gay means. And there's still an enormous amount of fear in America. There are still hate crimes. There is still a lot of consciousness-raising that has to be done--but not with us. I was worried, as anybody would be, that Chris would face obstacles and prejudices. But I did not love him one drop less."

In the fall of 1996, Rice entered Brown University as an aspiring theater student, but left after one semester when he failed to be cast in a single Brown theatrical production.

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"I was in instant gratification mode," Rice later admitted. "I auditioned for two shows my freshman year and didn't get called back and thought, well that's it. I've got to go do something that no one can prevent me from doing. . . . So instead I wrote a play. And it wasn't that good. But it was done; that was the key. I had actually finished something. And then I wrote a screenplay. Which also wasn't that good. But, I also finished it."

He then transferred to New York University's Tisch School of the Arts to study screenwriting, but left without graduating. He was unhappy with the school's dramatic writing program, but became consumed by writing as a pursuit, and gave up the idea of acting altogether.

Rice remains self-conscious about not having graduated from college and, in interviews, sometimes mentions that he has not read widely enough. On the other hand, he is enormously articulate and is certainly well informed about popular culture in general and popular literature in particular.

After dropping out of NYU, he moved to Los Angeles, where he began working in earnest on his own screenplays.

In December 1998, Rice received a phone call from New Orleans explaining that his mother had gone into a diabetic coma. The news came as a complete surprise, as no one was even aware that she was diabetic. That same day Rice took a flight back to his parents' home. He learned that his mother was out of danger but would need a long convalescence. He remained in New Orleans to help his family through the ordeal.

It was during this period that Rice began work on what would eventually become his first novel, A Density of Souls. "Being back home and confronting all the very vivid memories that came pouring back," Rice later stated, "and having everything around me spinning completely out of control, I needed an environment I could control. That was the world of [my] novel."

Rice drew inspiration from five screenplays he had started but had eventually abandoned. He showed an early draft of the novel to his father, who was enthusiastic and encouraged his son to continue working on it.

Two years later, when the novel was nearly finished, he showed it to his mother for the first time. She too was enthusiastic about his work. According to the Advocate, she said, "Wow. I'm absolutely blown away by this novel. I think it's as courageous as it is brilliant."

His mother's agent, Lynn Nesbit, read the novel and agreed to represent it. A Density of Souls was published in 2000. The novel chronicles the lives of four students at an exclusive New Orleans prep school whose friendships are shattered by a past sexual secret.

Although one of the novel's main characters, Stephen, is a gay theater enthusiast, Rice has repeatedly stressed that the book is not autobiographical. "I did physically model [Stephen] after myself: I gave him blond hair, I made him tall, I gave him blue eyes. And he is gay. But I wasn't subject to half the brutality he is in the book."

The novel was met with decidedly mixed reviews and the media coverage mainly focused on the author's familial connection with Anne Rice, but it ultimately became a national best seller.

While The New York Times Book Review called it a "feverish debut . . . simultaneously daft and disturbing," The Washington Post Book World noted that the novel offers "unexpected twists and a cleverly planned mystery." Other reviewers compared him to Brett Easton Ellis and Stephen King. The novel was also praised for its evocation of high school culture and recommended as a young adult novel, especially for glbtq youth.

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