JESUS, JUICED:

Anne Rice’s 27th novel, “Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt,” is No. 4 on this week’s hardcover fiction list. The book, like Norman Mailer’s “Gospel According to the Son” (1997), is a first-person account of the life of Jesus, though Rice cannily breaks off a smaller piece of that life, writing about him at age 7. (“It’s as if Rice is casting Christ as the new Harry Potter,” Chris Ayres wrote in The Times of London.)

The book has arrived to some of the best reviews of Rice’s career. There’s something about writing in the voice of Jesus that smooths out a writer’s prose; Reynolds Price, reviewing Mailer’s book in the Book Review, didn’t like Mailer’s “excess of self-effacement.” Yet Rice has been praised for pretty much the same thing. As Laura Miller put it in Salon: “Gone are such Ricean devices as passages of florid description, conspicuous high-end consumption, endless assurances of the main characters’ beauty and that odd, pseudo-archaic Germanic syntax that would later become a trademark of Yoda. (Pretentious it was.)”

Rice, who was brought up in the Roman Catholic Church, was an atheist for 30 years – and wrote “Interview With the Vampire” and a pile of other pop-gothic novels – before returning to the church in 1998. On “Charlie Rose,” she seemed grateful she’s been welcomed back. “I thought maybe,” she said, “I had been officially excommunicated.”

Stephanie Diani for The New York Times