It's only natural for an artist to incorporate parts of their life into their art. And if that life involves pain, the art often becomes a means of working through it.
Unfortunately, that art often becomes a soggy mess of melodrama and plotless meandering. Anne Rice's "Violin" was probably good for her mental/emotional health, and it brims over with genuine emotion... but as an actual novel, it's a big messy hallucinatory disaster. Methinks Anne should have just stashed this away in her desk.
The main character is Triana, a woman whose husband Karl recently died of AIDS. She also seems to have gone insane, since she hasn't told anyone about his death because she wants to cuddle with his dead body. While this is going on, she notices a strange man hanging around her house -- a man with a strange talent for playing Karl's Stradivarious.
The man turns out to be Stefan, a ghost with a connection to the Stradivarius. He and Triana embark on a trip through the centuries, exploring both their lives -- including the death of her alcoholic mother and young daughter. Wow, is this starting to sound like a certain gothic fiction author we're familiar with?
"Violin" is a mess. A big, sloppy, half-decayed, hallucinatory mess that makes you feel like you ate some bad mushrooms. There's not much of an actual plot -- possibly because this was published during one of the higher points of Rice's career, and she could actually get an entire book of morbid Mary Sue ramblings about cuddling with rotting bodies.
And honestly, most of this book is nothing more than that. Rice simply writes about Triana blathering about death and wallowing in the tragedies of her past, and occasionally waxing eloquent about violin music and Beethoven. You end up wishing the woman would just shut up, particularly since she expresses herself solely in run-on sentences of dripping purple prose.
And sometimes she goes into WAY too much detail about things we didn't need to know about, such as her dead mother's used menstrual pad COVERED IN ANTS. Is she trying to induce vomiting, or is that a fun side-bonus?
And Triana doesn't really help either. It's pretty obvious that she's Rice's self-insert, and she's not a very likable one. Not only is she painfully pretentious and self-absorbed, but she's also completely nuts and semi-suicidal. And she comes across as very selfish as well, since she keep Stefan captive in the world of the living because hey, she wants to play the violin.
"Violin" tries to be a ghost story, a paeon to music and an authorial catharsis, but it ends up deteriorating into a big smelly mess.