Thursday, January 3, 2013

Anne Rice: The Vampire Lestat (1985)

Well, Rice knew what she needed to do in order to make a series out of this.  She didn't quite turn Louis into a liar or a fool, but almost.  And she turned Lestat into an incurable optimist, someone with an unquenchable lust for life (in every sense), someone utterly immune to the kind of existential despair that Louis was created to express.  In short, she contradicts everything that we learn through Louis, and by couching in a very different, but just as fully-realized, point of view, she makes us buy it. 

Or almost - I confess I had a harder time connecting the dots between the various stages of Lestat's mental adjustment to vampirism than I did with Louis's.  Or maybe it's just that she doesn't try quite as hard with this one.  After all, not all of the novel is given over to exploring and explaining Lestat's point of view;  in fact, his is established pretty early and never really varied.  Vast stretches of the book are given over to elucidating other points of view - Armand's and Marius's.  She's building a universe here, a fertile ground for sequels, rather than a character.

It took me a long time to get through this.  It lost intensity for me pretty quickly, and after it became clear that it wasn't really going to take on Lestat's affair with Louis in any sustained fashion, it lost a lot of interest for me as well.  I'm not hooked.

I'll confess, though, that it was hard for me to get through also because it was so dark.  I mean, what did I expect from a vampire book, right?  But when we got to Marius's tale about the ancientest of vampires, and we learn that all of mankind's old gods were bloodsuckers, and that vampirism itself is some kind of schizoid demonic possession...  Darkness, darkness.  I think I found my threshold for it.  I'm only a little ashamed to admit it.


Matt said...

Happy new year!

I found your last paragraph a little surprising because (because of the Dollhouse series, I guess) I had you down as a Whedon man, and vampirism in the Buffyverse works basically on the same principle of demonic possession (to the point where Angel/Angelus are treated as different people).

Is it the connection to "real" old-time religion (rather than vaguely described ancient cults intentionally dedicated to secret demon worship etc.) that tips it over the edge for you?

Tanuki said...

A real good question. And I am a huuuuge Buffy/Angel fan. I'm not exactly sure why I reacted differently to this myth than that one.

It might be, as you say, that Rice's decision to place vampires at the heart of historically (more-or-less) attested cults hits me differently from Whedon's more fantastical vision. I mean, as a young Tolkien fanatic (and Asterix fan) I had a pretty rosy imagination of druids, and maybe that romance dies hard.

Or it could be as simple as the fact that Whedon's take in Buffy/Angel is essentially comic (as serious as some of his subtexts are), while Rice's is serious. And to that I should probably add that, as a pop-culture critique of religion, Rice's idea is wickedly effective. Really smart and cynical. Not only is religion bunk, it's parasitic in the most graphic way possible. I see that.

Tanuki said...

Oh, and Happy New Year to you, too!

RedMaigo said...

It's kind of funny you would say that Rice thinks of religion as bunk when she renounced all of her books (including this one) and became a born again Catholic.

Of course, things have been rocky since her conversion. I think she has since apostatized. She lost her new found faith due to disillusionment with her fellow sisters and brothers in Christ.