Thursday, November 11, 2010

"Interview with the Vampire" {by Anne Rice} Book Review

Interview with the Vampire

Author: Anne Rice

# of Pages: 343

Year Published: 1976

Publisher: Knopf

Genre: Fantasy

In the now-classic novel Interview with the Vampire, Anne Rice refreshed the archetypal vampire myth for a late-20th-century audience. The story is ostensibly a simple one: having suffered a tremendous personal loss, an 18th-century Louisiana plantation owner named Louis Pointe du Lac descends into an alcoholic stupor. At his emotional nadir, he is confronted by Lestat, a charismatic and powerful vampire who chooses Louis to be his fledgling. The two prey on innocents, give their "dark gift" to a young girl, and seek out others of their kind (notably the ancient vampire Armand) in Paris. But a summary of this story bypasses the central attractions of the novel. First and foremost, the method Rice chose to tell her tale--with Louis' first-person confession to a skeptical boy--transformed the vampire from a hideous predator into a highly sympathetic, seductive, and all-too-human figure. Second, by entering the experience of an immortal character, one raised with a deep Catholic faith, Rice was able to explore profound philosophical concerns--the nature of evil, the reality of death, and the limits of human perception--in ways not possible from the perspective of a more finite narrator.

Our Rating...

2.5 Stars

(This is my first blog review so bare with me, Im a much stronger reader than writer)

To start out the discussion on this book Robin had a fantastic Vampire trivia Jepordy game, testing us on our knowledge of Vampire lore as well as vampires throughout Literature. It was an interesting way to view how the myth of the Vampire was contrived and how, through time and through literature, different versions of these supernatural beings have been developed.

It was interesting to learn that the original disease that outlined the characteristics of Vampires was no other than rabies. A condition transferred through a bite, often from a bat or wolf/wild dog, that would cause: insomnia, anxiety, excitation, a phobia of water, and a thirst that can not be quenched. The infected state was associated with coming from the devil mainly because of changes to character and disposition (malaise, depression, violent movements) and thus diagnosed as total loss of soul and spirituality. It would then make sense that forms of protection against infected beings usually took the form of something holy. Holy water, crucifix, rosary. As all human cases of rabies were fatal until a vaccine was developed in 1885 the only form of cure for a vampire was death and total destruction, destruction of not just one but often multiple vital organs. Decapitation, stake through heart, or burning.

In moving forwards from the origins of the myth of vampires it was fascinating to see how, mainly through literature, certain folklore was passed on while others were discarded in order to create a creature more terrifying / intriguing to newer more modern audiences. There are so many ideas to compare and contrast but I will just list a few....

Bram Stokers Dracuala was one of the first to set a standard of the Vampires appearance and lifestyle: nocturnal, Sunlight is lethal, pale in appearance, A Count, mainly in Transylvania & Europe, afraid of garlic, and crucifixes, sleeps in coffins, 3 wives, hairy and not attractive, able to walk up walls, decapitation necessary for death.

Then Anne Rice's Vampire series: nocturnal, light is still lethal, skin is pale in appearance but now slightly shiny like marble, Not a Count but wealthy because of years of accumulating money, Vampires are now not only in eastern Europe but now around the world and even here in America, NOT affected by anything holy like holy, water, crucifixes, or garlic, still sleeps in coffins, not married but a still has relationships with other vampires, IS attractive, beautiful and seductive to lure in their pray, able to jump up walls, supernatural strength and now starting to have other supernatural gifts like reading minds, decapitation or complete burning is necessary for death. (also the option of drinking animal blood instead of human blood is mentioned, but is described as not being sustainable)

Finally Stephanie Myers Twilight series: Not Nocturnal, Light is Not Lethal, skin is pale and not only shines like marble but now sparkles in the sunlight, Not Counts but still wealthy over years of accumulating wealth, All over the world and now even in small/suburbia/ west coast towns, Not affected by anything Holy, does not sleep in coffins and now does not sleep period, married but  monogamous, Attractive and beautiful, able to jump long distances and run extremely fast, supernatural strength, more supernatural gifts of reading minds, seeing the future, inflicting pain from a distance, controlling emotions, decapitation and burning still needed to kill a vampire. (The option of drinking animal blood instead of human blood is embraced and is described as being completely sustainable)

For some interesting insight on those strange zombie-like vampires in eastern Europe described in "Interview of a Vampire" go here.... This goes along with Claudia's hypothesis about what would have happened if she were to be buried right after her creation rather than fed and fostered.

Now that vampires have become so popular its interesting to go through every version and see who and what influenced that particular version, what are the old and what are the new attributes included in describing Vampires.

In discussing the book there were multiple factors to why we came up with such a low rating. The main topic being the sexual overtones that often pushed social norms of gender lines and age limits. Multiple times homo-sexual love was implied but not fully discussed as being completely sexual. The love between Louis, a grown adult, and Claudia an eternal 5 year old in bodily appearance seemed to push towards a lovers relationship at times. With all the implications and suggestion but never an outward explanation it caused for us to look at what is love to a Vampire and what is sexual to a Vampire. With immortality a factor and the need to commit murder to sustain life, the life of a vampire is void of morals and structure. Carnal in the most extreme sense of the word. A life where sexual desire is weak compared to the desire and fulfillment of a kill. Relationships between vampire and mortal reach their climax during a kill and the drinking of ones blood. Since relationships between vampires cant lead to this type of climax their attraction is to another's knowledge, energy, and overall outlook on their unusual condition. Those that lack any of those characteristics will attract others that lack, while those that possess these attributes will attract those with similar views. Thus Louis' love for Claudia until she started showing a resemblance to Lestat's views and motivations, and then his newer infatuation with Armond.

Learning more about the Author's life helped explain some of the books themes and characters. Anne was raised in a Catholic home and school but denounced organized religion as a teenager. She was raised in a home of alcoholism and eventually married a man who also turned to alcohol. She had a daughter that died of leukemia at a very young age. Dealing with such dark trials explains how she can write about such dark emotions so acutely. The theme of drinking to cope with life and the pain that it causes the one committing the offense as well as to those around them, is apparent in her books where the act of drinking is ever present and always surrounded with death and pain. Claudia's character is reminiscent of a child taken away from mortality in her youth, immortally a child in the minds of those who mourn her. A mortality taken away due to a condition of degraded and abnormal blood running through her veins.

This book was written in 5 weeks, it was intended to be just a short story and was added to, quite  liberally, through that time period. Also an explanation for the writing style we found to be another cause of discontent. Verbose and chunky in areas, fast and rushing through areas we were desiring more explanation. Many of the descriptions were beautiful and wove scenes of intricate detail. A longer time editing and refining could have kept the necessary descriptions present while also providing a better sense of flow throughout the whole book.

While this book left many with a feeling of discontent, I should pass on, to those true vampire lovers out there, that Kelly assures that the second in Anne's vampire series "The Vampire Lestat" will definitely fulfill its readers. A Stronger, more refined writing with more interesting and in depth explanations, are a few of the things that readers can look forward to in the book. But to those of us who are more sensitive, just always be aware and prepared for the immorality that saturates a life, in all areas, where killing is essential to live.

The picture on the back cover of my book. While I still find it wildly creepy, I can now possibly see why Anne would even think to pose in a serious picture with a large blond doll.


*Kelly* said...

I really enjoyed reading through your wonderful review Bethany, you did an amazing job! I loved seeing the evolution of vampire fiction through your comparisons and learning more abou those zomibie vampires, interesting.
Thank you for doing this review, it's perfect!

Karen said...

Wow...that's an amazing review. You did some indepth research. I liked your insight and conclusions.
Thanks for the post!