Tuesday, May 12, 2009

31. Interview with the Vampire – Anne Rice.

History: Written in 1973 and published in 1976, the novel was followed by several sequels, collectively known as The Vampire Chronicles. The book quickly became a cult success, and a prominent influence on present Goth culture. The novel was set apart from its predecessors of the vampire genre by its confessional tone from the vampire's perspective, touching on existential despair and the sheer boredom of lifeless immortality. Rice reported in her biography that the themes of vampirism and the tone of the book echoed the loss of her daughter Michele from leukemia in 1972. Interview is distinct from its sequels in its sombre tone, and subsequently the perspective shifts to that of the vivacious Lestat. Nevertheless, it remains the best-selling and best-received of Rice's books.
Plot: The story is told as a vampire named Louis telling his 200-year-long life story to an interviewer. In 1791, Louis was a young indigo plantation owner living in New Orleans. Distraught with guilt over the death of his wife and stillborn child he seeks death . Louis is approached by a vampire named Lestat, who desires Louis company. Lestat turns Louis into a vampire (although initially Louis merely begs to be killed) and the two become immortal companions. Lestat spends some time feeding off the local plantation slaves while Louis, who finds it morally impossible for him to murder humans to survive, feeds from animals.
Louis and Lestat are forced to leave when Louis' slaves begin to fear the monsters with which they live and instigate an uprising. Louis sets his own plantation aflame; he and Lestat exterminate the plantation slaves to keep word from spreading about vampires living in Louisiana. Gradually, Louis bends under Lestat's influence and begins feeding from humans. He slowly comes to terms with his vampire nature but also becomes increasingly repulsed by what he perceives as Lestat's total lack of compassion for the humans he preys upon.
Escaping to New Orleans proper, Louis feeds off a plague-ridden young girl one night, whom he finds next to the corpse of her mother. Louis begins to think of leaving Lestat and going his own way and fearing that is what Louis might do, Lestat then turns the girl, who has nearly reached the point of death, into a vampire "daughter" for them, naming her "Claudia" in the process (her real name is never revealed). Louis then is forced to stay by Lestat, because of Claudia.
Louis is horrified that Lestat has turned a child into a vampire, but instantly and cares for Claudia tenderly and dotingly. She takes to killing easily, but Claudia begins to hate Lestat as she realizes she can never grow up; although her mind matures into that of an intelligent, assertive woman, her body remains that of a six-year-old girl. After 60 years of living together, Claudia hatches a plot to dispose of Lestat by poisoning him and cutting his throat. Claudia and Louis then dump his body into a nearby swamp. After realizing that they seem to now be the only vampires living in America, Claudia desires to travel to Europe with Louis and seek out "Old World" vampires.
As Louis and Claudia prepare to flee to Europe, Lestat appears, having survived and recovered from Claudia's attack, and attacks them in turn. Louis sets fire to their home and barely escapes with Claudia, leaving a furious Lestat to be consumed by the flames.
Arriving in Europe, Louis and Claudia seek out more of their kind. They travel throughout eastern Europe first and do indeed encounter vampires, but these vampires appear to be nothing more than animated corpses, mindless and unintelligible. It is only when they reach Paris that they encounter vampires like themselves - specifically, the 400-year-old vampire Armand. Inhabiting an ancient theater, Armand and his vampire coven disguise themselves as humans and feed on live, terrified humans in mock-plays before a live human audience (who think the killings are merely a very realistic performance). Claudia is repulsed by these vampires and what she considers to be their cheap theatrics.
Claudia demands that Louis turn a human Parisian dollmaker, Madeleine, into a vampire to serve as both a mother figure and a replacement for Louis. Louis at first refuses but, after realizing Claudia's plight, gives in and makes Madeleine into a vampire. Louis, Madeleine and Claudia live together for a brief time but all three are abducted one night by the Theatre vampires. Lestat has arrived - having survived the fire and attempted murder in New Orleans - and his accusations against Louis and Claudia result in Louis being locked in a coffin to starve, while Claudia and Madeleine are locked in an open courtyard. Armand arrives and releases Louis from the coffin, but Madeleine and Claudia are burned to death by the rising sun. Louis finds the ashen remains of Claudia and Madeleine and is devastated. He later returns to the Theatre late the following night, burning it to the ground as the sun rises and killing all the vampires inside, and leaves with Armand.
Louis and Armand then travel across Europe together for several years, but Louis never fully recovers from Claudia's death. Tired of the Old World, Louis eventually returns to America and New Orleans in the early 20th century, living as a loner; he feeds off any humans that cross his path but lives in the shadows and never creates another companion for himself.
Telling the boy of one last (which is later described in detail by Lestat in later books) encounter with Lestat in New Orleans, Louis ends his tale; after 200 years, he is weary of immortality as a vampire and all the pain and suffering to which he has had to bear witness. The boy, however, seeing only the great powers granted to a vampire, begs to be made into a vampire himself. Infuriated that his interviewer learned nothing from his story, Louis refuses, and vanishes without a trace.
Recovering from the attack, the boy notes the address of the house where Louis last saw Lestat in New Orleans, and then leaves to track down Lestat for himself.
Review: Everyone was reading this author in the 80s and 90s. I’d heard some friends discussing it so I started the series, but this book was as far as I got. I thought the book was interesting.. spooky, but not that great. I read it at the beach one summer. I finished it on a night when it was windy outside and I was all alone in the living room.
Opening Line: " I see . . .' said the vampire thoughtfully, and slowly he walked
across the room towards the window.
Closing Line: “And then, stuffing the notebook quickly in his pocket, he gathered the tapes into his briefcase, along with the small recorder, and hurried down the long hallway and down the stairs to the street, where in front of the corner bar his car was parked.”
Quotes: "I never knew what life was until it ran out in a red gush over my lips, my hands!"
Rating: Okay

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