Everyone in the world would remember the book that started all the vampire mania in Hollywood. It was Dracula (Bram Stoker)! But the book that really changed vampires and made them into the romantic heroes that we see today on the screen acting in movies like Twilight would be the classic Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice.
A beautiful story set in the 1800’s about two people and a death… and then more deaths. The story woven in a wonderful city – New Orleans – moves across the ocean into Paris and every corner of the locations is wonderfully depicted.
“Paris was a universe whole and entire unto herself, hollowed and fashioned by history; so she seemed in this age of Napoleon III with her towering buildings, her massive cathedrals, her grand boulevards and ancient winding medieval streets–as vast and indestructible as nature itself. All was embraced by her, by her volatile and enchanted populace thronging the galleries, the theaters, the cafes, giving birth over and over to genius and sanctity, philosophy and war, frivolity and the finest art; so it seemed that if all the world outside her were to sink into darkness, what was fine, what was beautiful, what was essential might there still come to its finest flower. Even the majestic trees that graced and sheltered her streets were attuned to her–and the waters of the Seine, contained and beautiful as they wound through her heart; so that the earth on that spot, so shaped by blood and consciousness, had ceased to be the earth and had become Paris.
The story starts with Lestat who is turned into a vampire by a fleeting monster in his town and then left to figure it out by himself. Killing blindly at first, he figures out that if he feeds of the rich it would mean better housing for himself and also more women will be thrown at his feet. He loves the lavish lifestyle and when he meets Lois du Point du Lac, he turns him into a vampire against his wishes just because he thought of him as beautiful and no beauty should be left to die.
On the streets of Paris, they run across a dying mother and child and they do something inconcievable – they take the dying child and they breathe vampire life into it, turning it into one of theirs. The story of Claudia is haunting – A child, then a young woman, then a full grown woman trapped in a body of a 6-year old. She is hurting inside and is angry and hateful towards her two papas – who made her like this. She is no more than a child to them and when she plots with Luis to murder Lestat and be free of him, they do it and they bury him in the ground… Such a betrayal!
There are other vampires about – especially in Paris playing in the Vampires theathre where they would play with humans and feed on stage – and when they find out about Claudia, they set up a trial to remove the child vampire and they let the sun burn her alive.
The book is written like Louis’s confession and life story and it is almost impossible not to find oneself believing his story is true. I want there to be a majestically handsome Creole vampire who consciously struggles with the cost of his immortality because of his human beliefs. I want there to be a tormented vampire whose visions of love transcend human morals and concerns, who can love a nihilistic child vampire, a seemingly sadistic master vampire and a brooding but gorgeous male vampire differently but with equal intensity.
And I want there to be a vampire so wrapped up in his own journey of undead discovery that the concerns of human history float past him like a stick sliding unnoticed under a bridge.
Louis feels the world, his world, so richly, loves humans so deeply, thirsts for human creation so intensely that he — in his interview — can convey nothing other than his lust for life and all that is living. And that is Rice’s gift to us: the declaration that living life intensely, whatever that life may consist of, is the most important thing we can do.
I think I might have received that message from her twenty years ago, and I’ve been trying to live it ever since. I hope I am alive in twenty more years to revisit Louis and test my living against his call to feel. I wonder how I will have done by then.