Interview With the Vampire

January 25, 2011

Arts & Literature, Reviews

Written by D:

A novel which hardly needs introduction around these parts, Anne Rice’s 1976 début has sold eight million copies since its release. No doubt, you own at least one of them.

In a darkened room a young man sits telling the macabre and eerie story of his life… the story of a vampire, gifted with eternal life, cursed with an exquisite craving for human blood.

Louis, a French plantation owner, tells the story, first of how be became a vampire in 18th century Louisiana and then of his subsequent life in American and Europe, to a nameless young reporter. And that’s about it.

The modern day interview top and tailing the historical linear narrative, though a simple framing device, proved a hit with readers, much like Dracula’s epistolary form gave it an air of frightening realism. But the vampires contained within are nothing much like the Count. Instead, Rice populates her twilight world with creatures of dubious morality, remarkable aesthetic sensitivity and true, visceral feeling. Vampires are not introduced into the plot to cement a dualistic world view of good versus evil, but instead add a further layer of doubt to our mortal realm. That Rice thought up the novel during a period of mourning after the tragic death of her young daughter, should not surprise. The flavour is Catholic, but the certainty of faith is lacking.

Although the narrative is told from Louis’ point of view, it is really the ever engaging anti-hero Lestat who proved to be the key to Rice’s continued success, allowing her to expand on (though never, I think, better) her original novel in a string of sequels, not to mention spawning a whole brood of copycat characters in novels by other authors.

By making the interplay between the vampire characters the novel’s emotional focus, Rice changed the genre forever. Readers still fall in love them and with their humid, fleshy, decadent surroundings, flocking to New Orleans in their thousands every year.

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