Monday, October 31, 2011

Interview with the Vampire

Rating: 4 out of 5 Tortured, Undead Souls
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.
I was pleasantly surprised when I read this novel and found that it wasn't just about vampires. Anne Rice is practically genius. She explores issues of faith, life, good vs. evil, and philosophy all in an intriguing and fast-moving story. Her writing is brilliant as she weaves the present-day interview and the vampire's story. Louis Pointe du Lac is a likable character because he is the most, seemingly, human vampire. That was another thing I found during the reading of this book. When I was an undergraduate English major, I remember being told that a good book will explore the human condition and do it in a way that is meaningful and poignant. Rice does that with this book. 
The beginning of a novel, if it is well-written, will show you what themes to look for in the book. If you're looking and reading carefully enough you can catch on to them. However, not all novels are created equally. I was pleased to find that there may be some themes in Interview with the Vampire.

Theme 1: Good vs. Evil
This is a huge theme and kindof an obvious one. I think, though, that Anne Rice is attempting to explore it in a different way. Consider what Louis says:

"People who cease to believe in God or goodness altogether still believe in the devil. I don't know why. No, I do indeed know why. Evil is always possible. And goodness is eternally difficult. But you must understand, possession is really another way of saying someone is mad. I felt it was, for the priest. I'm sure he'd seen madness. Perhaps he had stood right over raving madness and pronounced it possession. You don't have to see Satan when he is exorcised. But to stand in the presence of a saint...To believe that the saint has seen a vision. No, it's egotism, our refusal to believe it could occur in our midst" (13).

Not only are we considering Good vs. Evil, but we are also considering what makes someone good, what makes someone evil. Also: why is it so easy for people to believe in evil and so hard for them to believe in miracles and goodness? We, as humans, tend to believe the bad before we will believe the good. Why is that?

Theme 2: What it means to be Human
I am going to be watching for this theme throughout the novel, but I don't really have a clue from Rice that it will even be in there. I can sense Louis' struggle, already, to come to grips with this as he transforms from human to vampire. One of my favorite professors said that a good novel will try to show the human experience. I think this one has the capability of showing it by looking at it through non-human eyes.

Another theme that has been brought up is morality. Does Louis drink from only animals as a moral or aesthetic choice? What's the difference? What is it that finally makes him stop drinking from animals?

I also looked at the symbolism in the book. From what research about the book I've done I've been told it is rife with it. So far I think Louis represents our desire to do what is right even if we are corrupt humans. As a vampire he is tormented by the fact that he is damned and so he tries constantly to rise above his nature. While Lestat represents all things bad in us and the giving in to those things and what it can do to you.

By the end, we realize that this novel is a tragedy. Louis is constantly in search of life in his immortality. We grieve as he loses his companions and his life truly ends. He may have died physically when he became a vampire, but his soul lived on in a tormented state of immortality.

This may have been a darker novel, but I loved it. It took me awhile to finish it just because I have had a hard time focusing on a book for longer than a few pages at a time lately. I think I'm developing adult onset ADHD. Who knows? I gave this book 4 out of 5 Tormented, Undead Souls. Go read it! P.S. Don't watch the movie. While it is decent not compared to the book, if you compare it to the book, it is terrible. 

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