Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Being the Vampire

I ended 2009 by wrapping up my reading of Interview with the Vampire, so it made sense for me to start up the new year by reading the follow up novel, The Vampire Lestat.

While reading Interview, I got the sense that none of the characters struck my empathy. It was hard for me to relate to its narrator, Louis. It created unlovable vampires that, at first, I thought it was my undead bias - I prefer zombies, after all. So when I picked up Lestat, I was already bracing for another novel that would drone on forever and leave me hating the creator of the first book's narrator.

In Interview, Lestat seemed possessive. He was more of an intolerable being with loathsome qualities. I was annoyed time after time of his reappearance in the novel. I could do without him. In Lestat, however, he became - for lack of a better word - more human. Turning each page, I found myself empathizing with him. Especially with his mortal self when he and companion Nicolas spoke about death:

"'Do you realize that! We'll never know why the hell any of it happened, not even when it's over!' I shouted at Nicolas, who was sitting back on the bed, nodding and drinking his wine out of a flagon. 'We're going to die and not even know. We'll never know, and all this meaninglessness will just go on and on and on. And we won't any longer be witnesses to it. We won't have even that little bit of power to give meaning to it in our minds. We'll just be gone, dead, dead, dead, without ever knowing!'"

It was an occurrence that happened late last year. I was sitting in bed when I finally realized that all my years I've accepted my fate a unavoidable, I was simply okay with it. As an agnostic, I'm on the fence about religion. These last few years of my life, however, I've been leaning on atheism more and more. I accepted that when I die that was the end of this story. So Lestat's sudden realization of dying and becoming nothing struck a cord in me that Louis's narration never managed to do.

Lestat's wandering the world, seeking answers - much like Claudia and Louis did in Interview - also help build a better foundation for my liking this novel over the first. Lately, it seems I'm becoming more and more isolated from the rest of the world, making attempts to bring those I love dearly closer to me and watching them slip from my grasp. As much as I would love things to resume as normal - as I'm sure was how Lestat truly felt in his tale - I'm beginning to realize that it's a feat that will never be accomplished. At least, not in this lifetime - to use the novel's term. Unlike Lestat, I cannot simply burrow my way into the ground; although, I'm doing one hell of a job accomplishing the mortal version.

Sheer isolation drove me into the world of Anne Rice and I'm taking notes. What's a reader who doesn't dream of writing? And how else to replay the errors of my way than to write at least one vampire story? I mean, wasn't Anne Rice in a crisis of faith when she started writing the Vampire Chronicles? Perhaps my crisis of lack of faith might be just what I need to motivate me, right?

The way this book was written had the ability to keep my attention for longer periods, even though at times it seemed to go on forever. Taking me longer than I would have liked, it's the first book of the year. (It's also the first book of my 100+ book challenge of 2010 - the first year I attempt reaching that goal.)

There are times, however, that I began to question Lestat's ability to tell the story - how reliable could he have been? He mentioned Interview with the Vampire within his introduction piece, stated that there were exaggerations in Louis's story and so on. It seemed he set off to write a book about his side of the story - not much different, I suppose, when the Big Bad Wolf told his story about the Three Little Pigs.

In the end, however, it doesn't really matter. Lestat's the ring leader of this show despite his loathsome introduction in Interview. I'll stomach him for one - possibly two - more books and then I may turn my back on him forever. Meanwhile, though, I'm putting the vampire literature to rest. I'm going to start Clive Barker's The Hellbound Heart in the morning.

Until next time, happy huntin'!

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