Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Interview With the Vampire

Interview With the Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles
last seen on TV @ BBC America

My Anne Rice story is much less exciting than I sometimes make it out to be. For awhile, whenever I would tell it, I'd embellish it, try to make it a bit more epic-sounding, but the subsequent years - not to mention the change in the way I think about Rice - have altered my perspective on it. Anyway, here it is; you can judge its epic-ness or lack thereof for yourself.

It goes without saying, perhaps, that for many years I was a huge Anne Rice fan. I think I first became one in college. I don't recall exactly when I first read Interview With the Vampire, but obviously, I liked it enough to continue reading not just the other vampire books, but her other stuff as well, including the Mayfair Witch books, which I think are better than the vampire books (still hoping someone, someday, will make a film out of The Witching Hour), her other supernatural books like The Mummy and Servant of the Bones, and even her non-supernatural books like The Feast of All Saints and Cry to Heaven. (I drew the line at the S&M books, though.) 

This was back when Rice was HUGE. I have a distinct memory of reading The Vampire Lestat on the subway and seeing this dude on a subway platform give me the thumbs up outside the window. He held up three fingers and pointed to himself, which I guess was supposed to mean that he'd read the first three vampire books in the series. He was pretty psyched about it! 

I also remember leaving my copy of Interview on a Greyhound bus by accident and buying another copy, but it was a later printing than my initial copy, which was from the same print run as Lestat and Queen of the Damned, so now the books don't match up anymore. That kinda bugs me a little, still, after all this time. Wish it didn't.

I have another memory of reading The Witching Hour around the time I met a girl in college who claimed to be a Wiccan (as was her mom too!), although she was more on the New Age, rocks-and-crystals end of the spectrum. Still, it was my first experience with such things, and though I liked her a lot, I was still... trepidatious about the whole thing at first, as a result of reading Rice's book at the same time.

So. Late 90s, me working at the video store on Third Avenue. Rice just came out with a new vampire book and she was doing a signing at a tiny little bookstore in the West Village - which, in itself, is noteworthy. An author of her caliber could've easily gone the B&N/Borders route, but she chose to support this independent book shop instead. That means a lot, especially these days. The signing was at five PM and I was working until ten that night. What to do, what to do?

I decided to take my lunch hour at five and scramble down to the Village. I told my co-worker to cover for me in case I make it back late, which was a distinct possibility. I grabbed my copies of Interview, Lestat and Hour and hopped on a downtown bus. I arrived about a half hour or so later. I'd never been to this particular bookstore before; it was a little out of the way from where I was and I had to search for it.

When I got there... the line was out the door, down the block and around the corner. So much for getting back to work on time! But I just said the hell with it: there were enough people at the video store that they didn't need me that badly, and besides, I was desperate to meet Rice. So I joined the queue and waited. And waited. Finally, I was inside the small bookstore but still on line, and I could just barely make Rice out from behind a table and a crowd of people.

But then the other shoe dropped. I found out that she was only signing copies of her new book which one had to buy in the store! I dragged all my other books with me for nothing! (For the record, the book was Pandora, a shorter tale of one of the minor vampire characters. Not terribly memorable at all.) And while I had enough money to buy the book, it would clean me out for the rest of the night. So what could I do? I bought it. As I recall, this was the store's policy, not Rice's, and looking back on it now, I can't say I blame them for insisting on this, especially since they were an indy book shop, but at the time, I was just pissed.

Rice has lost weight since. At the time, she was... somewhat large. I knew this, having seen her face in magazine interviews. Her Louise Brooks hair was still black, although strands of gray were showing. And of course, she was dressed in her signature black Gothic attire. I wish I had thought of something clever to say to her. I ended up not saying much other than the standard "Big fan, thanks a lot" spiel. So after all the trouble I went through to meet my favorite author, all I have to show for it is her signature (not even personalized!) in a book of hers I don't even read anymore, and this story.Told you not to expect much!

So time went by and my tastes changed, and one day I broke out Interview again and discovered that the bloom was off the rose. I didn't like it as much anymore. For one thing - and this is also true of the movie, of which Rice wrote her own screenplay - it's REALLY talky. The action, such as it is, is sporadic and abbreviated, and while it plays out slightly better on the screen, in the book it kinda bores me now. 

It's not like all the talk is indulgent. A lot of it deals with Louis trying to find the answers to not just the origins of vampires, but the Big Questions in life as well, and one would think that this sort of thing would appeal to me - and it does. But Lestat kinda has a point; after awhile, Louis does come across as sounding whiny! Maybe I started losing interest in Rice's books because of this.

Still, it must be said that Rice's vampires are far, far, far more interesting, with more depth and complexity, than the ones that have captured the imagination of the current generation, and I think you and I both know which ones in particular I'm referring to here. I dunno, it seems like vamps never quite go out of style. All the attempts to re-create them for modern audiences seems to speak to the power the mythos continues to hold on us. I'm not saying that Rice got it "right," but I think her combination of existential angst, Gothic imagery, violence and sex has a certain raw, primal power that people have, and continue to, respond to.

As for the movie itself, well, I remember the controversy over Tom Cruise being cast as Lestat and how Rice got turned around on him after seeing him in the role, though honestly, it's nothing more than Cruise being Cruise, and only for a fraction of the film. It's Brad Pitt's movie, and he carries it well. For the longest time, I considered Claudia to be Kirsten Dunst's best role, even after she grew up. I haven't seen Melancholia, so I don't know if that's still true, but she deserves so much credit for taking on such a difficult role for a child actress - essentially being an adult in a child's body - and making it work. 

I think the movie as a whole still holds up, talkiness and all, though I suspect if it were made today - and it looks like it will be pretty soon - it would look very different, given everything that's come afterwards, from Buffy to Blade to Underworld to True Blood and yes, to Twilight. I guess we'll find out in a matter of years, won't we?

And for the millionth time... it's "Interview With THE Vampire," people, not "A Vampire." Why do so many people get that wrong? Pisses me off!


  1. She came to Louisville for a signing when I lived there, and I'm 99% sure it was for Pandora. I didn't know about it, but ran into some friends who had driven into town for the event, and went along with them. I didn't get anything signed (I was just out of college and probably broke), but I remember it well, anyway. I sort of wish I would've bought a book for her to sign and eaten ramen noodles for a week. :)

    I like the book and the movie. I don't love, love, love either, but they're both sort of a nice confection for once in awhile.

  2. "A nice confection"... that's as good a description as any, and better than most.


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