Reader’s Recommendation: The Vampire Lestat, by Anne Rice

Behind many popular books; a superior sequel.                            

Where Interview with the Vampire is a fantastic introduction, and Queen of the Damned the epic style climax and for the most part gathering of a great ensemble stretching across the “Children of the Millenia”, The Vampire Lestat contains all the riches, advantages and fun with the world at a point of median power. Much like its protagonist, there is acceptance and love for live, love of risk and experience, the ideal personality to convey ideas and build a series lore from.  

Rice delivers some of her best treatises and rich descriptions of art here, using hollow immortals to explore the human condition. If vampirism can be seen as a metaphor for the thirst for life, meaning and experience, then Lestat is draining eloquent speeches, settings, and descriptors to the marrow. I will warn you, if long descriptions, stories that proceed or monologues, or what I’ll affectionately call navel gazing does not appeal, I wouldn’t recommend this book. But as far as modern vampire stories, I really couldn’t recommend anything of high quality besides this trilogy, the 2004 Vampire: The Masquerade game -which has some of the best RPG ambient atmosphere and visual storytelling period- and maybe, maybe The Tale of the Body Thief, Blood and Gold (leaving out certain revolting elements) and Memnoch the Devil if you want things that are weird. Thief is an excellently told but odd story of its title, and Memnoch is a rather interesting theological idea centring around a number of ideas, perhaps the most original how evil itself is tiresome and a desire for goodness arises even from utter corruption. I’ve despised Armand forever and cannot recommend his novel in good conscience, and find it brilliant and rather jarring that Antonio Banderas plays a brilliant and altogether entirely different character in the excellent movie adaptation, and the steep decline in quality makes me honestly say ‘avoid’ the others. I waited a long time for Prince Lestat, and would rather save you from reading that as much as I would watching the Queen of the Damned movie.  

Perhaps I will be lambasted, but I really could care less. Rice got me into a lot of longer novels centred around extended monologues and character study (for example the works of Chuck Palahniuk) and the movie was the start of my education in longer and more complex cinema, so I really am grateful and enjoy her works without some stupid veneer of irony or guilt to justify enjoying a story. I can say honestly that I do not care for latter works in the series; but a strong trilogy of some of the best vampire novels I’ve ever read was well worth it all, and Rice’s influence on the supernatural genre and many creators is undeniable.  

The nature of physicality and aesthetics, and to some extent decadence rather than vampirism is the central fixation of a novel about obsessive creatures. A novel of its time, also echoing the dandyism prevalent among the higher classes and from the Western perspective the Victorian age with its Gothic romance so influential to Rice’s monster.    

There are eloquent arguments here that stick with me still as they did then. It is apparent that Rice was taken with the protagonist, shifting the interpretation of Lestat given by the first novel, and making it precisely that, specifically the impression of an increasingly maudlin and self-righteous Louis. While Lestat certainly is an unreliable narrator, the idea of a straightforward Lord Henry Wotton to Louis’s Dorian Grey, a more elderly and dependent pursuer of the young, Lestat within his own novel is the vehicle for exploring the nature of Rice’s setting. The worldbuilding accompanies rich description of the beauty of Renaissance theatre, possibly the most optimistic portrait of a now even historic pre-millennial America with its particular imagery, consumerism and violence comparable to European decadence hundreds of years ago, the vibrancy of human culture now divided into decades rather than centuries.  

The weariness of life, and the immaturity of the immortal cries very well in Rice’s books. They feel they take a long time to read, a deliberate part I believe of the nature of her stories. An attempt is made to convey the years, the centuries, of a glutting of activity. Not a feast, or a healthy meal, but consumption in the truest sense. Mentally, no differently to the reality TV show mindset, the richness of life is wasted on the characters who pursue and consume too much of it.   It’s a common authorial idea to explore the nature of good from the perspective of the utterly lost, gleaming notions of positive acts or curious reflections from the irredeemable.  

Lestat is a novel divided into two halves, one a very interesting depiction of vampiric strength, the observation of how power, distinctness and euphoria allure, and then alienate others. This shifts into a listless thirsting quest, for meaning, or ultimately the understanding of life without meaning. It opens the eye to conceptualisation of what it truly means to be ancient, to achieve artistic and aesthetic apotheosis, and while as human beings we are not inhumanly long lived or preternaturally strong, the notion of pursuing one in a future state we wish to be, reeling from finding new heights of possibility and purpose, such imagery has stayed with me for half my life since I read the story for the first time, there is a great deal of wisdom in both the abstraction of the romantic monster, and the stressing made within Rice’s world about the mundane pursuits, appreciation of the repetitive activities stimulating life, and the turbulent nature of people to always entice and surprise make for a gripping read intended to be enjoyed as a pursuit of itself, and to contemplate philosophy much in the same way the French characters of real antiquity wished the same.  

Reference: Rice, A. The Vampire Lestat. Sphere, London. 1985.

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