Digression From My Re-Read of Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles: The Myriad Comments on Barnes and Noble

I’ve talked about my well-worn copy of Interview with the Vampire purchased when I was 14 at Don’s Market in the middle of nowhere during a family trip in 1994.  I’m not using that copy during my re-read of The Vampire Chronicles because it’s too fragile.  Right now I’m using the 20th anniversary commemorative edition I bought in 1996.  It’s a trade paperback, so it’s larger and it has a fancy embossed cover.  I love it.

Recently I thought about purchasing The Vampire Chronicles for my Nook, which would make them much more portable.  (I haven’t yet made the purchase…I’m still on the fence because nothing beats the feeling and smell of a book)  While I was shopping on bn.com, I started perusing the comments and was shocked to see how many people gave the books 1-2 stars simply because it was too full of “history.”  What the hell do these people think “vampire lore” means?  Many of the commenters were teens; having read TVC when I was 14, this didn’t surprise me.  What surprised me was how many people were upset that they had to get through so much history to get to the story.  People: The story is about the history!  Louis himself tells the Reporter that he wants to share his life’s story.  That is a history of someone’s life! 

It dawned on me that in the wake of the Twilight Saga, vampire literature has taken a sharp nosedive.  Gone is the history and the lore.  Now the backstory is nothing more than an aside in a conversation.  No one seems to have the patience for it. (I read Twilight only because I was at Comic Con and someone at the publisher’s table gave me a free copy and I read it while sitting in a line.  Yeah.  I read it in a matter of hours.  It didn’t require deep thought, which isn’t an insult, by the way.  It’s just a statement.  You don’t need to ponder the book.  You read it and move on to the next one.)  Now, it was amusing to see that one comment compared some passages from IWTV to Jacob’s point of view in Breaking Dawn (i.e. repetitive and not exciting).   I won’t touch that one because I know that Team Jacob fans are rabid (no pun intended), but it’s funny to me that these comments all basically say the same thing: these readers do not want history and lore and lush imagery and prosaic passages about the majesty and mystery of New Orleans and what it’s like to be a vampire.  No.  They want the action.  They want the drama.  They want the romance.  And they want it now.

Not everyone is like this, mind you, but it does suggest that the tide is changing in literature.  I will be interested to see how Anne Rice’s newest book, Prince Lestat, is received by the crop of new vampire fans who think every vampire is like Edward Cullen. 

Remember when Lestat was at the height of his Rock Star days, and he comments that his legions of fans don’t truly believe that he’s a vampire?  They’re just caught up in the spell of it all, and they probably wouldn’t be so enthused if they knew the truth and the evil he was capable of.  Lestat debated this point later on with David Talbot in Tale of the Body Thief.  In Anne Rice’s world, vampires must feed on blood to survive, and while some try to walk the fine line between good and evil, some find it much more pleasant to give up the charade and be evil, unapologetically, because they like it (Theater of the Vampires, anyone?).  I think the generation of vampire fans who joined the ranks amid the whirlwind of The Twilight Saga are like the fans that Lestat speaks of.  If Edward Cullen didn’t feed on animals and instead tore a few throats out (especially a few throats attached to innocent people)…would he still be a heartthrob?  Maybe.  Maybe not. 

Why are people still drawn to the Vampire Lestat and religiously flock to the annual Vampire Ball in New Orleans?  Personally, I think it has to do with the fact that Lestat is as human as we are.  He’s imperfect and he tries to do the right thing; sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t.  Isn’t that the human experience?  (Yes, yes, I know, he has killed people.  Lots of them.  I know.  But people…he’s a work of fiction.  That means we can embrace him all we want.  If you’re wondering, I think he’s one of the most complex characters ever written.)

It makes me sad to think that the vivid imagery of Anne Rice’s Interview With the Vampire is being criticized for having too much history.  Ironically, I read IWTV when I was 14 and eventually majored in history, and don’t think that discovering the magical worlds of Pre-Revolutionary France, Venice during the Renaissance, New Orleans (at any point in history), and ancient Rome through The Vampire Chronicles didn’t have something to do with that.  Anne Rice has a knack for bringing the past to life with her meticulously researched settings.

I’m not sure a digression needs to have a distinct conclusion…but I will say this: I enjoyed reading The Twilight Saga but those books are in a category unto themselves.  Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles cannot (and should not) be compared to the work of Stephanie Meyer.  It’s totally fine to be a fan of one set and not the other. Tearing apart the Vampire Chronicles for having too much “history” and “vampire lore” is silly, though.  As Lestat would say: “Mon Dieu.”

 

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