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Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Interview with the Vampire (1976) by Anne Rice

Image result for kirsten dunst interview with the vampire
Kirsten Dunst played the girl vampire Claudia in the movie adaptation of Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice

Book Review
Interview with the Vampire (1976)
 by Anne Rice

  Largely credited with spurring the most recent revival of interest in vampire culture, Interview with the Vampire is going on a half-century of being the single most read book about vampires that isn't Dracula by Bram Stoker.   The 1897 publication date of  obscures an even older lineage for the vampire in western literature: In 1819 Lord Byron wrote a so-called "fragment" of a novel featuring the first Vampire in western literature.   Thus, by the time Dracula was published, people had been talking Vampires for close to a century.

  Tracing a literary pedigree for the vampire in western literature beyond Byron is a fools errand, surely the origination of the vampire character by the pre-eminent English poet and literary celebrity of his era is enough.  Rice certainly deserves credit for pulling the Vampire into the age of tape recorders, gay love and locales like New Orleans.  Her "new world" vampire, epitomized by the conflicted young planter cum vampire, Louis, is urbane and sophisticated, and most importantly, torn about the morally dubious prospect of constantly needing to murder innocent children in order to survive.

  This represents an innovation on the Count Dracula/Nosferatu motif of the vampire as aged Eastern European nobility, brought to the west by boat for reasons which often remain unexplored.  The conflicted vampire is a vampire who retains the moral sensibility of an ethical human being.  If you've read the entire "Vampire Chronicles" you are aware that the first volume is a tame jumping off point for a mythology that rapidly grew to include Egyptian Gods and all manner of supernatural competitors.  In Interview, you've only got the vampire Lestat, Louis, the girl child vampire, Claudia (memorably played by Kirsten Dunst opposite Brad Pitt's Louis.

  I'm certain I read Interview before the 1994 film, meaning I read it in high school.  I was never a goth, but I was goth adjacent and spent a year or so chasing various goth type girls in college before I found a long term girlfriend (who herself was goth adjacent.)   Revisiting the audiobook version today, I was struck by just how bad Rice can be as a writer, making the incredible world-wide success of Interview a tribute to her grasp of the appeal of a vampire to a popular audience circa 1975.

  Interview with a Vampire has been so overwhelmingly influential that it now can almost seem derivative if you aren't mindful of it's progenitor status. For example, True Blood, the recently popular HBO TV show, is so influenced by the aesthetic of Interview that it almost seems like a riff, in retrospect.

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