23. A book by an author you’ve never given a fair shot: Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice
List Progress: 7/30
As someone who likes fantasy and paranormal literature, and more recently as someone who writes and publishes it, Anne Rice has always loomed as a figure in my mind. A famous spec fic author, but a hater of fanfiction and fandom community engagement. An accomplished female voice in the publishing industry, but with a reputation for schlock. I had a lot of preconceived notions about Rice’s work without ever having picked on up, so I thought she was a perfect candidate for this category. Interview with the Vampire, her 1976 novel (widely known for its 1994 film adaptation), felt like the perfect place to start. I knew about the arrogant and garish vampire Lestat and the creepy child vampire Claudia through cultural osmosis, but wasn’t quite sure what to expect when I opened it.
Of anything I should have prepared myself for, “dull” was not one I would have added to the list.
Interview with the Vampire concerns Louis de Pointe du Lac, a plantation owner from 1700’s New Orleans who was turned into a vampire and has survived for two hundred years. In modern-day San Francisco, he grants an interview to a young man who is recording people’s stories around the city; the entire novel is technically one scene, as all of the story is told as Louis’ dialogue, with occasional prose reminders that he and the interviewer are sitting in a hotel room speaking. Louis tells how he was pulled under the sway of the arrogant fop Lestat and they lived as vampires together for many years. When Louis threatened to leave his peer, Lestat turns a five year old girl into a vampire to serve as their surrogate daughter, binding them all together as a perverse family. The girl Claudia grows mentally into an adult woman, but stays in a child’s body for her entire long existence, growing bitter about being frozen in such an awkward stage due to Lestat’s whims and machinations. Their adventures eventually take them to Europe to meet old-world vampires and around the globe on various journeys, but all of them are continuously killing humans along the way, something the book does not shy away from.
There are a lot of good ideas here and I can see why Interview captured the public imagination. But reading it in 2020, it’s easy to get struck with how many later novels have captured these concepts more artfully. Rice’s dialogue is sort of self-consciously florid, taking five sentences to say what could be covered in one, and rarely giving the concrete logistics of a scene. After three hundred and forty pages, I don’t think I could confidently tell you exactly how Anne Rice’s vampires work. Similarly, I could not tell you the reasoning behind some of Louis’ major decisions, despite spending the entire book in his head. The ending of the novel is lovely, but the work it took to get there can drag something fierce.
I’m glad I read Interview with the Vampire to see the mark it has made in paranormal fiction over the decades, and to reformulate my ideas about who Anne Rice is as a writer and a figure. But I don’t think it has a lot to offer me as a piece of fiction; if you’re going to be bad, I at least want you to be wild as you’re doing it.
Would I Recommend It: Not really, but nothing too harmful.