Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice

★★★★☆ (4/5)

This was my first brush with a novel about vampires. It is intense, sensual and full of throbbing energy that makes each page pulse out of the written word into the most fantastical of fancies. Characterization is full of depth, especially of the Vampire Lestat and Claudia. Louis as a first person narrator vividly describes each and every aspect of his ancient life, including the budding life of New Orleans, the pewter landscape of Eastern Europe and the mystical streets of Paris.

Every detail runs its thorough course and Louis’ eloquence in narrating the horrors and beauty of a life lived so long is just indescribably terrible yet beautiful. His meditations on death, evil and goodness, solitude and loneliness, on his purpose of an eternal life marred by a quest to revive his human nature are replete with profundity and have an ingenuous, unaffected quality about them.

Oh and the Vampire Lestat is perhaps one of the most nefarious and scheming of villains I’ve ever read in a novel. One is gravitated towards him despite his obdurate wickedness. He may be evil incarnate! Yet the fiend is able to rally sympathy of some odd sort, especially towards the end of the novel. All in all, this was a great read and I look forward to watching the film, which I’ve heard does complete justice to the story.

A selection of my favourite passages from the book

On Goodness and Evil

  • People who cease to believe in God or goodness altogether still believe in the devil. I don’t know why. No, I do indeed know why. Evil is always possible. And goodness is eternally difficult.
  • Existence, as I’ve said, was possible. There was always the promise behind his mocking smile that he knew great things or terrible things, had commerce with levels of darkness I could not possibly guess at.

  • That the death of an animal yielded such pleasure and experience to me that I had only begun to understand it, and wished to save the experience of human death for my mature understanding. But it was moral. Because all aesthetic decisions are moral, really.
  • ‘Why does that make you as evil as any vampire? Aren’t there gradations of evil? Is evil a great perilous gulf into which one falls with the first sin, plummeting to the depth?’
  • Because you cannot have love and goodness when you do what you know to be evil, what you know to be wrong. You can only have the desperate confusion and longing and the chasing of phantom goodness in its human form.

On the Self and Learning

  • What I mean is, the moment I saw him, saw his extraordinary aura and knew him to be no creature I’d ever known, I was reduced to nothing. That ego which could not accept the presence of an extraordinary human being in its midst was crushed. All my conceptions, even my guilt and wish to die, seemed utterly unimportant. I completely forgot myself!
  • By morning, I realized that I was his complete superior and I had been sadly cheated in having him for a teacher. He must guide me through the necessary lessons, if there were any more real lessons, and I must tolerate in him a frame of mind which was blasphemous to life itself.
  • You do not know your vampire nature. You are like an adult who, looking back on his childhood, realizes that he never appreciated it. You cannot, as a man, go back to the nursery and play with your toys, asking for the love and care to be showered on you again simply because now you know their worth.
  • And all this time I was educating Claudia, whispering in her tiny seashell ear that our eternal life was useless to us if we did not see the beauty around us, the creation of mortals everywhere; I was constantly sounding the depth of her still gaze as she took the books I gave her, whispered the poetry I taught her, and played with a light but confident touch her own strange, coherent songs on the piano. She could fall for hours into the pictures in a book and listen to me read until she sat so still the sight of her jarred me, made me put the book down, and just stare back at her across the lighted room; then she’d move, a doll coming to life, and say in the softest voice that I must read some more.

  • With a bowed head she bore the whole responsibility for defending life, and it was unfair, monstrously unfair that she should have to pit logic against his for what was obvious and sacred and so beautifully embodied in her. But he made her speechless, made her overwhelming instinct seem petty, confused. I could feel her dying inside, weakening, and I hated him.
  • Knowledge would never be withheld by Armand, I knew it. It would pass through him as through a pane of glass so that I might bask in it and absorb it and grow.

On Death and Detachment

  • I was to watch and to approve; that is, to witness the taking of a human life as proof of my commitment and part of my change. This proved without doubt the most difficult part for me. I’ve told you I had no fear regarding my own death, only a squeamishness about taking my life myself. But I had a most high regard for the life of others, and a horror of death most recently developed because of my brother.
  • I was dying fast, which meant that my capacity for fear was diminishing as rapidly. I simply regret I was not more attentive to the process.

  • In any event, he took no pains to remind me now of what I’d felt when I clamped onto his wrist for life itself and wouldn’t let it go; or to pick and choose a place for me where I might experience my first kill with some measure of quiet and dignity. He rushed headlong through the encounter as if it were something to put behind us as quickly as possible, like so many yards of the road.
  • Being a vampire for him meant revenge. Revenge against life itself. Every time he took a life it was revenge. It was no wonder, then, that he appreciated nothing.
  • One of its aspects—detachment with feeling, I should say—is that you can think of two things at the same time. You can think that you are not safe and may die, and you can think of something very abstract and remote.

  • I knew peace only when I killed, only for that minute; and there was no question in my mind that the killing of anything less than a human being brought nothing but a vague longing, the discontent which had brought me close to humans, to watch their lives through glass. I was no vampire.
  • I was almost loath to put an end to it. I needed to let the lust, the excitement blot out all consciousness, and I thought of the kill over and over and over, walking slowly up this street and down the next, moving inexorably towards it, saying, ‘It’s a string which is pulling me through the labyrinth. I am not pulling the string. The string is pulling me….’

  • Who knew that better than I, who had presided over the death of my own body, seeing all I called human wither and die only to form an unbreakable chain which held me fast to this world yet made me forever its exile, a specter with a beating heart?
  • And…it was seldom savored…something acute that was quickly lost. I think that it was the pale shadow of killing.

On the Quest for Reality

  • I had that feeling then which I described before, that the buildings around me—the Cabildo, the cathedral, the apartments along the square—all this was silk and illusion and would ripple suddenly in a horrific wind, and a chasm would open in the earth that was the reality.
  • I had now lived in two centuries, seen the illusions of one utterly shattered by the other, been eternally young and eternally ancient, possessing no illusions, living moment to moment in a way that made me picture a silver clock ticking in a void: the painted face, the delicately carved hands looked upon by no one, looking out at no one, illuminated by a light which was not a light

Potent World Building

  • Remarkable, if for nothing else, because of this, that all of those men and women who stayed for any reason left behind them some monument, some structure of marble and brick and stone that still stands; so that even when the gas lamps went out and the planes came in and the office buildings crowded the blocks of Canal Street, something irreducible of beauty and romance remained.
  • I had found the house now by a blind effort, aware that I had always known where it was and avoided it, always turned before this dark lampless corner, not wishing to pass the low window where I’d first heard Claudia cry.
  • Hurricanes, floods, fevers, the plague—and the damp of the Louisiana climate itself worked tirelessly on every hewn plank or stone facade, so that New Orleans seemed at all times like a dream in the imagination of her striving populace, a dream held intact at every second by a tenacious, though unconscious, collective will.

Beautifully Constructed Sentences

  • The back of his skull had been shattered on the pavement, and his head had the wrong shape on the pillow. I forced myself to stare at it, to study it simply because I could hardly endure the pain and the smell of decay, and I was tempted over and over to try to open his eyes. All these were mad thoughts, mad impulses. The main thought was this: I had laughed at him; I had not believed him; I had not been kind to him. He had fallen because of me.
  • The burden of the past was on him with full force; and the present, which was only death, which he fought with all his will, could do nothing to soften that burden.
  • The ability to see a human life in its entirety, not with any mawkish sorrow but with a thrilling satisfaction in being the end of that life, in having a hand in the divine plan.
  • Yet I have your tongue. Your passion for the truth. Your need to drive the needle of the mind right to the heart of it all, like the beak of the hummingbird, who beats so wild and fast that mortals might think he had no tiny feet, could never set, just go from quest to quest, going again and again for the heart of it. I am your vampire self more than you are. And now the sleep of sixty-five years has ended.

  • I wanted to forget him, and yet it seemed I thought of him always. It was as if the empty nights were made for thinking of him. And sometimes I found myself so vividly aware of him it was as if he had only just left the room and the ring of his voice were still there.
  • I wish I could describe his manner of speaking, how each time he spoke he seemed to arise out of a state of contemplation very like that state into which I felt I was drifting, from which it took so much to wrench myself; and yet he never moved, and seemed at all times alert. This distracted me while at the same time I was powerfully attracted by it
  • Don’t you see that? Everyone else feels as you feel. Your fall from grace and faith has been the fall of a century.

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