I love vampires and I make no apologies about it. I don’t love everything that comes out with vampires in it, but I’m also OK with saying, “that’s just not for me” and moving on. I refuse to buy into the idea that the subgenre is somehow “ruined” because of teen romance… or adult romance, for that matter. “That’s just not for me.” Easy.
What is for me are Anne Rice’s early books in THE VAMPIRE CHRONICLES. Full disclosure, like many readers I disembarked after MEMNOCH THE DEVIL. I can’t fault an artist for following their muse, but that doesn’t mean I have to tag along. Maybe one day I’ll pick back up. But those first four novels are stone cold classics.
Chances are that if you regularly keep up with this blog, you’re a fan of at least some of Rice’s books. And if not, you are probably a fan of something directly influenced by her work.
As far as vampire fiction goes, INTERVIEW WITH THE VAMPIRE is the most important novel of the 20th century. Some would argue that Richard Matheson’s I AM LEGEND is, but its impact seems to be more on “general” horror and zombie fiction. When it comes to vampire-focused fiction, the influence of THE VAMPIRE CHRONICLES looms larger than any other book.
INTERVIEW wasn’t the first story to feature a sympathetic vampire, but it certainly popularized that trope as a literary subject. When I was on the young side of my teenage years, I was resistant to her books because of their reputation for being about “whiny” vampires. I wasn’t immediately blown away by INTERVIEW when I finally read it (THE VAMPIRE LESTAT was where I got hooked), but I appreciate it more and more as I get older .
Let’s get something straight about the idea that Rice’s books are about whiny vampires. I don’t know about most people, but if I was transformed into a supernatural being that had to murder people to survive, I’d probably have an existential crisis as well. And the excessive “woe is me” outlook is primarily Louis, anyway; Lestat is a much more fun-loving, proactive protagonist.
Neil Jordan directed a pretty good adaptation of INTERVIEW that was released in 1994. I give props to Cruise for committing himself so fully to portraying Lestat, but his appearance still looked off to me. Of course, that movie was light years better than its quasi-follow-up, QUEEN OF THE DAMNED. The rights to THE VAMPIRE CHRONICLES were optioned again a couple of years ago, but I haven’t heard anything about that project in awhile. Personally, I would rather see a cable television series than films.
Of course, this was all a long-winded way preamble to me mentioning that INTERVIEW turns 40 today. I keep trying to ease up on the anniversary announcements, but INTERVIEW is such an iconic work that I couldn’t let the day pass without saying a few words.