Flashback: 'Interview With The Vampire'
- April 9th, 2008
- 1 Comments
Recently browsing at a bookstore, a friend asked me what she should read. I showed her some of my stand-by faves and then picked up Twilight. “People love these,” I told her. “They’re all the rage.” She loves vampire stuff and is new to the YA genre. Perfect. Well, she devoured it and New Moon and was super disappointed when she couldn’t get the third. Later, when she asked for other suggestions, I thought about it a while. “Why not start with Anne Rice? I dunno, it might be fun to compare them.”
I’d never read Interview With the Vampire but I remember it was huge when I was in high school. It was up there with Clan of the Cave Bear; cult-y, but shopping center-available, yet slightly risque. It was the kind of book that I thought too frivolous for me, but wondered about. I think I was a little scared. Like the paperback of L.Ron Hubbard’s Dianetics that was always kicking around my college cafeteria; I didn’t want to know.
In light of the vampire craze, and in anticipation of the inevitable onslaught of more on the way, I took my own advice and decided to finally read Interview with the Vampire—begin at the beginning, sort of. Let me say there were many things I liked about it: The fast pace, for one, was exhilerating. To span 200+ years, from the states to Europe and back again, so briskly gave it that really big feeling without the weight and volume so many epics suffer from. Also, I loved the notion of the interviewer, Daniel. I liked his presence and I could feel his titillation as he listened to Louis’ ghost story. From the very first pages it had an old-fashioned “twas a dark and stormy night” quality that I found fun. But honestly, at the end of the day, the prude in me was repulsed. There are only so many overtly sexual teachings one can bear—only so many violently detailed descriptions of submission, murder, and the lust for flesh this reader could take.
Of course, it’s horror. It’s goth. It’s supposed to be graphic and vile. It’s just doing its job. I appreciate that. In its defense—and my friend agreed—it was ultimately riveting and I could not put it down! I confess, Louis and his story of angst and duplicity as a vampire were totally believable to me and like one of his victims, I surrendered. I’m not saying I enjoyed it, or that I’m interested in reading more of Rice’s ‘Vampire Chronicles,’ but I was enthralled.
As stated in this Observer article, it’s clear vampires are back. Actually, some might argue they never went away (ask any “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” fan). The most recent and popular manifestation is the aforementioned Stephenie Meyer series, but there are others and no doubt there will be more. Why? What is it about vampires? The YA vampires of today are watered-down shadows of what they have traditionally been in folklore and in other literary arenas, but their essence lingers in our consciousness. We want them around for some reason. Do they satisfy our need to be scared? Do they represent a repressed human desire to witness the depraved? YA or not, let’s not forget vampires suck blood, they live by feeding on others. Vampires are death, the paradox being they can’t die.
I did a little research, (just a little) and when I started to think about it, teens’ love affair with vampires makes total sense. In ancient times vampires were created in the minds of people to address death. We’ve been trying to understand death since we’ve been walking on two feet and the idea of escaping death, cheating death is irresistible to us. The “un-dead” are equally exciting to us. Not yet alive but unable to “cross-over.” Ghosts, witches, zombies, and spirits from the “other-side” are part of our intricate relationship with the unknown. While the sympathetic, thoughtful vampire is relatively new to us, the idea of living forever is not. The interesting thing to me is the issue of what price is paid for living eternally and the internal conflict it causes. The modern vampire struggles with this and it sets him apart from the other ghouls in an elegant way.
I think reflective teens get this on some level and are struggling with some of the same existential dilemmas, albeit not eternal life, but the meaning of life in general. The idea of immortality is both exciting and scary for teens. Developmentally, they are right on the cusp of understanding their own humanity in a sophisticated way. I would argue that knowing vampires is one way they work out their understanding of death.
(And perhaps develop a life-long penchant for the forbidden fruit, the archetypal “bad-boy”... Ahhh, but that’s another post isn’t it.)