Saturday, November 22, 2014

Day Four, IWTV: Louis's transformation

The making of a vampire in Anne Rice's mythic lore is one of my favorite deviations. In almost all vampire tales, all it takes for a person to be transformed into a vampire is to be bitten. In a math book for kids, this was used to disprove the existence of vampires, because if Dracula needed to drink every night, and all his victims rise from the grave every night, then pretty soon all people in the world will be vampires.

Anne Rice tells us different. The vampire has to drain his victim almost to the point of death. The victim must refuse to succumb to death by all means, by focusing on their will to live, almost akin to meditation. Then the vampire wounds himself and lets his victim drink his blood (mixed with the victim's), and thereby, if all things go right, the person rises up a vampire, a new fledgling.

Gruesome? Definitely. Makes my stomach turn each time I read it.

Aside from which, Rice also says to destroy a vampire you'll need a strong fire, or expose him to sunlight. Garlic, stake through the heart, crucifixes don't work.

When Louis became a vampire he saw the world as never before. Vampire eyes are keener, more acute than human eyes.

Now, I am thirty-three years old, and though my eyesight is not twenty-twenty, I can still choose to really see and really look. Not to take things for granted anymore. Indirectly I learn this from Louis. I don't need vampire eyes to see extraordinarily. I just need to really look, and not take things for granted in this world. And not just seeing, but hearing deeply, listening intently.

Louis said, "I simply regret I was not more attentive to this process." Let us not have that regret, too, at the end of our lives. Let us learn to pay attention.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Announcement: two new books to have

When reporter Reuben Golding arrives at a secluded mansion at the request of the home's mysterious female owner, he doesn't expect this assignment will lead to him being inexplicably attacked-bitten-by a beast shadowed in darkness. This single event prompts a terrifying but seductive transformation that both opens Reuben's eyes to what was previously unseen and unknown, and leads to even more questions. Why was he given this wolf gift? Is its nature good or evil? And is he now all alone in this mysterious new world?

I am so happy that Ahsley Marie Witter applied her great illustrative talent to The Wolf Gift. I loved Interview with the Vampire: Claudia's Story! It's a great way to initiate a reluctant reader into the world of Anne Rice. There is even an animated book trailer on Youtube.

I'll let you know as soon as I get my copy where I got it. As for now, I already asked my friend Ivy to help me scout for it. Ivy blogs at Every Nook and Cranny.

The next great announcement was made by Lola Anne herself on her FB page. Her teaser was "For the Roquelaure readers, I'll have an announcement in the a.m. Until then..."

My friends and I were in speculation. Is it the rumored TV series? A movie version? Couldn't wait! But finally, the announcement is made! To be released on 21 April 2015 is the fourth installment in the Beauty series! It will be published by Viking Adult.

Here's the info from amazon on the novel:

The erotic Sleeping Beauty trilogy now continues with a fourth novel by master storyteller and bestselling author of Prince Lestat, Anne Rice, writing as A. N. Roquelaure

Mega-bestselling author Annie Rice returns to where she left off in Beauty’s Release with the disappearance of Queen Eleanor in Bellavalten. Now, twenty years after they were forced to leave the kingdom to return to their homeland, Beauty and her husband Laurent agree to travel back as its king and queen, to uphold the ways of complete sensual surrender, with a twist: they now insist on voluntary servitude in Bellavalten.

Countless eager princes, princesses, lords, ladies, and common folk journey to Beauty’s new kingdom where she and her husband awaken their domain, ushering in a new era of desire, longing, and sexual ecstasy. Provocative and stirring, Rice’s imaginative retelling of the Sleeping Beauty myth will be hailed by her longtime fans and new readers of erotica just discovering the novels. This book is intended for mature audiences.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

The claiming of my Beauty books

I had an interesting day today. Thanks to the awesome bookseller over at BOOKS PORTAL on Facebook, I found three hardbound editions of the Beauty series books. The thing is, I would gladly have purchased the boxed set edition currently available at the Giant 3: National Bookstore, PowerBooks, and Fully Booked, except that it mentions 50 Shades of Grey (which I haven't read and don't plan to) on the cover. Why should an Anne Rice masterpiece refer to choppily written prose?

Th first seller, who only had the 1st book in hardbound, actually put me in touch with the second seller who had books 2 and 3. Interestingly, the second seller was once the shop owner of the used bookstore on the second floor of UP SC. But their shop has now closed.

I had to meet the owner at their residence to pick up my Beauty 2 and 3 and make payment. Beauty 1 will be shipped to me.

When I met him, a man in his 50s, he let me in just by me saying my name. He correctly guessed I was a UP student. I was welcomed into their living room. His wife (I'm guessing it's his spouse) was having merienda and invited me to eat with her. To my non-Pinoy readers, that's a Filipino custom. You come into a Filipino house and you greet them, "Good afternoon po." Then they invite you to eat. There is almost always  someone eating at any time of the day in a Filipino household: "Kain!" To which you politely decline with a smile. "Salamat po. Tapos na po."

The truth is I wanted to check out the bookshelf that was nearby, but I didn't want to seem precocious. That's one thing you will learn about me. I'm not judgmental. I don't judge a person based on his clothes, or home, or speech pattern, or level of educational attainment (I never finished college). But welcome me to your household and I will always check out the titles on your bookshelf. What is he or she reading? What kind of person is my host?

If a house is devoid of books I feel sad. Not even one book? Any magazines? Oh my god who are you?

Okay, so I didn't get to check out their shelf, but what the man told me saddened me. He said that they had to close shop because they couldn't pay rent for it anymore. Soon as their children graduated college, they just closed up.

I said, "I loved your store."

"Kids these days, they don't read anymore. They just don't read books anymore. And our rent was fifteen thousand a month. We couldn't afford it anymore."

I cannot accept that students from the University of the Philippines, the Isko ang Iska ng Bayan are no longer needing novels, no longer buying books to read for pleasure, no longer... I cannot! What's going on?

"Maybe they're reading ebooks now," I offered an explanation to the bookseller. "If you ever come across other hardcover Anne Rice books, tell me."

"And if you have friends who might like books, bring them to me," he said.

We nodded to each other and smiled, a way of shaking hands.

A friend, another avid reader, told me that maybe today's generation has not so much switched to ebooks but just wait for the movie to come out. Or never bother to read at all and just get their entertainment from telenovelas and noontime TV shows. Scary thought.

WattPad romances are very popular among the YA demographic, that's true. But I wonder about the quality of writing. My fourteen-year-old niece is reading Talk Back and You're Dead, My Boyfriend the Gangster, Relaks it's Pag-ibig. At her age I was reading Rice.

I end this entry by putting the information here of the second seller. He says he's on OLX but really, I couldn't find him there. But his cellphone number is 0905-470-9226. UP area, Krus na Ligas. Text between seven am and nine pm. Inquire for rare books. And be courteous to the nice couple!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Day Three, IWTV: Louis's conversion

I forgot myself. I forgot myself totally.

Those were the mortal Louis's overwhelming thoughts when he encountered the supernatural creature that is the vampire. He said his past "shrank to embers."

This experience is almost akin, in fact, almost perfectly describes, my conversion to Christianity when I was twelve. I grew up as a Sunday School kid. My parents separated when I was six, and since then, my uncle Albert and aunt Wilma had taken me to church every Sunday. I enjoyed the stories, but that was all they were to me: stories. Fantastical, adventurous, but having no more real value than say Jack and the Beanstalk or Puss in Boots. All these stories anyway amounted to one moral for the young boy: be good and obedient.

Then one summer, in Laguna, someone shared the Gospel to me, and the clouds parted in my mind and my heart cracked open. I realized God loved me, and expressed it undeniably through the Man Jesus Christ. All those stories in the Bible taught me in Sunday School: Moses crossing the Red Sea, David defeating the giant Goliath, all of them pointed to Jesus' love, birth, sacrifice, death, and resurrection. I was reduced to nothing. I made a decision to embrace Christ.

I guess it was opposite for Anne Rice at the time. In the biographies of her, we learn that she turned to secular humanist atheism in college, having grown up Catholic. And I think she expressed the same feeling in this scene of Louis's transformation into the vampire. Isn't it curious that the feelings surrounding the separate experiences are the same? Two different conversions, both resulting into the death of ego.

I always return to that moment when my faith runs dry. And also at the story of my baptism, which is a story for another blog entry. And my near-death at the floods of Ondoy. God always saving, God always loving.

Louis cherished his last sunrise before he became a vampire. He was going to lose the light. I, on the other hand, grew up to be a teenager and realized I lost the dark. The music of the Smashing Pumpkins, whose poetry I loved were denied to me. So were Anne Rice's books that had the words vampire, damneddevil, thief and witching on them. I never smoked or drank. I tried to be obedient. But internally I rebelled.

In college I broke free from all shackles and read the novels I wanted and smoked. I was expelled from the catholic university because they found bottles of liquor in my bag, put there by my classmates. I went all crazy. I thought why did I convert to Christianity so young? Why don't I have the stories of ex-drug addicts, or ex-prostitutes who tasted the dark before coming to Christ? Why was I to be denied all these worldly pleasures?

Louis's transformation into the vampire was physical. He was to have a body that would have powers no human being could have. But his soul... did it change? That was his burning question for the rest of the book, and highly worth examining.

When I converted to Christianity, there was no heavenly lights falling down on me. The world felt utterly the same. But inside I felt cleaned, loved, treasured, assured. Writing about this now as a thirty-three year-old man, I think, what happened? How come I lost all of that? I might not have changed physically dramatically like Louis turning into a vampire, but my inside was changed. I became, in the words of Saint Paul to the Corinthians, a new creation. Am I less loved and treasured today than that first day? Surely not! For God is faithful and continued to love me in spite of my many rebellions through adolescence and young adulthood, and even in my 30s.

For us Protestants, the proof of commitment to our new faith was through certain rituals: prayer of acceptance and repentance, baptism. Both symbolized the death of the old self and the rebirth of the spirit. We were to study Scripture and continually meet with fellow Christians. For Louis, the proof of commitment Lestat required of him was for him to witness the death of his plantation overseer. Louis had a reverence for life which, he said, never went away even though he became a vampire. Why is death always a part of any ritual of conversion, whether symbolic (as in baptism) or actual (as in Lestat's killing)? These are mysteries of life I would not know. Life and death seem to be deeply ingrained into the very fabric of our universe.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Day Two, IWTV. Lestat appears.

And so Lestat appears. He drinks Louis's blood just when Louis had no will to live. Even he did not know what hit him and though he had a stroke. I wonder how many people around the world falsely believe they suffered from a stroke when all they'd been was feed for a vampire?

But right after being victimized by a supernatural predator, Louis became prey to an evil that's all too human and all too common. The priest. At first he opens up to him, bares his heart with honesty, and admits to his guilt. In a way, don't we all just want someone to fully witness our pain, and by quietly listening, to soothe it?

But then the priest dismisses Louis's experience. Instead he has all these Medieval explanations as to the death of Paul (Louis's brother), and accuses Louis of being self-indulgent. Yes, this is injurious. And it happens far too often. Priests, or people of spiritual authority, tend to do this. But laymen tend to do this, too. We fear facing the unfamiliar, so we resort to superstitious, superfluous explanations to keep our world spinning in its place.

Louis almost murders the priest. I feel some sympathy for the man. But Louis was out of reason.

Is it really easier to believe in the Devil than in a Good God? Does all the evil in our world invalidate any evidence of a Benevolence? Louis calls this egotism: the inability to accept that sanctity had come so close, and actualized in someone else apart from ourselves. We can't bear to become play supporting roles in someone else's life. Is that it?

I think there is a huge difference in how the West and the East think. In Manila, thousands of people flocked to Agoo in La Union because they said the sun danced there, the Virgin made apparitions to a  young boy named Judiel Nieva. Judiel, with the priests who perpetrated this scheme, said the Virgin ordered him to make gold medallions to sell to the people. Anyone wearing these gold medallions at the point of death will instantly be granted access to heaven. Each medallion costed P1,000.00. Now Judiel is a woman. She has garnered enough money for a sex change operation.

In the movie Himala (starring Nora Aunor), which was later turned into a musical starring May Bayot, we witness the same. Thousands believed in the Divine, though it was a lie, and people made money out of it. The Divinity was huge business. Is this, too, egotism? Or does the East treat spirituality as a commercial enterprise?

When I was younger I believed in the Gospel as taught by the Protestant Church. We were conservative evangelical Christians. The Catholics were not brothers, but lost sinners as we once were. We know the truth now, and hold the responsibility, in fact, the God-given mandate, to evangelize the world. The goal of life for a true Christian is Christ-likeness. To be like Christ in all ways. We asked ourselves, What Would Jesus Do? in every situation.

In a way, though, I was farthest from behaving the way Jesus did. I fell into many debates, and lost many good friends as a result. I felt I was spiritually superior, and though I talked a lot about grace, I dispensed none.

I wonder what brought about the change... this cracking open of my mind and heart. Is is growing older? (I'm 33 now.) I still continue to go to church. Must I have only misunderstood the teachings?

I strongly suspect it was the trials that went on in my life, that showed me I didn't really know anything, and that if I knew grace, that was enough. And sometimes grace means just sitting down and breathing, and that is enough. And that soon I realize that salvation is not based on a person's religion, but on Christ alone. God will not ask what religious institution you belong to before he opens the gates of heaven. Christ died and rose again, and the gates of heaven already are open. God instead examines us: do we love His Son? Do we hold on to grace?

Loving Jesus, and living by His grace. I think this is what the Gospel really is in a person's life.

But does this mean that we should react as Louis did? Mauling every domineering priest almost to death? No, or else we'd all end up in jail. But if your inner know-it-all priest does show up when you see homosexuals hold hands in public, or Muslims at malls, or Mormons at your door, then by all means, kill that "priest" inside of you. Bash his head against the wall. In the meantime, you take a breath, smile, and acknowledge God's love in the other person.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Day One on IWTV

I realize how serendipitous it is that I begin with Interview. I so wanted to forget about my plan and review Called Out of Darkness because, although Anne is most known for her fiction, her memoir is my favorite of her books. I also want to go into Prince Lestat so badly!

Interview begins where the reader's position is. It is as if we were the boy, too, wanting to find out about the vampire even as we shudder at his presence. And then we are seduced, by the vampire, by his story, by his beauty and voice. And we fumble, just like the boy, not knowing the right questions to ask. We are faced with the supernatural here.

I have to go back to when I first read Interview. I was in high school. I did not know that a lot of people in my generation were the same. My classmates have seen the movie. I haven't. A girl from the first section (the brainy class) lent me her paperback copy.

Back in high school I would've done anything to fit in. I'd be the class clown, the one who strived hard for good grades, not only for my teachers' approval, but also my classmates', for I often showed them the answers to my homework in exchange for camaraderie. Belongingness was very important to me.

This was a trait I carried to much of my adult life. (Isn't it obvious? I want to jump into the Prince Lestat bandwagon? I want Anne Rice to post a link of my glowing review on her Page.) But it also showed in a lot of other ways. My most honest boss once told me that I sway too easily to popular opinion, and that I should learn to stand by my thoughts because they were, too, valid and sensible.

One may think that wanting to belong is normal for human beings, and it is. I think maybe the reason I push it over the edge is because I didn't quite receive it when I was young, at least not from my parents. I grew up knowing I have to be at my best for people to like me, and that my friends are my friends not because of who I am, but because of what I do and how well I do what I do.

Auditions terrify me. When I don't pass the rejection bruises me. In confrontations, I tend to back down, listen, try to see what the other person's point of view is, try to win the other person, at the argument.

As an actor and as a writer, I am haunted by this fear always. That I am not really part of the crowd of real actors, real writers--that something is missing in me. A certain knowledge, a certain look, a manner.

I feel an outcast. Even in my own church. Is this universal? Do all human beings feel this way? Did Jesus feel like an outcast, too?

So reading Interview now, I am astounded that I could feel more empathy towards Louis than I ever did. This feeling of being cutoff from light and the living and all innocent happiness.

Interview also begins with death. One very excruciating one that will echo throughout the many deaths in the book. The death of Louis's brother, Paul. Knowing what I know now about Anne from her memoir, I suspect Paul symbolized the death of her Catholic faith and devotion growing up. I never really trust a novel now that does not mention death in any way. Death is a fact of life, something we all have to face sooner or later. Paul's death was devastating for Louis, and he blamed himself for it. Does Louis pay for that guilt every dawn as he retreats into his coffin?

Louis's world was full of concerns about plantations and managing it. Paul's world was the spirituality, religious fervor. And when Paul wanted to be a missionary, to live like a saint sworn to poverty, Louis refused. It was because his world as he knew it would be greatly affected if he agreed that Paul's visions were real. I believe a lot of us would have behaved as Louis did, to dismiss another person's spirituality not without egotism.

It is hard not to dismiss other people's beliefs when the affect our own, or go against our own. I think the day we all could just breathe together and cherish each other's presence and humanity is the day religion dies.

But now let me talk about egotism and the need to belong. When I was fifteen I belonged to a group of artists I would have gladly stormed the gates of hell for, and with. I felt invincible with them. I felt loved by them. And yes, I was often admonished for my youthful lack of taciturnity and tact, but I saw these admonitions as to be done in love and in my own best interest.

The leader of this group I looked up to as a brother closer than any friend I ever had. I believe a lot of us in that group of teenagers and young professionals in their 20s felt that way, too. He was a great spiritual leader and model. But then that leader began to make sexual advances towards me. In the fear that I might disillusion the other members of the group if I spoke out. I was fearful, too, that it was my fault. That I inadvertently attracted the man's attention and warranted his abuses. And I was afraid to lose the friendship and belongingness I enjoyed with the leader, and the group.

So I shut up. I valued being part of a group, and will not say anything that might threaten the integrity of the group nor its leader, even though I was being hurt.I wonder now, too, if that martyrdom was nothing but egotism.

I bookmarked my reading just before Lestat enters Louis's life: which was at a point he was so devastated and wanting to die but lacked the courage to kill himself. I'll read some more tomorrow.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Interview with the Vampire

What do I seek to do here? Definitely not review a work that has been praised and hailed by critics and more intelligent book reviewers than I am. No. My intent is to enjoy the book fully, and to share with you that journey.

Right now the world is raving for Prince Lestat. I want to dive into that work. I wanted to eat it whole. I wanted to see what the rest of Anne Rice's readers are loving about the book. I also had the mind to start with Called Out of Darkness. It was her memoir, and would make a perfect foundation for this blog.

Until I thought, Rico, you promised yourself. Her books in the order they were published.

It is hard to write about Interview. I don't want to read the whole book and make one entry. I want to take you along with my reading, to pause at intervals, to savor each moment. But the structure of Interview is tricky, unlike most other novels. It is divided into four parts, and each part has no chapter divisions. There are gaps in between paragraphs, and there are sections where the initial of the first word is set in a larger type font. Maybe that was put there instead of chapter sections.

This format or structure make sense for Interview. The actual events of the book happen in one full night. A young boy talks to a vampire, and the vampire's life spans more than two hundred years. How wonderful to read it all through one whole evening, to begin at dusk when Louis (the vampire) would have risen from his coffin. To find him and the young boy in that apartment room along Divisadero Street. And to end the book just before sunrise, when Louis makes his heart-pounding exit from the novel. I am a stage actor so I'll use a lot of theatrical terms throughout this blog.

Tomorrow, Sunday, I will meet with my niece, Renee Francesca. She is fourteen now, and I was her age when I first read Interview. I will lend her my trade paperback copy. As I reread the book now and ask you to join me, I want to re-enter the minds of the characters, to see the world from their eyes, to understand their unique point of views. In short, to identify with them as closely as I could.

So this will not be so much as a review, but a record of a relationship. Tonight I begin the journey with the first book of (as yet) thirty-two. Tonight I plunge. Join me.