Saturday, December 13, 2014

Day 19 on IWTV: Claudia's enigma

"Our life was much changed with Mademoiselle Claudia," said Louis. Claudia leaves an indelible mark on Louis heart, and this carries on for the rest of the novel. I must admit, on my heart, too. Claudia was truly a remarkable vampire. In many ways, she is more a vampire than Louis could ever be: ruthless in the kill, seductive, insatiable. She is truly Lestat's daughter. That's how I see Claudia. More Lestat's daughter than Louis's. More Louis's lover than daughter. But I jump ahead.

Claudia is a newborn vampire, and already she adapts to this vampire life more easily and readily than Louis did. She was not so traumatized by her Mamma's death as Louis was by Paul's passing. She had not much memory of human life to have any of Louis's regrets and clinging--or detached respect, as he would put it.

But Louis did see himself as Claudia's father, naturally, in the first years of her vampire life.

Louis's love for Claudia is unique as Lestat's. It is hard to sum up, but Rice draws it beautifully when she tells us how these two male vampires interact with her. Louis was nurturing, Lestat was proud and ambitious. Lestat brought Claudia to cemeteries and showed her victims of the plague, dead and dying. And he says that Claudia will never die, that her body will always be fresh and alive and stay always as is. He says it as a blessing, but as with all blessings, there is a dark side to it, which Claudia fully experiences.

I highly recommend that you get for yourself a copy of the graphic novel Interview with the Vampire: Claudia's Story by artist Ashley Marie Witter. You can follow her Twitter @TazyCrazy.

During her early years Claudia didn't speak. And during this time, Lestat finally rubbed off on Louis, and Louis began hunting humans. He did not lose his Louis-ness even though he's moved to humans from animals, I think. He still was, in essence, the same. The revulsion to killing, was still there, deep inside, but he would finish off his victims before he allowed it to arise. He killed differently from Lestat or Claudia. Only his melancholy has abated considerably, and he credits it not only to the kill, but to the joy of seeing the teeming life of humans around him. He was becoming more and more detached. This is very important character development.

The three of them went to the theatre often, to see operas and Shakespeare, and in this I envy them greatly. I wish I could afford to see as many plays and musicals as possible, and I find this more valuable than the furniture and carpets Lestat imported. Louis loved books and often read to Claudia. What a beautiful life, really! A romantic, fairy tale life!

Claudia learned to love human art and music and literature, an influence of Louis. Claudia learned to love the seduction of the kill, obviously a trait inherited from Lestat. Louis, of course, never forgot it was he who drew Claudia's blood. Claudia chose to sleep in his coffin with him.

But of course, the story does not end here for them. And Claudia's mind, though retaining her five-year-old body, matured and became a woman's. And soon she would voice out her opinions, her mind, her fiery intellect. And she wanted her own coffin. She wanted to see a coffin built for a child. And there are little things more tragic on this earth than a child's coffin.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Day 18 on IWTV: The scene break

There is a break in the text here. There is a gap, a space, and the first letter of the next paragraph is set in a bigger font. In fiction typography this is called a scene break, and denotes a jump in time or space in the narrative.

We are following two narratives in the novel. One is Louis and the boy interviewer (Daniel Malloy) in a room on Divisadero Street. The other narrative, the heart of it, is of course Louis's  story.

The structure of Interview is set in four parts. There are scene breaks, but no chapter breaks. I think this is to mimic the flow of one whole night's conversation between Daniel and Louis. At this point in the interview it was about ten p.m. The break after the creation of Claudia invites us to pause and contemplate this startling event. A child vampire! A strange phenomenon.

I think this is the third such scene break in the text so far, though I will not keep tab. If memory serves right, the first scene break was just after Louis became a vampire, and also sometime during the story of Babette.

For the next paragraphs Louis talks of Lestat being a man-of-action, reckless, thoughtless in his deeds. He says his actions are always rooted in revenge. Daniel and Louis were trying for a short bit to figure out why Lestat brought the child Claudia into the Night. Oh, if only we could ask Lestat himself what his intentions were! But this again is one of the reasons Interview is a great novel of our time. It sets itself apart in the history of Gothic literature. Suddenly, the vampire is on center stage, on spotlight. The vampire is the unlikely hero and villain. Vampires were, before Interview, several versions of Dracula. Now we are given the vampire's point-of-view. We are asked to examine his motives: both Louis's and Lestat's.

I just found out through the Lestat Book Coven that there is a manga based on Interview with the Vampire. I'm going to read it now. If you're interested in the art, click here.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Day 17 on IWTV: Claudia born into the darkness

"She was sensual. Her eyes were as wide and clear as Babette's." I think, with that confession, Louis just fell in love with Claudia. Claudia's first words as a vampire were, "Where is Mamma?" and "I want some more."

With Claudia entering the scene the game takes a different turn. It is almost like a star has come into the lives of Louis and Lestat, and we see this in her satin hair, her glowing eyes. At this point I am so very tempted to put a bookmark on Interview and go to Ashley Marie Witter's excellent graphic novel adaptation Claudia's Story.

It becomes obvious that Lestat turned Claudia into a vampire to keep Louis from leaving. Louis did express his desire to escape. I wonder what would have happened if he did leave.

When I was struggling in college and my sister was about to finish school, she got pregnant with her first baby. I fell in love with my niece and took to caring for her, and often I was absent from school just to look after her so my sister could finish her studies. My sister used my soft heart a lot for her own sake, manipulating me to stay at home for the little girl, or stay up late so she can sleep because she had an early class the next day.

Well, I soon dropped out of college and thought, Why, I'm investing in another person's life. Must be worth it.

Of course, I shouldn't blame others for my own dropping out of school. I think the first day we become truly adults is when we take full responsibility for all our decisions in life, no longer blaming others for this or that misfortune.

I must say that not finishing college is a shame I carry to this day. And though I still do pursue with passion my loves: theater, literature, I think I might have gotten further on if I stuck to college and finished. Maybe.

Louis and Claudia is the first true love affair in Interview, because so far Louis had expressed nothing but animosity towards Lestat. Louis could have picked up and run away, maybe even carried Claudia with him. But he chose to stay. In his outward loathing of Lestat, he must have deeper reasons for staying that he has not yet admitted to the boy interviewer at this point. Louis is such a complex character.

A little off-topic note here. I am happy to be one of the Persons of the Page! I found Anne Rice's public facebook page where she regularly interacts with her millions of fans with interesting questions, articles, thoughts.

I also belong to a local group of Anne Rice fans, sort of a Pinoys of the Page. The Anne Rice Philippines facebook group, headed by Casey Edmunds.

Recently, I also joined the Lestat Book Coven, where people discuss a lot of about Rice's books. So, if you accuse me of being an Anne Rice fan, well, all I can say is Guilty As Charged!

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Day 16 on IWTV: Happiness, and Claudia

Louis, led by Lestat, goes out for a walk in the night. He is leering from the experience of killing the woman back at the hotel. He attests that he only experiences peace when he is drinking blood from a human. But one fleeting moment that I would call peaceful was when he paused and became aware of the sound of flowing water.

How Louis described it made me cry. I know full well what he means. We have a moment of pure stillness, clarity, when we are where we are fully, and we experience what we experience. And those moments are suddenly gone and we don't know how to get them back. A moment of peace outside of the kill. Louis had a taste. The only conscious way for him, a vampire, to get a regular dose of that peace was to kill. And he could not bear it! What a miserable person. Did Lestat really choose the wrong companion? Louis said that Lestat chose him because of his plantation. But if that were the only reason what had kept Lestat from choosing other plantation owners, like say, the young Freniere, for example? Maybe Lestat had other reasons too, for choosing Louis.

What those are, we may never find out.

Lestat says that evil is a point of view, and compares vampires to God or angels. I recall what Louis said, that all aesthetic choices are moral decisions. We see the most dangerous embodiment of this statement in Lestat. But do you find yourself agreeing with Lestat? Even so, you wouldn't confess to being evil, would you?

Louis's nightmare landscape
Have you ever had a dream that you were in hell? I recall two such dreams. Both had the same quality. Utter darkness. Everything illuminated only by a dull, grey, dim sheen. In one, I was very young when I dreamt this, I was separated from my companions. It was a long, long parade from the cemetery. It was the Feast of All Saints. I didn't have a candle with me. Soon I realized that this procession led to a deadend wall, and that I could not trust anyone there to ask for their help to find my way.

In another dream years later, I was separated from my girlfriend (now my wife) in a dark city. There was a gang of devils on an army jeep. They had daggers in their hands and horrid masks on their faces. They danced about, their arms flung about like a spinning top, ready to stab anyone who came dangerously close. I tried to hide behind a wall, but I saw that my girlfriend was in the devils' murderous path. They caught me and I got wounded, but I couldn't die. I was to suffer the wound forever in that Hell, separated and alone and helpless.

I recall that I had those dreams at a time in my life that I was deeply religious, fervent in my desire for God and being good, afraid to commit sin. I said my prayers. And yet those dark dreams.

The making of Claudia
I can fill pages and pages about this episode. But I have to say that the many times I re-read Interview, this part has never failed to make me shudder. I had a hand to my mouth as if suppressing a groan. This has proved Lestat to be truly monstrous.

I wonder if Louis came out to be as predatory as Lestat, would we have needed all this grotesque lessons at being a vampire? Prey on slaves. Prey on whores. Now prey on a girl. It just goes against all human sensibility!

Do I respond this way because I have a five-year-old daughter? Because I teach Sunday School at church? Or simply because desecrating a child's innocence goes against every fiber of a moral society? I am not sure. Don't we reserve a special hatred for paedophiles? Men who prey off little boys and girls, and the mothers who sell their own children? Aren't we disgusted by reports of priests molesting children? For many years before Pope Francis the Vatican hid these crimes and protected their clergy.

Louis fed on Claudia. Lestat gave Claudia the Blood, and taught her to feed on a young boy, a bellboy from the hotel. We respond to trampled innocence as if it is a dark echo of that blessed Innocence mankind lost in the Garden.

Let's see in the following pages if the Brat Prince would make explanations for his actions. Let me end by saying because of this act of his, Claudia, the child vampire, a truly beautiful and tragic character in literature, has been born to us.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Day 15 on IWTV: The women

I just finished reading Prince Lestat and wrote a review on I am feeling elated because Anne Rice found my review and posted a link to it on her Page.

She had kind words for my review.

Coming now from Prince Lestat back to Interview with the Vampire, I experience an inevitable whiplash of two hundred years' character growth. Not only that, these two books were written from the points-of-view of two different characters, and Louis did view Lestat here as the antagonist. But his sense of humor is timeless.

We find Lestat in another one of his horrific antics. It is useless to ask if the Brat Prince intends to be horrific or annoying, or if he is just being himself. In the movie version, the women he invites into their hotel room were depicted as whores. At least, does list them as such. In the book, they are not mentioned as whores. No dismissive label with which we could generalize or disengage from them: Ah, they were slutty whores. They had it coming. Instead, Louis calls them simply, women, just as Babette was a woman, and so it leaves the judgment in to the reader's minds. Whether or not you are horrified by their murders, whether or not you empathize with them shows more about the reader. Lestat doesn't care though. He knows how to be a sexy, seductive killer. (It is Lestat who calls her 'a damned expensive whore' a little later on.)

And just when our two heroes showed hope of talking about the nature of the vampire, they end up arguing. Sigh. I can't take sides, though. Both points are valid as far as each is concerned. "Does this bring you happiness?" Lestat asks. A very important question, I think. Lestat and Louis, I needlessly point out, have differing philosophies about life and death. Naturally, they won't talk calmly about it but yell at each other.

Louis's point-of-view towards life is romantic, filled with longing. Not sentimentality, but value. Lestat has a more pragmatic view, and more aligned towards his personal happiness. I wonder whom between the two you agree with. And their philosophies affect how they define and live out their vampire nature. Feel free to comment below!

She was praying to the Virgin to save her

Turns out the women were indeed prostitutes, and this last one whom Lestat tortured (okay, toyed with, Prince, if you happen to be looking at this blog) to teach Louis a lesson -- the second whore was Catholic. So now we have three perspectives. Louis who valued human life and chose not to take it whilst glorying in his vampiric senses, Lestat who has took on the role of death-bringer and gloried in his powers of the vampire, and the superstitious sinner who was near that death. The Virgin did not help her. But I do hope God in His infinite grace welcomed her because Louis did lead her to say her last prayer. The nature of grace is that we don't deserve the forgiveness we receive when we ask for it.

In the end, Louis learns that Lestat was right all along. Louis learns this not through some intellectual discourse with his teacher, but through experiencing what Lestat described. Louis ought to be thankful that he has a teacher in Lestat. Lestat had to learn all of it on his own, because his maker, Magnus, left him alone. But I jump several novels ahead. Louis mourns again, and asks if he can go back to being human again.

Tomorrow, let's see if Louis finally reconciles himself with the reality that he can only find peace in the kill.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Prince Lestat, a true horror story for 2014

To hear the Prince's voice again has brought so much joy not just to me but to his many readers all over the world. The literary world had missed him. And so it is with great anticipation that I attacked this book, skipping the blurbs on the flaps and diving right into the text.

Again, the unique wry humor of Prince Lestat, his singular point-of-view, his insouciance and unpredictability fill the pages. But the book also causes a sense of inner dread for the reader. Even now Rice is successful in shredding to bits the thin line that separated fiction from reality. She plunges us into that terrifying zone of Suspension of Disbelief, that great playing arena that conscientious actors and talented playwrights strive to bring audiences to. It is in this Zone where anything is possible.

Lestat walks in this world as we do. This world of gadgetry and WiFi that has produced jadedness and, ironically, disconnection among humans. The Undead are among us, interacting in the Science we humans take pride in and find, strangely, our sense of security in. Are we really so safe? The danger becomes all too real, not only for us humans who walk in the sunlight and the night, but also for these Creatures whom we have come to love through the Vampire Chronicles.

And when these beloved Vampires face a formidable foe, express worry and concern even with their considerable powers and wisdom, then that really gives us humans something to think about. This is why I think that Prince Lestat is a true horror story for our times. This book should come with a warning: Not For The Faint Of Heart.

Who is the Voice? I have had several guesses throughout my reading, but none of them were correct! The vampires decide to meet together. The readers think, uh-oh, all these powerful blood drinkers under one roof? Is this really a great idea? But how can they defeat Pure Evil? The tension mounts with each turn of the page.

The power of the prose is that Anne Rice disappears and Lestat comes to the fore. It his voice reaching out and touching you on every single page. Though she shares "billing" on the artful cover, her name in bold red font as large as the title, it is He telling you the story.

While reading the Harry Potter series, all I wanted to do was to ride the Hogwarts Express and visit that school, even as Muggles are exempted from entering that magical castle. The reverse happens in Anne Rice's Vampire Mythology. They walk this same world we are in. We are not so safely removed from them.

Prince Lestat fascinates even as it chills to the bone. I read it only in daylight, meeting the dreadful Ancients and this amazing cast of characters only when the Sun is up. I delude myself to feeling safe at the remove of a book. I would dare not wish to meet these powerful beings in person, beautiful though they are, and even as there is this desire to tap into this internet radio station to hear their voices.

Is the underlying terror because of the recognition that these powerful beings were behaving as monstrously as humans have and do? Humans kill their own kind. We have done so since Cain lifted his hand against Abel. We have never stopped murdering since. Genocide is a constant staple on TV news shows. Is the thematic horror in Prince Lestat simply the shame of self-recognition? The truest horror we humans have faced throughout history happens when power is placed squarely in the laps of the wrong persons. Hitler and the Holocaust, Pol Pot, Stalin, Kim Jong Un, Ferdinand Marcos.

But what is evil really? What is good? These themes are explored in this thrilling page turner.

Each character introduced in a chapter moves the plot forward, and we ride this energy. And what a thrilling ride it is! Each new vampire shares his perspective on the cataclysmic events, this crisis they face. It reads like a delicious detective story, and the reader hunts for clues on each page, trying to piece two and two together, making connections from what he remembers from previous Chronicles, and trying to find a solution to this crisis.

Every incendiary chapter either explodes with a revelation, heightens action and suspense, or shows a moment of tenderness between two vampires who share an embrace or love for music. Yes, the vampires love. In that aspect humans and vampires are alike. In our capacity to love selflessly, and in our capacity as well to annihilate one another.

In various interviews captured on video and uploaded on Youtube of her Prince Lestat book tour, Anne Rice admitted to needing to read through the Vampire Chronicles prior to writing this latest volume. (There is even that slight nod to the castrati of Cry to Heaven.) And while new fans can just as well jump right into this book, with the help of supplementary appendices to this volume, I think for maximum enjoyment an initiate might want to start reading the previous Chronicles. I say this because Prince Lestat does have the tendency to spoil key plot points from previous novels, and they were delicious plot points that leap off the page if they weren't spoiled for you. Not only that, the Elder Vampires have fully fleshed-out characterizations in the previous novels, and anyone who has read them would inevitably feel some sense of intimacy or at least familiarity towards them.

Here is my suggested reading order. These titles are available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble.
  1. Interview with the Vampire: Claudia's Story, the graphic novel
  2. Interview with the Vampire
  3. The Vampire Lestat ← you may start with this book if you're merely concerned with the vampire history and mytharc
  4. The Queen of the Damned
  5. The Tale of the Body Thief
  6. Memnoch the Devil
    (From here feel free to jump to Prince Lestat, But then I won't stop you from reading the rest in the series...)
  7. The Vampire Armand
  8. Pandora
  9. Vittorio the Vampire (this being the most stand-alone in the series)
  10. Merrick
  11. Blood and Gold
  12. Backwood Farm
  13. Blood Canticle
If you can't wait, then read Claudia's Story, The Vampire Lestat and The Queen of the Damned.

Several pieces of music, from classical to contemporary, are referenced in the novel. It's a delight that YouTube and Google exist now, and you can easily listen to them online. If only we can find the url to Benji's radio station!

One of my favorite themes shimmering through the novel is the idea that no matter how misshapen or ugly our physical bodies are, we carry inside a beautiful soul if we nourish it with love, surround it with beauty, art. You see this in the stories of Magnus and Hesketh.

Another important theme is one of a more truthful view of one's self. The Ancient Gregory speaking to Armand said it best: "You are on the threshold of a great journey, and you must begin to think in terms of what you can do as a powerful spiritual and biological being. Stop with the self-loathing. Stop with imagery of 'the damned' this and 'the damned' that! We are not damned. We never were. Who under the sun has the right to damn any living breathing creature?" Who indeed? Humans, hear this, we who make a sport of damning others as often as we damn ourselves.

Vintage Anne to turn our definition of Evil on its head, help us to reexamine it, face it, maybe accept its entity unto ourselves and learn from it. Prince Lestat offers philosophical considerations that fill an inquisitive mind for many nights, told through a fast-paced plot and flesh-and-blood characters. In the end it shows us that a true path to salvation must involve, at its core, a full acceptance and love of one's self and others. The woman who singularly created a new vampire genre now propels it into a whole new and exciting direction. I am sure that there will be a slew of Meyers and other imitators that will follow her lead and attempt to expand on her work.

The massive cast of characters in the novel may seem daunting, but a sort of dramatis personae at the back of the book helps. Even more so, each of the characters have their distinct voices, personalities, histories, and perspectives, and these preclude any confusion. No easy feat for writers of lesser talent, but this Anne Rice, whose imagination created the The Witching Hour with its many generations of witches. It is only a marvel that all of these personalities fully thrive and live in her head.

Truly, ours is an age of the Superhero. We see it in movies, in pop songs, in children's books. Didn't we see Marvel and Disney, two media giants, merge in this decade? In our time where there is much certainty, we do look for a Superhero who will be our champion, our strength, our guide, whether that Superhero is willing or not. The vampires have Lestat. Who do you look up to as your hero?

Lestat, Prince, I do not know if you check Google at all. I want to tell you I love you, as much as I fear you. I know this would reach you somehow. After all, Sir David Talbot said this about your kind, and I quote, "We're all human [still] no matter how long we go on." Thank you for showing us how to fully love and accept ourselves.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Day 14 on IWTV: Claudia

Saint Paul confessed, "I do not understand my own actions. I am baffled, bewildered. I do not practice or accomplish what I wish, but I do the very thing that I loathe, which my moral instinct condemns."

I was reminded of that passage from the Epistle to the Romans when Louis walked the dark streets of New Orleans, shaken by Babette's accusation that he was the devil. Louis feelings were often conflicted. What are we, really? Are we what we feel we are? Are we what other people say we are?

It was at this point in Louis's vampire life that he found Claudia.
Kirsten Dunst as Claudia in the
film adaptation

Louis felt conflicted about this young five-year-old girl. Am I damned? If so, why do I feel such pity for her? And then he asks, If I am damned I must want to kill her. Which is something Lestat could have done. In this way has not Louis condemned Lestat as a ruthless killer?

*Spoiler Alert* Louis fed on the young girl. Was this an aesthetic choice? When he accepted his damnation, bound no longer by thoughts of what is moral and not, was that when he allowed himself to feed on a human? Was this his aesthetic choice? Could he blame Babette's hatred of him? Lestat's relentless goading?

I needed to check. Was Claudia Louis's first human victim in four years, the first being the black slave which Lestat caught for him as part of his lessons? It seemed that after that slave Louis fed on nothing but animals. Was it Louis's ego that makes him think he is less evil by feeding on animals? (I once met a couple from church who were devout vegetarians, and they talked as if they were above reproach because they ate nothing but vegetables, as if they were closer to God because of their diet.)

And then Lestat does something absolutely morbid that I am not going to spoil for those who have not read it. He and Louis fought hard, and then Lestat consigned him to his coffin. And Louis makes observations here about the vampire's state during the daytime. Pay attention, fellow writers! Anne Rice here (whether consciously or unconsciously) laying down what is called foreshadowing. A very important writing lesson!