My Rating: 5 stars Read: 3/5/2017
- Lifetime Challenge (1976)
- 1001 Books to Read Before You Die Challenge
- My Horror Challenge (Best Horror Novels list)
I read this book for my Lifetime challenge (1976). It’s also on the “1001 Books to Read Before You Die” list. I mostly listened to the audiobook narrated by Simon Vance.
I first read “Interview” back in the 70’s shortly after it came out. I was a college student then. I adored it completely at the time, and read all the sequels avidly. However, I feel the cheesiness of the movie negatively impacted my memories of it, because it was far better, in book form, than I remembered it being.
There aren’t many horror books on the “1001 Books to Read Before You Die” list. This one is there for a good reason, as I was reminded as I listened to it again after all these years. The original text is very dense, with tons of introspection by the ever-despairing and questioning Louis. There’s a lot of poetic purple prose (in a good way), gorgeous descriptions of New Orleans and Paris, and loads of Anne Rice’s Catholic questioning of the meaning of God, good and evil, life and death.
I was also reminded, experiencing it again, how original and shocking the books was in its depiction of vampires. At the time this was written, the most recent popular perception of vampires was something florid and romantic ala the 60’s Hammer films with Christopher Lee. Anne Rice wiped all that off the table and invented vampires anew.
I remember being fascinated and frightened by the vampires in “Interview” when I first read it. It invented so many genre givens we still have today–their incredible speed and strength, marble like skin that flushes when they’ve just fed, the way vampires aren’t affected by crosses, garlic, and holy water, the differences between old vampires and new ones, the way vampires will eventually fall prey to despair and detachment from the changes in the world around them. These things all seem logical now, but they were original back then. Anne Rice managed to put all the stereotypes from her mind and approach the concept of immortal life and the soul-sucking necessity of killing from a fresh place.
I had entirely forgotten the short segment of the book where Louis and Claudia travel to Eastern Europe and encounter vampires that are mindless and ugly monsters from having been left in their graves too long. When a fun little nod to the original vampire stories.
The narrator of the audiobook, Simon Vance, effects an accent that was a little too Bela Lugosi for me, yet it had a hypnotic quality all the same. It’s a long audio book, at over 14 hours, and I read the last 20% of the book because my ears were simply tired. Also, this is the sort of book where the text is so florid, and dense with meaning, that I think there’s value in reading it. I found my mind drifting sometimes with the audiobook, hearing the story but not necessarily savoring each word, and this is prose that deserves to be savored.
I had also completely forgotten the ending of the book, which was perfection.
This is a compelling book that really held my attention, even though I knew the plot points well. If you have never experienced the book, or read it long ago, it’s well worth reading. It’s so much better than the film in every way. Only time really determines which books will last. Like “Dracula”, “Interview with a Vampire” will live eternal.