It’s time for a new installment of Hate Book Club! If you need a refresher, Patricia Ladd and I are reading books we think we will hate, and then reviewing them. Each post has to include a graph, a summarizing GIF, and at least some positive comments (sarcasm is allowed). I’m also doing little report cards at the end. Go read Patricia’s review!
Interview with the Vampire, the 1970s novel by Anne Rice, is the book that rebooted the vampire craze by rewriting the mythology and adding an electric undercurrent of sex appeal. Which is why it’s surprising to find out that the book is totally boring.
I thought (and, I think, Patricia thought) this would be a bodice-ripping tale of excitement, bloodthirst, and poisoned romance. And I guess technically those things are still there. But, in practice, it’s complicated. For instance, our narrator, Louis the Vampire, does fall madly in love with a girl vampire. Unfortunately, she’s five years old. Imagine if Lolita was half her age, but thought and spoke like an adult, and you have a pretty good idea of it. Creepy? Yes, very. It’s downright unpleasant.
The plot is this: a journalist of some kind bumps into the vampire, and gets Louis to tell his story. The book is one big interview. Which means, yes, almost every paragraph is in quotation marks. The quote marks are a little thing, but they drive me bonkers.
On about page 10, you guess that the book ends with the interviewer becoming a vampire. You are correct.
The story starts off rather shakily, with our hero’s transformation from man to immortal blood-sucker, followed by a string of oddly thrill-free chapters where he learns how to kill, and other such things. (He spends a lot of time killing rats.) But Anne Rice’s imagination definitely grows in size as the book expands in scope: a Parisian theatre of vampires, where the public comes to watch people get killed (though how they get away with this is not explained); Eastern European vampires who are basically zombies; and a confrontation of the question of just how desirable immortality really is. That stuff all livens the story up, as does suave gay vampire Armand, who stands in happy contrast to creepy toddler Claudia and the boring villain, Lestat.
I’m really at a complete loss to explain why this book was a giant retail success, especially since the writing style is kind of aloof. Speaking of writing style, and because these posts all need a chart:
But why was Interview such a big hit? Maybe it’s because Rice rewrites the rules of vampires, poking good fun at Dracula? Maybe it’s because of the admittedly erotic descriptions of neck-biting and blood-sucking? (No, biting people’s necks isn’t sexy. But in this book, it is clearly a metaphor.) Or maybe it’s that old publishing aphorism, “1700s New Orleans sells!”
Anyway, they made it into a movie with Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise, which sounds a whole lot more watchable than this is readable. Even Ebert liked it. Interview with the Vampire does have some good stuff, like the imaginative late twists, the concessions to real philosophical issues, and Claudia the annoying 5-year-old getting killed off. But I don’t know that I can recommend it.
Conclusion in GIF Form
Hate Book Club Report Card
(all scores on a scale of 1-10, with 10 being most)
Hateability of message: 1
Hateability of writing style: 6
Pleasure derived from hating book: 4