Song of the week: Epica’s “Blank Infinity:” As I read through this week’s assigned reading, this is the song that pervaded my mind, which I thought was very evocative of Louis’ own inner turmoil. It is Claudia that essentially keeps Louis’ thoughts from nebulously wandering into the “blank infinity,” of sorts, where existential questions lead to nowhere.
I’m trying to be more succinct with these posts, for the sake of preserving my finger muscles, all in the name of keeping Carpal Tunnel Syndrome at bay. I jest! But, I sometimes do have some general concerns that with the rate I keep typing, my hands might very well walk free, like that accursed hand from The Addams Family. Oh well, I might finally be able to master snapping my fingers today! A feat that I have never managed to master.
Here are the discussion questions, and my very brief thoughts on each of them. In order to promote more discussion, I am trying to hold back more on my own thoughts, or at least offer only a few guiding statements to lead the discussion, which occurs on either our coven’s Facebook group page, or the comment section below right here on this blog.
Question #1-1.Compare and contrast the parenting styles of both Louis and Lestat, as they began sharing the responsibility of sharing the role of being parental figures for Claudia.
Well, I think the predominant character traits or psychological personalities of both Louis and Lestat become much more overt to the readers, when they are serving as a paternal, authority figure for Claudia. Louis is much more doting on Claudia,and he becomes a bit more feminine in the way his caretaker proclivities seem to blossom in full during this sequence of the story. More importantly, he begins to become greatly distracted from brooding too much over those humans, from whom he drinks from to sate his thirst. By fully committing himself to the care of another, his own psychological doubts and needs become second-nature in importance to the care of his daughter- Claudia. His supergo personality manifests not so much in concerning himself with fretting over whether or not the act of killing another human being is unethical or not. He seems to not so much become resigned from these questions, but he becomes much more concerned with Claudia. I think this was what Lestat had presciently saw, when he contrived a plan to have Claudia join their subversive family unit of sorts.
Conversely, Lestat becomes very much the capricious father figure, who undertakes the hunter role of the family. Throughout this entire reading, it is interesting to note that Louis never allows Claudia see the way he hunts humans, perhaps because Louis seems to kill in completely, guilt-ridden privacy. He knows that he would be inundated with far too much moral guilt, if he were to take too much time enjoying the kill much like Lestat. In another sense, he doesn’t not want his own vexations about killing to assimilated by his own daughter, if she were to witness the way he tries to sate his thirst, in the futile fashion of a Greek Stoic. Whereas, Lestat is very much the Epicurean- taking complete delight in sensual pleasures- in the way he derives nothing, but complete pleasure from the kill.
I’ll discuss this further in the next question, but notice the way Louis and Claudia have a very close emotional bond, and Claudia seems to see Lestat as merely her hunting tutor, but does not learn about the pleasures of the mortal world and the importance of reliance on one’s intellectual senses, as much as Louis seems to want to guide Claudia towards enjoying.
2. At the time this book was published in 1975, there was very little discussion in the way of same-sex parenting. Interview with the Vampire, at least to me, sheds some very interesting observations into the dynamics of a family that has same-sex parenting. In a broader sense (in the scope of vampire literature), it offers a subversive look at the structure of nuclear family (much like the sixties television series, The Addam’s Family, was a subversion of the conventional fifties, Leave it Beaver style of parenting). What are your own feelings about all of this? Do you feel that this element of the story is still too progressive, in a sense, for shrewd readers to fully accept?
I think Anne Rice is a great trickster, in the way she presents something that was culturally at odds with the way Americans thought then about same-sex parents, and yet is still able to convincingly tell a tale that is enjoyed by a wide spectrum of readers. No one seems to notice that both Louis and Lestat are pratically two gay fathers, living with one daughter, on the Rue Royale in New Orleans.
Much like The Addams Family from the sixties, the subversion of the classical, conservative model of the nuclear family has always traditionally be subverted in the most sly and creative fashion by Gothic Fiction. Morticia, in the Addams Family,looks like a ghostly version of Snow White, with the pallid skin and black hair. Yet, Morticia exudes self-assured sex appeal and she seems to derive nothing but pleasure from life and her husband. There is no reason for the wife to be subservient in anyway to the husband, as their marriage was much more one about passion and liberality. This is something that tv viewers accepted because the whole directive behind Gothic Fiction is to display of subversion of the conservative model of something in society as something completely normal, without any subtle criticism or scorn from the writer (in the form of a self-insertion, moralistic figure).
Interview with the Vampire, much like Dark Shadows and The Addam’s Family, presents another Gothic subversion of the nuclear family, in the form of the first and still the most nuanced portrayal of a same-sex family in fiction. Many readers didn’t seem to take notice of these things because Anne Rice, as with the writers of The Addams Family, presents the family as a normal family with the same flaws shared by all families.
It is interesting, to me as a reader though, to note that the formation of the vampire, same-sex family, still seems to unconsciously motivate Louis and Lestat to act out the traditional roles of either a father or a wife within the family. I find it humorous that Louis got intensely nervous about Lestat’s anger towards Claudia, who rebelliously kills the two maids-a mother and daughter- and keeps their bodies hidden away to rot within their home. Lestat keeps redundantly whining to Louis that he doesn’t seem to understand this flash of rebellion, though this rebellious behavior- the broken silence of sixty-five years (as the book describes)- seems to be behavior she learned from Lestat. The questions themselves represent the same questions about the nature of being a vampire, and the meaning of life within the context of this new type of life, for which Louis himself wondered about, but never asked Lestat with enough assertiveness. With the dogged assertiveness of Lestat, she forcefully asks Lestat, whether or not he was the one responsible for making her. The way she expresses the hidden depth of her questions to Louis, though, shows that she feels much more comfortable, as children often are, in talking in a much more emotional way with the more feminine caretaker figure in the family.
So even though, we have two same-sex parents- Louis and Lestat- there are still certain familiar parental roles that emerge within both of them. Anne Rice-the clever writer that she is- allows the reader to ponder, if these roles themselves are really defined psychologically more by our gender (as dictated by either gender-specific, psychological impulses) or our personalities (those who are not under the belief that personality traits are gender-specific, and are only crafted by society). I am still left thinking over these things, and whether parental roles are learned implicitly from our parents and emerge, no matter what and unspecific to gender, in any type of family. For single parents, do they have the added challenge of juggling both roles that any two parental figures, regardless of gender, must assume in order to properly raise a child?
These are questions that a book, like Interview with the Vampire, explores in only a handful of pages through the ingenuity and artistic subtlety of Anne Rice’s writing. As I re-read these pages of Interview with the Vampire for the fourth time in five years (much more for veteran fans), I wonder how some literary critics only saw purple prose,devoid of substance. Yet, readers-many readers of different educational backgrounds- saw different things from the book and saw that this supposed purple prose is really extremely layered prose. From one page of an Anne Rice book, you come away with so many thoughts about one character’s motives, characteristics, and the mechanics of the story (like one page of a Shakespeare play, for example).
Try not to think about the discussion questions for just one brief moment, and meditate on the 117 or so pages that our coven (of the articulate, for this matter) has read thus far of this story. What different ideas have you come away from this reading of Interview with the Vampire, compared with other readings? What mysterious quality makes Anne Rice’s books work so well, and how is it that they seem to be as steeped in paradox, as the character of Hamlet?
I am greatly enjoying this re-reading of Interview with the Vampire thus far, and it makes me wonder just how complex Prince Lestat will be. Much to my own astonishment, Anne Rice’s writing has only gotten better, from this point on.
Here are some exciting things, happening in the world of our coven!
*By clicking the photo below of the Prince Lestat cover, you’ll find details on the Barnes and Nobles online website about pre-ordering your own signed edition of this much-anticipated novel!*
Here are some other exciting tidbits from the page:
**Watch Sumiko’s lovely video, about #PrinceLestat!!**
Check out these two rather exciting novels, from two of our own members of the coven:
Lucian Wilde’s Dark Wishing Well (Also, written by Wayne & Den Mussatto)
William Massa’s Fear the Light: Who Murdered Dracula?
Also, we have this #PrinceLestat contest from editor and regular contributor on Anne Rice’s Facebook Fan Page: Todd Barselow (freelance editor for many self-published writer’s novels). He is also a venerated member of the Talmasca!! (unofficially)
**Click the banner below to access details about this giveaway of copies of Prince Lestat!!**