Katherine Ramsland says that writing Interview with the Vampire was a cathartic experience for Anne,
“Anne admitted that writing the novel had been cathartic for her. She had dealt with her pain and guilt by projecting them into the first person point of view of Louis. People close to her believed she had “saved” herself from her grief. She’d felt guilty over her impotence and the possibility that she’d made a bad decision somewhere along the line with Michele, just as Louis had regretted his brother’s visions. She had denied, however, that she had been consciously aware of any connection other than superficial between Claudia and Michele. Death by leukaemia is hardly the sensual experience described by her vampires. If she thought about a connection, she assured people who asked, she would not have written it. She would not have exploited her daughter in that manner. Friends were incredulous that she had not seen the obvious relationship between her character and her child, but she insisted that the book was about sensuality, pleasure and satisfaction, and also had a strong moral purpose.” (Katherine Ramsland, Prism of the Night, Plume, New York, 1994, p 166)
Anne must have the only person who could not seen the connection between her daughter and her character.
Anne stopped identifying with the character of Louis who personified her grief over Michele and her despair for her lost faith. She appears to have gotten it out of her system. Katherine Ramsland writes,
“Anne soon grew to dislike her central character, Louis, having identified with him in a time of grief. The sale of her novel, she felt, had cured her more surely than any amount of psychotherapy, and she was able to move away form him as she had moved away from Claudia. “He was me at that time,” she admitted. “I don’t have a great deal of sympathy for a person who’s that dependent and that vengeful toward people who won’t fulfil his needs. To me the starting point is where he was on the steps of the Theater of the Vampires after he’s met Armand and he realizes, ‘I hated Lestat for all the wrong reasons.’ ” ” (Prism of the Night, p 166-167)
In The Vampire Armand Louis is described as “perhaps the weakest vampire yet walking in the great world.” ( Anne Rice, The Vampire Armand, Arrow, London, 1999, p 24). She had moved on.
On the other hand, Louis does seem stronger and more adaptable than Lestat. He may have been a misery guts, but he did not self-destruct like Lestat did at the end of Interview with the Vampire. He does not get himself and others into trouble like Lestat does.
The second novel of The Vampire Chronicles, The Vampire Lestat (1985), was written from the perspective of Lestat. Anne now identified with Lestat, rathe than Louis. In an interview with Michael Riley she said, “When I write those books, I’m Lestat. If any character speaks what I believe and feel, it’s Lestat.” (Michael Riley, Interview with Anne Rice, Random, Sydney, 1996, p 22-23)
Katherine Ramsland writes,
“Lestat’s mother had said to him, “You are the man in me, and Lestat quickly became the “man” in Anne, as Elliot [a character in another novel Exit to Eden] had been. He had the physical appearance she desired for herself, his characteristics were motivated by repressed assertive impulses that she expressed best in fictional form, and she made him do things she longed to do …. He was a reflection of a new growth and independence, of a new edge to her sensuous imagination, with a fierce mischievous rebelliousness.” (Prism of the Night, p 245)
The Vampire Lestat begins when Lestat wakes in 1984 after spending 58 years asleep in the ground. Lestat likes what he finds. He sees no place for God and Christianity in the modern world. Lestat sees a secular utopia of progress, prosperity, art, fashion, sexual freedom and “a vigorous secular morality as strong as any religious morality I had ever known.” (Anne Rice, The Vampire Lestat, Warner, London, 1999, p 16) It’s like watching an early episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation.
It appears that Anne is coming to terms with her atheism. The novels shift from Louis and despair without God to Lestat and fun without God, however the fun and promises of a secular world without God do not deliver.
Lestat decides to join a heavy metal band, Satan’s Night Out. (It’s an improvement on chasing high school girls. I’m looking at you, Angel and Edward.)
The band thinks he’s pretending to be Lestat because they’ve read Interview with the Vampire. Lestat reads the book too, doesn’t like how he is portrayed and decides to give his side of the story, explaining that he really wasn’t that bad.
Lestat tells us he was the son of a struggling aristocrat in pre-revolutionary France. He says, “No one in my family much believed in God or ever had.” (The Vampire Lestat, p 56)
Like Anne, Lestat is disillusioned with religion, but he still struggles with the meaninglessness of existence without God,
“We’re going to die and not even know. We’ll never know, and all this meaninglessness will just go on and on and on …. We’ll just be gone dead, dead, dead, without ever knowing.” (The Vampire Lestat, p 66)
“There was no judgment day, no final explanation, no luminous moment in which all terrible wrongs will be made right, all horrors redeemed.” (The Vampire Lestat, p 66)
These comments apparently reflect Anne’s realization of the hopelessness of atheism (Prism of the Night, p 101-102, 247).
Nevertheless, Lestat still hopes there can be goodness without God,
“I can live without God. I can even come to live with the idea that there is no life after. But I do not think I can go on if I did not believe in the possibility of goodness.” (The Vampire Lestat, p 83)
Many atheists are relativists. They argue that if there is no God, there is no absolute truth, no right or wrong. This may be the logical conclusion of an atheist worldview, but a lot of atheists seem to instinctively reject their own worldview and still believe there must be truth, right and wrong, good and bad. Anne’s novels and her characters reflect her own struggle with the implications of atheism.
After he becomes a vampire, Lestat has to kill people to survive. He cannot be good as he once understood. He does not agonise over this like Louis later would. He decides to be good at being a vampire (The Vampire Lestat, p 367). I do not speak French, so I am not sure if this alternative definition of “good” would have still worked in the French they would have been speaking.
Lestat moves to Paris with his “friend” Nicolas to become an actor. One night Lestat is abducted by a vampire Magnus who turns him into a vampire and then commits suicide by going into the fire.
Lestat has inherited Magnus’ fortune, but the knows nothing about being a vampire and how he is expected to behave. He is lost and adrift, much in the way Anne would have found herself emotionally adrift after she abandoned her Catholic faith.
Lestat returns home where he “saves” his dying mother by turning her into a vampire. Anne’s mother was an alcoholic so she must have had a lot of baggage and mother issues. Katherine Ramsland observes that her novels “revealed the need to regain her mother’s presence and a desire to conquer death.” (Prism of the Night, p 47)
We never the name of Louis’ mother. She is a distant figure who moves away and dies a few years later. Armand was separated from his, again nameless, mother and the rest of his family when he was abducted as a child. They are briefly re-united when he returns to Kiev as a vampire. The name of Lestat’s mother is only revealed to be Gabrielle after he turned her into a vampire. Mother issues.
Lestat hoped to save and keep his dying mother by making her into a vampire. In the end he is disappointed and they gradually drift apart. Gabrielle seems disconnected from everyone, including Lestat and other vampires. In The Queen of the Damned Akasha tells Lestat that his mother “hated her children” (Anne Rice, The Queen of the Damned, Warner, London, 1999, p 336).
Gabrielle does not share Lestat’s interest in learning about their origins and prefers to go off on her own. They lose contact with each other until the are re-united in the 1980s. She does not come to his aid after the disastrous events of Interview with the Vampire.
Still, I found Gabrielle an interesting character and I would like to have seen a Vampire Chronicles novel written from her perspective. What does she really think of Lestat? Would such a book have been too confronting to write?
There still appears to have been something of Anne in Gabrielle. Becoming a vampire was a liberating experience for a woman in pre-revolutionary France, enabling her to get out of the house (castle actually) and live an (undead) life which would otherwise have been beyond her. Anne described herself as growing up with no sense of gender (Anne Rice, Called Out of Darkness, Chatto and Windus, London, 2008, p 78, 114, 116). This is reflected in Gabrielle when she becomes a vampire and also become androgynous and dresses in male clothes. Lestat describes his mother as having “the figure of an unearthly young boy, an exquisite young boy” (The Vampire Lestat, p 207). Mother issues.
Katherine Ramsland comments that “Gabrielle and Lestat are two sides of a single soul, as he describes it, just as Anne felt about her mother” (Prism of the Night, p 253). This is odd since Gabrielle is absent from Lestat’s life for about 200 years, which would make Lestat a fractured. divided person. Before she leaves, Gabrielle tells Lestat that she still believes in God (The Vampire Lestat, p 306). Perhaps, Gabrielle represents the Catholic part of Anne, when her mother was still alive, which she was separated from when she became an atheist and is later re-united with.
Before all this, Lestat and Gabrielle are attacked by other vampires, led by Armand from Interview with the Vampire. They are more traditional vampires, afraid of crosses and churches and call themselves the Children of Darkness. They believe in God and believe by serving Satan as vampires, they are ultimately doing God’s will.
The Children of Darkness are shocked to find that Lestat and Gabrielle are not following the rules. They have not made vows to Satan. They try to live like mortals. They dress better. God has not punished them for their blasphemy. Lestat has shown that their beliefs are not true. This results in a crisis of faith among the Children of Darkness. Their leader Armand kills many of them by driving into the fire.
I suspect the Children of Darkness symbolize the Roman Catholic Church in which Anne grew up. They are in bondage to superstition and false belief. They think they are doing God’s will, but they hurt a lot of innocent people in the process.
Popular beliefs about vampires are largely Catholic. What is a Protestant, who is not into crosses as much, supposed to do when he meets a vampire?
Then, along comes the enlightened Lestat who sets them free from their superstition, which perhaps reflects the way Anne the atheist hopes the religious will be set free from their superstition.
The survivors form the Theatre of the Vampires which Louis and Claudia encounter about 70 year later.
Armand tells Lestat and Gabrielle his story, how he was abducted from the Russian steppes as a child and sold in Venice to Marius, a vampire and artist, who looks after Those Who Must Be Kept. A few years later Marius turns Armand into a vampire. Then they are attacked by the Children of Darkness who are angry with Marius for not following the rules. Armand is taken and believes Marius is dead.
Armand reluctantly swears allegiance to Satan and joins the Children of Darkness. He becomes leader of their Paris coven for about 400 years until Lestat shows up. Having gone from the enlightened creativity of Marius to the darkness and superstition of the Children of Darkness, Armand strikes me as the most tragic character in the novels.
In The Vampire Chronicles, there are basically two classes of vampires, the masses, including the superstitious Satan-serving Children of Darkness, the Theatre of the Vampires and their modern equivalents, and the more enlightened Children of the Millennia, which include Lestat, Gabrielle, Armand and Marius. It seems a bit elitist.
Lestat and Gabrielle leave Paris to search for Marius. Gabrielle loses interest and keeps going off on her own and they eventually lose contact with each other. Like Louis and Claudia in Interview with the Vampire, Lestat is on a search for meaning, to understand his origins. They are not satisfied with their new way of life, like deep down Anne was not satisfied with atheism. Even though Louis wanted to know the truth, Lestat never told him during their 65 years together. Likewise, Armand never Louis about Marius during their years together.
Nobody tells Louis anything.
Lost people can find no help from equally lost people in their search for truth.
Eventually, Marius finds Lestat and takes him to his island. Marius believes they are on the verge of a new world, leaving the old world of religion and superstition behind,
“Completely new things are happening in Europe. The value placed upon human life is higher than ever. Wisdom and philosophy are coupled with new discoveries in science, new inventions which will completely alter the manner in which humans live.” (The Vampire Lestat, p 415)
This presumably reflects Anne’s hopes for atheism, secularism and modernism.
Marius explains to Lestat his origin. He became a vampire during the reign of Augustus and travelled to Egypt where he found the original vampires, Enkil and Akasha who had been king and queen in prehistoric Egypt. During an assassination attempt a demon entered through their wounds and the became the first vampires. Thousands of years later they are in a trance-like state and rarely move. Marius has looked after Those Who Must Be Kept for 1800 years.
Marius tells Lestat he cannot stay with him. Lestat had not lived or long as a human before he became a vampire. Marius suggests Lestat should go to New Orleans where his father had fled following the French Revolution. Like Anne in San Francisco, significant events bypass her characters. There, he should live out one complete lifetime so he will not succumb to despair and madness.
Before Lestat leaves, he recklessly drinks the blood of the vampire queen Akasha and is almost killed by Enkil in the process, but her blood empowers him.
Marius and Akasha seem to have surrogate parents for Lestat, meeting the needs which his real parents could not.
Lestat travels to New Orleans where the events of Interview with the Vampire take place. Lestat would have us believe he really wasn’t that bad, yet Louis and Claudia still tried to kill him and escape. Most of us think we are good people. The Holocaust was carried out by people who thought they were good. We suffer from a “good delusion”. We may think we are good but those, who have been hurt by our actions, would have a different view. Lestat seems somewhat delusional, believing things are fine when they are very wrong.
As Interview with the Vampire relates, Lestat’s attempt to live out a complete lifetime ends in disaster with Lestat scarred and crippled. Armand refuses to help him, blaming him for the destruction of their way of life,
“We had our Eden under that ancient cemetery …. We had our faith and our purpose. And it was you who drove us out with a flaming sword.” (The Vampire Lestat, p 553)
Marius and Gabrielle are nowhere to be found.
Lestat spends the next four decades a broken recluse, with Armand occasionally showing up to torment him, until he decides to go down into the earth in 1929 and sleeps until he wakes in 1984.
To be continued.