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Interview With The Vampire by Anne Rice

First publication date: 1976.

Edition: Warner Books, 2000. 368pp.

Source: purchased at bookshop eons ago; still readily available.

Summary/reviews on cover: In a darkened room a young man sits telling the macabre and eerie story of his life…the story of a vampire, gifted with eternal life, cursed with an exquisite craving for human blood.

‘One of the most wonderful, erotic, sensual books ever written’, courtesy of the musician Sting

‘Thrilling … A strikingly original work of the imagination … Sometimes horrible, sometimes beautiful, always unforgettable...’ Washington Post

‘... Miss Rice’s Interview With The Vampire’ must stand alongside Bram Stoker’s Dracula. It is a work of literature told in a horror-tale genre.’ from The Catholic Herald (inner cover review)

Prior to rereading Interview With The Vampire, I’d recently forced myself through one of Rice’s historical fiction narratives, The Feast Of All Saints’ , for research. It stands out in that it does not feature the supernatural. The historical setting is elaborate, meticulous and vivid - the reader can picture exactly what world her characters exist in, how they experience it. Due to the comparative brevity of Interview and of journalistic interviews generally, the reader is spared Rice’s fondness for unbearably laborious, overworked descriptions of every single aspect of her characters’ lives, from every single character she’s ever invented.

In Interview, this crime doesn’t occur - much.

behold the contemporary primer on all things vampiric...enter if you dareCollapse )

The book is in four parts. Parts 1 and 2 go by whizzingly. The writing is tight: the narrative is urgent, locations are not described to death and the characters are fascinating. Part 1 begins with a young reporter, fumbling with recording equipment in preparation for an interview. This takes place in an unusually dark room because the interview subject claims to be a vampire, a creature who supposedly only embodies Eastern European myth and Gothic fiction.

This doesn’t really sink in till the reporter (whose name is never mentioned throughout the entire novel) is forced to inspect his storyteller’s skin properly. The vampire, Louis can now begin his tale. As it unfolds, the reporter’s disbelief progresses to fascination, then terror. Through Louis’ eyes, the reader learns minimal details about his mortal life, his background, how he ceases to be mortal when attacked by another vampire, Lestat.

Louis’ teething troubles, as it were, begin here. Lestat has no desire to educate or ease his ward into his undead existence. Louis rationalises that if suffering ennobles the human race, there is a reason for his, even now in death. He has a lot of trouble reconciling his (previously human) morals with being undead. Lestat further demonstrates amoral parenting. The little observation he can offer Louis that they both have a freedom to act upon any so-called depraved desires society imposed in mortal life. An example: he frames the upcoming burst of European decadence and its aesthete-dandy as a morsel to be consumed willy-nilly. It should be enough to know that vampires have a choice over their source of nourishment. Lestat does not want to waste potential snack time educating his offspring, so he does what most deliberately ignorant beings do - he belittles Louis for clinging onto any trait of mortality. Lestat accepts his own human-specific bloodlust and will continue to satisfy it without reflection. Louis’ ennui is completely foreign to him.

Just as the reader gets into the thick of undead epistemology, we are recalled to the reporter, the novel’s supposedly neutral presence. Louis has to remind him every so often not to interrupt his story. The two do warm to one another and we see this in the reporter’s attentiveness and respect - even dealing with recording equipment issues with as little intrusion as possible, if any interruption. Louis occasionally forgets the reporter’s basic human needs (sleep cycles, passing waste, thirst, hunger). When this happens, his apologies to the reporter are genuine in that he sees humans as more than a food source.

On rereading two decades or so later, it definitely deserves its place on the Boxall biblical canon and could probably be read in a few sittings on a lazy day. Perhaps more suited to cold, wet seasons? It seemed out-of-place to read it in a country where desert temperatures are sometimes normal. It may even enhance a reader’s appreciation for Alan Ball’s True Blood HBO series: much of the contemporary vampire or supernatural narratives now available to us continue to be used as a way of discussing themes that humans are divided over - ‘vices’, politics, sexuality, religion, definitions of art and popular culture. A long way of saying that decades after its initial publication, it’s a bloody good read, for entertainment and for lit wankers.  

Of Human Bondage by W. Somerset Maugham

The title "Of Human Bondage" comes from Part IV of Spinoza's Ethics: "Of Human Bondage, or the Strength of the Emotions." Spinoza begins his preface to Part IV this way: "Human infirmity in moderating and checking the emotions I call bondage: for, when a man is prey to his emotions, he is not his own master, but lives at the mercy of fortune: so much so that he is often compelled, while seeing that which is better for him, to follow that which is worse." It is easy to see Philip Carey, the hero of Of Human Bondage as exemplifying Spinoza's man who is prey to his emotions. This is true throughout much of the book, but especially in his hopeless infatuation with the thoroughly unattractive Mildred, which occupies a large part of the book (too large a part, some people may think).Read moreCollapse )

To The North by Elizabeth Bowen

Elizabeth Bowen is a marvelous writer, and To The North is widely regarded as one of her best novels. It tells the story of the contrasting love affairs of two young women, Cecelia and Emmeline, sisters-in-law (Cecelia was married to Emmeline's brother, who died of pneumonia before the novel begins), who share a house in London. Cecelia is involved in a casual ongoing relationship with Julian Tower, a relationship that may or may not develop into love. Then, on a train returning from Italy, she meets a young man, Mark Linkwater ("Markie"), an attorney. She renews acquaintance with him in London and invites him to a dinner at which he and Emmeline become attracted to one another.Read moreCollapse )

The Passion by Jeanette Winterson

The Passion is a fascinating, thought-provoking novel. Set against the background of the Napoleonic wars, especially the disastrous Russian campaign, it tells of a young Frenchman, Henri, and a Venetian woman, Villanelle. Henri comes from a small village not far from Paris. He was educated by the local priest who inspired him with enthusiasm for Napoleon. He joins Napoleon's army, where he becomes a part of Napoleon's personal kitchen staff. Villanelle is from Venice, where she works in the casino. She has a passionate affair with another woman considerably older than she. Later she marries a man she is not in love with and comes to loathe. She leaves him, but he finds her and sells her to one of Napoleon's generals.Read moreCollapse )

Native Son, by Richard Wright

Examining America's racial troubles in 1940, many of the author's words and Bigger Thomas's thoughts seem disturbingly contemporary.

Native Son

Harper Perennial, 1940, 544 pages

Right from the start, Bigger Thomas had been headed for jail. It could have been for assault or petty larceny; by chance, it was for murder and rape. Native Son tells the story of this young black man caught in a downward spiral after he kills a young white woman in a brief moment of panic. Set in Chicago in the 1930s, Wright's powerful novel is an unsparing reflection on the poverty and feelings of hopelessness experienced by people in inner cities across the country and of what it means to be black in America.

Cross-posted to bookish and books1001 .

Bigger Thomas is a black archetype that only a black author could write.Collapse )

Verdict: Native Son is, as a novel, interesting if a bit heavy-handed, but worth reading in its own right for a compelling description of an unsympathetic character and how he got to be that way. There is also a moderate amount of tension in Bigger's crime, his scheming and his flight afterwards, and then his trial. But mostly it's a race-relations novel with a powerful message still relevant in "post-racial" America. It certainly deserves to be on the 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die list.

My complete list of book reviews.
Publisher:Random House
443 pages

Description: The winner of England's Encore Award and James Tait Black Memorial Prize gives us a kaleidoscopic look at London's past, present, and future. The Thames may still flow through the heart of London, but life along its shores has changed dramatically. In Downriver, Iain Sinclair traces the ruins of Margaret Thatchers reign through the lens of a fictional film crew hired to make a documentary about what remains of old-time life. Historical motifs are interwoven with futuristic scenarios in this tumultuous tour of a city and a culture. Iain Sinclair is an astonishingly original and entertaining writer. The Washington Post (copied from Goodreads)

Review: The Washington Post lies, unless entertaining is a typo for mind-numbingly boring.

This book meanders through twelve short stories which are connected by the Thames, a bunch of common characters, and something to do with some postcards. I'm really not sure why it was written in that format. It doesn't add anything to the narrative.

The characters aren't really fleshed out, the descriptions are bland, the book swaps between a first and third person povs for no obvious reason, and I found the author's writing style very distancing.

According to the author's Wikipedia page, this book actually forms the middle of a trilogy, which might have helped the issue of characterization. It also claims it "envisages the UK under the rule of the Widow, a grotesque version of Margaret Thatcher as viewed by her harshest critics, who supposedly establishes a one party state in a fifth term." That actually sounds kind of interesting, pity it didn't make a noticeable appearance.

Ragtime by E.L. Doctorow

Publication date: 1974
Edition: Penguin Classics with introduction 2006 (Plume Books 1996)
Publisher: Penguin Classics
270 pages
Source: Toppings Books, Ely

Summary/Back of the book: "Welcome to America at the turn of the twentieth century, where the rhythms of ragtime set the beat. Harry Houdini astonishes audiences with feats of escape, J.P. Morgan dominates the financial world and Henry Ford manufactures cars by making men into machines. Emma Goldman preaches free love and feminism, while ex-chorus girl Evelyn Nesbitt inspires a mad millionaire to murder the architect Stanford White. In this extraordinary chronicle of an age, such real-life characters intermingle with three remarkable families, one black, one Jewish and one prosperous WASP, to create a dazzling literary mosaic that brings to life an era of dire poverty, fabulous wealth and incredible change."

The rhythm of life...Collapse )


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