Thursday, 22 March 2012

The Vampire Chronicles

The first writer to really humanise vampires, Anne Rice's Vampire Chronicles remain modern literary masterworks. She took the character of the vampire from dark menacing presence, and fleshed them out. She gave them life histories, motivations, secrets. She made them dark and tortured and beautifully wicked. It was Anne Rice who truly taught us to love vampires.

Her books are eloquently penned, Gothic epics spanning centuries, filled with opulence and terror. Paris, Louisiana, New Orleans, Italy, Egypt... she takes us across the world. I discovered her novels when I was only thirteen or fourteen and was swept away by them. Her stories of the Savage Garden of life, and the predators that haunt it. Tortured, regretful, so very human Louis. Misunderstood and misanthropic Lestat, sometimes the villain, sometimes the hero.

It is clear that most modern vampire stories draw on Anne Rice's mythos. Louis, especially, the tortured vampire sometimes forced by his guilt to feed upon rats instead of humans clearly played a part in the creation of Angel (Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Angel), and, of course, the flavour of the moment- Edward Cullen. In The Vampire Diaries, the painful and unhealthy co-dependant relationship between the brothers could be said to mirror the early relationship of Lestat and Louis. Even the migration of modern vampire novels to America, especially the South can be traced to Anne Rice's novels.

So why aren't their praises sung so much anymore? Why are modern YA novels preferred to these classic Gothic tales? Do love triangles and high school romance appeal more to the modern audiences? I will admit to watching a the Twilight DVDs (I could never get into the books) and enjoying them as far as rather uninvolved enjoyment goes. After all there is some good cinematography, and the landscape is beautiful, however I always felt there was something missing. The focus was too small for me, the story of two lovers, not a complex plot involving the lives of many over a long time and it does not share Anne Rice's dark, violent lyricism.

Rewatching films like Interview With The Vampire and Francis Ford Coppola's Dracula, they clutch at my heart. I lament ever seeing modern vampire films to equal them. Of course, Coppola's Dracula was heavily adapted from the novel, the whole dark love story element likely having been influenced by The Vampire Chronicles.

On Goodreads, most of the Vampire Chronicles books are rated at a little over 3 ½ stars, far too low a rating for books that spawned an entire genre of their own. Twilight rates approximately 0.20% higher.

I think we need to rediscover the modern classics of our era such as these novels. I will never forgot the sense of awe I felt when first reading these books, the respect I felt for the brilliant writer who, by letting us into the hearts of vampires, let them into our hearts.  

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