I recently re-read The Vampire Armand for the first time in years… I’ve read all of Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles books, but this one was always my favorite. But in spite of it being my favorite, until I just reread it, I never actually finished it…
The first couple hundred pages of the book are basically, in my opinion, the greatest thing ever written by a human being. Armand is kidnapped and turned into a slave, and then purchased by the vampire Marius who prizes him for his great beauty. In addition to how gorgeous he is, which Rice describes for pages and pages (and pages), little Armand, while being short and slight of frame with the face of an angel, is also a tortured artist and prone to dark, violent tantrums. Marius takes it upon himself to school Armand in love and make a man out of him, so we also get pages and pages (and pages! about 150 of them!) describing all of Armand’s sexual awakening in detail, but then sometimes Armand also loses it, acts out, and he needs to be punished by Marius… So then we get descriptions of Marius whipping him, which Armand can’t decide if he likes or not, probably both, and then Marius heals the wounds by dripping his vampire blood on them, which feels like a full body orgasm to Armand as well.
I mean, come on.
When I was about 17 and read this book, it absolutely blew my mind, for obvious reasons. But then, at around page 200, Armand is injured and Marius is forced to turn him into a vampire. Vampires in Rice’s mythology can’t have sex, although their blood drinking is always an extremely obvious metaphor for it, so the scenes of little Amadeo getting hammered by dudes in a brothel were over. But in addition to that, I knew from the other books in the series what would happen next- that other vampires would attack Marius and Armand, their home would be destroyed, and they wouldn’t see each other for hundreds of years. This was all too heartbreaking for me, so I stopped there. I think it is a testament to her skill as a writer, also, because she wants there to be something tragic about what they lose when they become vampires, and it really was devastating for me at 17, as involved as I was in the characters.
But those first 200 pages or so, I read over and over and over.
Now that I’ve finally finished it, I thought it was great. I loved the whole thing.
It also crystallized for me why Twilight is such a piece of shit. Anne Rice isn’t James Joyce or something, but I do think there’s something special about her writing. She always means it. It’s deeply felt, and very personal. Armand’s struggle with wanting to be an artist being in conflict with his religious upbringing- he loves aesthetic beauty, and sex, but as a child he was only supposed to paint icons of Christ- in retrospect, given Rice’s Catholic upbringing and the fact that a couple years after this book she returned to the Church (and then left it again), this couldn’t be more obviously autobiographical.
If Twilight is a sincere representation of Stephenie Meyer’s deepest internal struggles… Then damn, that is the emptiest head that has ever sat on two shoulders.
And you know, a lot of Anne Rice’s writing is daydreaming, it’s fantasies and wish fulfillment, but so what? At least she has interesting fantasies. Her books are infused with a love of learning. Almost every one is inspired by a place or historical period she has become passionate about. Ancient Egypt, Renaissance Florence, the early days of New Orleans, they all take you on tours of something interesting. They’re also infused with a love of art, she sees each period through the painters or writers of the time that she loves, and her enthusiasm for them comes through in her descriptions. When I was a teenager reading her books for the first time, she opened my eyes to a million things like that. Some people find her long descriptions of clothes and architecture tiresome, I never did. And aside from her descriptions of famous paintings or buildings, who could be bored by long descriptions of the tights Armand was wearing at the height of Renaissance fashion, and how the blue of his coats was chosen by Marius because it perfectly offsets his curly, russet hair? Maybe I’m biased on that stuff, but it was like crack to me when I was reading it.
Stephenie Meyer, on the other hand, gives you immortal vampires who chose to spend eternity in a fucking HIGH SCHOOL. I mean, I think that is the single most depressing, vacuous idea in the history of all literature.
And you know, maybe she’s not Shakespeare, but Anne Rice writes with an adult vocabulary, and has chapters that take more than five minutes each to read. I should probably stop before I go on too much about the kids these days, but I read her Vampire Chronicles when I was the same age or younger than people now who are getting into Twilight. It is not too young for people to move on to novels that are above a Nancy Drew (or Dan Brown) level of complexity… And look, I’m not against children’s lit or young adult books… I actually read quite a lot of it. But the good ones are accessible to young people without talking down to anybody. A little kid can read Harry Potter, but that’s not because it’s DUMB, which the Twlight books are. AA Milne or Roald Dahl could write sentences 100 times more sophisticated and clever than anything that’s ever rattled around inside of Stephenie Meyer’s empty skull, and they were expressly writing for six year olds. “Young adult” doesn’t have to mean crappy, and I don’t know why more young adults aren’t insulted when it’s assumed to.
Anyway, I think my point was… Read Vampire Armand, it’s great. And there’s a new Vampire Chronicles book coming out this week and Anne is coming to SF to sign them on Friday… Does anybody want to go with me? I’d really like to meet her.
Also, possibly a new Vampire Chronicles TV show coming soon, which I’m excited for! I posted about it last night, but I don’t think I’ve talked much about what her books mean to me, or why I’m a fan, so maybe that was the point of this rant. You’re welcome, everybody!