Anne Rice passed away yesterday.
She has her own collection of problematic issues, but I want to take a second to talk about the meaning of her work, which will forever belong to each of us, independent of whatever she said or did in her lifetime.
It has been nearly twenty years since I read them, but the names from her Vampire novels still come to me without effort: Louis, the guilt-ridden saint; Marius, Lestat’s maker; Armand, the theatre master; Claudia, the child. And, of course, Lestat: the ingenue-turned-rock star, the temptation, the preternatural hedonist.
When I think back on Interview with the Vampire, it seems painfully obvious that it was a kind of chrysalis for her Catholic upbringing. She went into the book as Louis, who cannot breathe without being choked by shame, and she came out as Lestat: exultant, carnal, sacrilegiously charming, and shamelessly wanton.
In other words, I do not think it was an accident that the first book was about Louis, and the next four were about Lestat.
When I think back on Interview with the Vampire, it seems painfully obvious that it was a kind of chrysalis for her Catholic upbringing.
Rice is at least partly responsible for the enormous “vampire romance” resurgence we saw in the 2000s: without Lestat, is there a Twilight? Is there a 50 Shades of Grey?
I would argue she also laid the groundwork for the more sex-positive world we find ourselves in today. Her heroes were queer, and popular, and unflinchingly seductive.
For goodness sake, she wrote a bestselling book about a BDSM sex club that was made into a movie starring Rosie O’Donnell.
I say all that to say this: one of the uncomfortable parts of living is the way the people that molded you slowly fade away one by one.
I’ve thought about this a lot: each person feels like an umbillical cord to the mystery from which I emerged. And as each fades, I imagine myself like a lone ship in the night. I feel increasingly unmoored from my harbor. I feel the press of strange waters around me.
Yet, I must sail on. As each tie is swallowed in the mist behind me, I become the bearer of what those people meant to me, and the world they showed me. The weight of it, the responsibility of it, feels staggering. How can I hold all these lives? I do not have hands enough for myself.
And still, into the future, into the strange waters, I must sail on.
When, as now, I give these thoughts space to breathe, I admit I am choked with anxiety. What will happen when the last of the connections is gone? I imagine the ship of my soul adrift, purposeless, without a shore in sight, and I am afraid for myself.
I imagine the ship of my soul adrift, purposeless, without a shore in sight, and I am afraid for myself.
In that dark fog, I pray for a light.
I try to remember that those connections to land that I long for – those inspirations and mentors – were ships of their own. Explorers, the same as me, in these strange waters.
And I look to the new generations of adults taking their first excursions into shallow waters, and I realize that when they look back at me, they do not see an aimless ship, cast about without a compass or a way home.
They see a harbor.
And in between those two visions – between the worlds of my mentors and the warmth of the harbor the young have made of me – I find peace in my little ship.
And I sail on.