The release of “Prince Lestat and the Realms of Atlantis” (on November 29, 2016, which downloaded onto your Kindle at midnight) reminds you of where you were for every step of this series. It’s the 12th book in the Vampire Chronicles, which makes you nostalgic and uncomfortable.
This series got weird, because its author did. Because most humans get weird, given enough time. And so did the ex who got you into these books in high school. The parallels are getting creepy. Don’t deny it: Anne Rice is the ex you need to de-friend on Facebook.
“Interview with the Vampire” (1976): Before your ex became your ex, you were together. In whatever ways 10th-graders are “together.” Mostly, you wait together for your separate buses to pick you up after school. Your ex was the first person you know to declare themselves an atheist. At the time, it was radical, and so was “Interview with the Vampire.” How could characters who kill humans for food also mourn their own mortality? How could they pine for old lovers and feel horror at the loss of their human souls? Also, immortals Lestat and Louis, both men, start a home together, and even turn a child with The Dark Gift to make a family. How delicious.
You read the book your ex loans you in one greedy gulp. Your mother doesn’t like that the movie-version had an R-rating, but she’d never pry a book out of your hands. The same way she’d never let you listen to “Heart-Shaped Box” in the car, but your not-yet-ex said they liked it while she was driving, and it would be rude to change the channel for a guest. The song stays. The vampire book stays.
“The Vampire Lestat” (1985): Things have never been so good. Lestat is exquisite to read about; he’s basically an undead Rimbaud. He turns his mother into a vampire so she can gender-bend and go on safari. He hunts down the oldest vampires on the planet, learns ways to stay sane as the eons pass. There is a call to celebrate the cause of beauty and the world of mortals, in all its futility. It’s Romantic in a way you were supposed to understand from History or English classes, but you actually comprehend it now, you think. You have never been in love with anyone the way you love your ex, who isn’t your ex yet.
“The Queen of the Damned” (1988): Your ex becomes your ex when they go away to art school. You try to stay friends and keep in touch. You get invited to a photography opening they put on with their new lover. You attend but don’t quite “get” it. Is it good? Is it necessary? Is it somehow suggesting that all faiths are really just riffs on Christianity? You’re not sure, but you hug your ex and their new partner and say Congratulations. Just like you’re not sure that you like that every chapter of “Queen of the Damned” starts with fragments of poetry by Stan Rice. Are they… good works of poetry? Do they help the narrative? What even is the narrative? Why is there a secret society of the paranormal somehow involved in all of this? Wait, there are cannibals in this story? Why is Lestat the frontman for a metal band in San Francisco, why, oh why, are there renegade vampires in a motorcycle gang called Fang-Bangers?! That was a weird reunion, but who knows, maybe this gets better with time.
“The Tale of the Body Thief” (1992): It gets a little better with time. Mostly, you don’t hear from your ex. On the page, Lestat briefly enters the body of a mortal so he can make love to a German nun and eventually drive her mad. That seems about right. There is ennui. And no motor-gang.
“Memnoch the Devil” (1995): You peek at your ex on Facebook. They share a lot of stories from Fox News now. They also share some cute baby pictures, so. Who knows. Same for this book. Lestat sees ghosts, then hangs out with the Devil? Wh… what? Curiosity killed the cat, or just made them feel really icky in their own skin.
“The Vampire Armand” (1998): Oh, wow, your ex adds you on Facebook and you start messaging back and forth furiously. You’re both with other people now—like, the married kind of “with them”—but all you’re really doing is remembering old times. Decades ago, your ex saw a cat at a shelter that had your eyes, exactly. Same shade of hazel, same green flecks. Your ex adopted the cat on the spot, to always have a bit of you at home. Your ex named the cat Akasha. You realize you may very well remember that story for the rest of your life and feel flattered.
And wow, this book is as good as “Interview.” Marius and Armand savor the worldly pleasures of Renaissance Venice, then hunt for the blood of thieves together. Some of the most gorgeous declarations for secular humanism are spelled out on these pages. Armand loses his way—it’s heartbreaking! It’s well-paced! It’s damn fine reading.
“Merrick” (2000); “Blackwood Farm” (2001); “Blood and Gold” (2002); “Blood Canticle”(2003): Look, you’re busy. So is your ex, probably. You Hide them on Facebook maybe. Or the algorithm doesn’t let their updates show in your Newsfeed, because you don’t like or read the same things. It’s fine. There are a lot of books in this vampire series. A LOT. You put the time into both “Pandora” (1998) and “Vittorio the Vampire” (1999), which is supposed to be the second tier of the Vampire Chronicles. But then they stop abruptly. Anne Rice returned to Catholicism in her personal life; in her writing life, she wrote novels about the historical life of Jesus. None of that stuff showed up on your Newsfeed, either.
“Prince Lestat” (2014): You knew you wouldn’t like it when you see the book is dedicated to the music of Bon Jovi. That’s bad enough, but then Lestat admits that Bon Jovi is his favorite rock star, and you gag but keep reading because Anne Rice is writing about vampires again! Only now we are asked to throw aside the concept of The Queen of the Damned, because vampires aren’t damned, they’re holy guardians of mortals. Lestat has an innocent mortal pet named Rose (put the book down, put it down!) who he saves from an earthquake and then a haughty man who wants to take her virginity while she’s in college and… She’s beautiful and pure and her mouth is a rosebud. (I told you to put the book down.) She feels things and swoons a lot (told you). Lestat is the Prince of Peace?
Your ex adds you to a large group message, asking for home addresses. What the heck, you give yours out. A five-page Christmas letter follows. It’s a little disturbing that it reads like a manifesto for home-schooling. Your ex has two teens now, and while they excel at coding and violin and foreign languages, it doesn’t look like they are ever let out of the house. You shrug and file it away with the rest of the holiday mail. But then, in the spring, you are invited to an event for your ex’s daughter called a Purity Ball. Is this a joke? Your ex helped you violate the same vows they are making their pent-up daughter proclaim this April.
You need to de-friend your ex on Facebook. You don’t.
“Prince Lestat and the Realms of Atlantis” (2016): Chapter One starts out with a vampire you don’t care about (Rhoshamandes? See, you don’t care) discovering ancient aliens, I am pretty sure. This is not going to go well.
You’re going to do it, un-Follow, un-Friend, and then you a read in a post that your ex’s teenage daughter is moving across the country for college. She’s gorgeous, confident, capable, and ready for the world. Your ex posts that they are crying as they type it, and the words are so heartfelt, you tear up as you read, too.
You don’t delete your ex. You can’t because just now you realize your story isn’t over yet, nor is Anne Rice’s, nor your ex’s. And especially not the story of Lestat, the Brat Prince.
Laura Eppinger graduated from Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA in 2008 with a degree in Journalism, and she’s been writing creatively ever since. She the blog editor here at Newfound Journal.