David Talbot

“I learnt very quickly that it was one thing to read and write about the supernatural and quite another to see it with your own eyes.”

– Anne Rice, Merrick

An old man in a young man’s form: David’s story is one of upheaval, being forced into change, and ultimately discovering that one’s inhibitions can often be the thing standing in between oneself and spiritual transcendence.

David is an old man when we met him for the first time; certain that his life is quietly coming to a close. That the excitement of his youthful days is in the past and he now has retirement and the comfortable living afforded him by the Talamasca to look forward to. He is inadvertently driven back into the thick of supernatural events when Louis, following the aftermath of The Queen of the Damned’s main story-line, goes looking for the items once belonging to his beloved Claudia in the Talamascan archives. Jesse happens to mention these items in passing and Louis, being still in mourning for Claudia, entertains the notion of breaking in and retrieving them. It is Lestat (obviously) who decides to cause some ruckus while the two are there anyway and swoops into the Superior General’s office to encounter a somewhat surprised and, now, unnerved David.

Lestat does not stop there. Through the course of The Tale of the Body Thief, we discover that he has taken to visiting David, who has the insights of an old man. An old man in the flesh. Something that most of the vampires Lestat knows and loves cannot provide. It is a common belief that a ‘young’ person will remain young in their thoughts and deeds if they are treated as young. Even if they are much older than they appear. This is certainly the case with most vampires. But David has the additional advantage of having grown old as a human. He has physical age as well as mental wisdom. He is wise in ways that most others are not.

“I’d be making the same mistake you made if I hated you,” he said, eyebrows raised. “Don’t you see what you’ve done? You given me the gift, but you spared me the capitulation.” […] “You took the decision from me and gave me what I could not help but want.”

– Anne Rice, The Tale of the Body Thief

Rice_01_100

David has become Lestat’s confidante as the passage of time drew on. More than that, he has become his friend. And in his old age, David appreciates Lestat’s company, more than Lestat can register initially. As a member of the Talamasca, this is to be expected. This is not just an assignment that he is to observe, but never interact with, this is a supernatural being – an ageless old man in the body of a twenty year old – with whom he can converse as though they were equals. Lestat is also a symbol that David’s age has not left him devoid of thrills, he is still capable of touching the supernatural, of dancing through the jaws of death. Here he is, technically just an administrative official, dishing out assignments to others, but he has the most dangerous vampire he knows of in his office almost every evening.

Most importantly, Lestat is David’s security net. More than once, more times than is legitimately countable, he is offered the Dark Gift by Lestat. He is told that he is dying, albeit slowly, but that his age is catching up to him quickly and Lestat tries to convince him to take the blood, to make him immortal. It starts off as a game; asking him if he would say yes if the opportunity arose, teasingly, tempting him with it and then snatching it away. But as times moves on, Lestat becomes more insistent, afraid he’ll lose David. An offer like that can only mess with a person’s head. Especially an older person, even though David convinces himself – and Lestat – that he doesn’t want immortality, doesn’t need it. He is adamant that he is in a more capable position to say no to immortality than what Lestat has ever witnessed before… David has human age, he has lived a fully complete life… Immortality is just a burden to the old.

However, the offer stands throughout their association.

His sub-conscious must have weighed on him occasionally, particularly when he began to question the issue of life after death, of spirits, of hauntings. And to have Lestat’s ‘offer’ close to him must have been a relief in part. That even though he did not want the Dark Gift, it was good to know it was there.

Finally, having been faced with mortality himself and realising how awful it can be, how terrifying, Lestat forces the Gift on David – David who has just become the proud owner of a young, new body and a whole new outlook on life. Lestat snatches him out of it kicking and screaming and forces the blood on him. It takes David only a few days to understand that this is what he wanted, that this is the new lease on life that he needed to remind himself that he is not finished.

images

David goes on to become an intrinsic chronicler, particularly after Lestat’s foray into the alternate realms of heaven and hell. Lestat has seen too much and he falls into a catatonic state, seeing and experiencing things he chooses not to elaborate on later. But during this time, David makes it his mission to uncover as much of vampirism as he can. He chronicles Pandora and Armand’s stories and then goes further to chronicle a story of his own – Merrick.

David and Louis are like two orphans in Lestat’s absence. This would have been an acceptable living arrangement if it had not been for the sudden appearance of Merrick, an old student, foundling, and lover of David’s, who Louis approaches to aide him in contacting Claudia. The reappearance of Merrick in David’s life is far from an easy thing for him to come to terms with. He is riddled with guilt, lust, and love for her. This is only heightened and becomes unbearably painful when it seems that she has fallen in love with Louis and vice versa. What David does realise, but can do nothing about, is that Merrick is playing with fire of her own, using her voodoo heritage and knowledge to bind both men to her.

“I was lost in these hideous thoughts, lost and wanting some other sound except that of Merrick’s soft tears.”

– Anne Rice, Merrick

Fanart-VampireChronicles09

It is inevitable that Merrick is granted what she seeks from Louis, and David swears to do away with Louis for harming her. But Louis has beaten him to it. It is only through the force of Louis’ age and the love he has from Lestat, amongst others, that his death is prevented and makes him stronger.

David is more capable of surviving immortality than the vast number of vampires we encounter through the course of the Chronicles. He is wise, and he knows what he wants. He does not just lust after a thing and impulsively snatch it, he knows. Above that, David was made to have all the strength Lestat could give him through sheer force of will and a refusal to allow him to be weak.

He is a unique character in that he does not just exude age, he embodies it as well.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

31 Comments

  • Reply Dee Vance March 4, 2013 at 9:57 pm

    I posted a comment to an Anne Rice post that I was reading “Merrick”. And that I loved her character, David Talbot. You encapsulated his journey here. I thank you for that.

    What is very evident is that since David was allowed to live a full human life, he brought his love of chronicling the supernatural and no youthful pursuits. I think he will write more books. It’s what he does…it’s what he is.

    • Reply Lafaeyette March 4, 2013 at 10:13 pm

      You’re welcome, Dee.

      Chronicling events is, indeed, what he does and he is remarkably good at it :). Let’s hope he does so again in the future.

  • Reply Dana Johnson March 4, 2013 at 10:55 pm

    Very well done, an excellent insight to our Superior General. David Talbot now brings the ability for unprecidented enlightenment and wisdom into the fold and your essay has left me yearning to see that centrifical force at work, bringing about an entirely new era in The Chronicles

    • Reply Lafaeyette March 5, 2013 at 6:57 am

      Thank you, Dana. I do so hope that we see David again in the Chronicles, if, of course, we see the Chronicles again at all.

  • Reply Sumiko Saulson March 5, 2013 at 5:10 am

    This is a very good overview of David Talbot and his presence throughout the Chronicles as a wiser figure by virtue of having experienced human aging. I think that now – more than when I read it – I understand what it is that we gain through age and experience that we can not easily learn in youthful bodies. Although even the young can experience the pain of loss of loved ones, it is when getting older that we develop a sense of purpose as we realize that time is very short, very limited, and that we only have so much time during which we can do the things we find important. It is that awareness of our own mortality that steals our determination in age. Youth is idealistic, but David has an innate sense of realism in all things – embodied well as you mention here, in his relationship to Merrick – which is not impulsive, but is through experience, knowing.

    • Reply Lafaeyette March 5, 2013 at 6:57 am

      I agree with you, Sumiko. I always have to agree that when I first read of David, I was too young to understand the implications that physical age can have on one’s mind. In youth, we believe we are invincible.

      • Reply Hook in Mouth May 17, 2014 at 10:32 pm

        Not all youth. I am disabled so I will probably kill myself before I get too old if my quality of life will be significantly worse than it already is. Disabled people of any age really feel mortality keenly. I fear pretty much everything. When I got my wisdom teeth out recently I thought I was going to get flesh eating bacteria and die. The doctor had to calm me down and tell me shes never heard of anyone dying from getting their wisdom teeth pulled before. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=msGvEtmR970

        • Reply Carmen Dominique May 20, 2014 at 9:30 pm

          I’m sorry for your difficulties. Bearing in mind, of course, that when I first read these novels I was eleven years old.

          • Hook in Mouth May 23, 2014 at 11:39 am

            Aw thanks. So you read QotD at age 11?

          • The Light's Bane October 3, 2014 at 11:25 pm

            Thank you btw. You are right that in most cases youth see themselves as invincible. David says this when he tells Lestat about his life.

  • Reply Donna March 5, 2013 at 4:56 pm

    Wow. I forgot how much I loved ‘Tale of the Body Thief’ and ‘Merrick’. Time for a re-read. Is there any talk of a ‘Tale’ movie? Tricky business casting characters that are so palpable and real. Book to film doesn’t always work but if it were done right….wow. Nicely written piece.

    • Reply Lafaeyette March 5, 2013 at 5:42 pm

      There are, indeed, rumours of a possible movie that ‘may’ be based on Tale of the Body Thief. We can only hope.

  • Reply Devika Fernando March 16, 2013 at 4:48 am

    I”m so happy that you’ve included David in your character descriptions! *high five* After Lestat, he’s my favourite character in the Chronicles – something that most other Anne Rice fans never understood when I tried to explain it to them. Once again, you’ve caught his essence remarkably well, I think.
    In my opinion, he was all but predestined to be a vampire. And if there is anything like a “right” person for the Dark Gift, then it’s David. Gotta love him! He’s one of the reasons why “Tale of the Body Thief” ranks very high among my favourite books. Must’ve read it more than 10 times by now. 🙂

    • Reply Lafaeyette March 16, 2013 at 9:02 am

      Yeah, David can only have been predestined to be a vampire, because Lestat wanted him to be. And how many vampires across the globe are able to physically take on Lestat and stop him if he chooses to do something? David didn’t stand a chance. Those last few pages of Tale of the Body Thief are absolutely amazing. Gave me chills.

  • Reply Devika Fernando March 16, 2013 at 4:51 am

    Oh, forgot to mention something: Without getting into a rant how awful the QOTD movie was, I”ve never liked their choice for David either though the actor had quite some pose and charisma…

    • Reply Lafaeyette March 16, 2013 at 8:59 am

      I learnt to separate the movie and the book. That way (although it still grates to watch it) one can appreciate the shiny of the film and the actors chosen… Sigh… I lie to myself. It’s still horrible.

      • Reply Hook in Mouth May 17, 2014 at 10:35 pm

        That movie sucked so fucking bad.
        Ugh.
        I too have tried lying to myself but the fact is its horrible. If they felt the need to butcher it, they should never have done it.

        • Reply Carmen Dominique May 20, 2014 at 9:34 pm

          Yes… It is an affront to fiction, and the fans thereof.

          • Hook in Mouth May 23, 2014 at 11:45 am

            I would rather chew on nails than watch it again. Its my friends favourite movie- she never read the book. 🙂

  • Reply Kitty April 5, 2013 at 5:06 pm

    Ah! Why this is just marvelous. David is among my favorites, but then, I always fall for the “Smart” ones. My two favorites are ever David and Marius, with my cute fondnesses for Daniel and Louis. I’m thrilled you’ve done an expose on him, and did an appropriate fangirl-esque happy dance when I found it.
    David is something the passionate, impulsive and sometimes blinded and frozen vampires need. He’s sensible, he’s versed, and he has the life-knowledge not even Marius or Khayman in their frozen states has gotten. He’s able to be more at peace with himself and the world around him than any of the others can for that reason, the way I see it. Without someone like that, I’m fairly certain we’d have many more mental breakdowns among our favorite vampires than we do.
    And yet, while he’s given the curse of being “The sensible one,” Who normally leads the most boring existence in their story, David manages to, for that reason as you’ve written, live his adventures to a fuller extent. You’ve captured one of my favorites well and it was a delight to read.

    • Reply Lafaeyette April 5, 2013 at 5:22 pm

      Hi Kitty,

      I’m very grateful I could induce a fangirl happy-dance in you :). After all, I have them quite frequently myself.

      I do so love David as I love ALL of them! But I mostly appreciate their uniqueness, the fact that David is as different from Armand, or Louis, or Lestat as the sun is from the moon :).

    • Reply Devika Fernando May 4, 2013 at 2:49 pm

      I second every word in this. 🙂 He’s SUCH an enrichment to their world because of his long and party supernatural life full of experiences. And I fell in love with “him” (his character as he was far too old for my tastes first :p) right from the start.

    • Reply Hook in Mouth May 17, 2014 at 10:26 pm

      Sounded in books like Memnoch that he has forgotten a lot about being human.

      • Reply Carmen Dominique May 20, 2014 at 9:36 pm

        Oh, intriguing point. But yes, I can see why you say that. It is as if he threw himself into being a vampire as a slew against the shackles of his human life.

        • Reply Hook in Mouth May 23, 2014 at 8:24 am

          I think you’re right, but I was referring when David and Lestat were in elevator and Lestat said something about not being able to remember the taste of wine and it made David sad. I’m sure anyone that has experienced being elderly would be more than willing to break the shackles.

          Memnoch the Devil p.16 “Well that’s to be expected. As a vampire, you will remember everything that happens to you from now on bitterly, especially anything to do with the senses, you’ll find yourself chasing after it- what did wine taste like?”

  • Reply Heather F. February 4, 2014 at 4:49 am

    Uh, hehe I hate to be so nitpicky, but you seem as obsessed with the Chronicles as I am so I figured you’d want to make the correction. You described Lestat’s mortal age as 23, when it’s really 20. Otherwise your insights are wonderful to read and really get me thinking, and the quality of your writing is excellent. Thank you so much for this website, I had to bookmark it because there’s just so much to read I can’t do it all in a few hours!

  • Reply Carmen Dominique February 4, 2014 at 10:38 am

    Hi Heather, thanks for the clarification. Noted and corrected. And thank you for finding my webby and enjoying it 🙂

  • Reply Hook in Mouth May 17, 2014 at 10:24 pm

    http://www.vampirebibliographica.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/Rice_01_100.jpg

    Oh my gosh they guy on this cover is so cute!
    Looks like my friend Brad. The triangle of facial hair is so cute.

    • Reply Carmen Dominique May 20, 2014 at 9:37 pm

      😉 I like that cover as well.

      • Reply Hook in Mouth May 23, 2014 at 8:27 am

        I saw one cover of TVL and it had an artist depiction as Lestat but of an older looking man… BLASPHEMY! Not that I have anything against old men but don’t mess with Lestat.

  • Reply Hook in Mouth May 23, 2014 at 11:36 am

    “Immortality is just a burden to the old.” Why?

  • Leave a Reply