“The spotlight doesn’t just light them up. It makes us disappear.”
– Rock of Ages
This post does contain spoilers!
Literature is a double-edged sword. I would use the analogy of a coin, but, unlike common currency, literature can cut deep down to the bone of the reader, the writer, and even those only peripherally affected by the contents of a novel. In some ways, literature can fulfill, it can elevate and engage a reader to heights that generate feelings of honest joy, affection, devotion, and loyalty. Readers have been known to become so entrenched in written worlds, that they lose themselves, and spend hours imagining the very real, tangible existence of such a reality, in their own one.
Yes, I speak from experience. No, I am not ashamed to admit it. And I feel more than validated by the knowledge that I have known, and continue to know, a series of aquaintances who imagine similar sub-realities.
The sharper edge of this meaning-construction, is dark, and difficult to comprehend, especially for a reader entrenching him/herself into a reality that does not, has never, and will never, exist. Literature offers a series of words, strung together, to form images, suggestions, if you will, that readers then take the responibility for, by generating what they deem to be an appropriate imaginary response. If the writer describes a tree as reaching into the sky, the reader must assume that the tree is tall. Of course, the reader can then add the dimensions of how far into the sky the tree is reaching for himself. And, god forbid, that someone should come by and claim differently to how the individual then feels on the subject material.
“Prince Lestat” (as anyone reading this far well knows) is a tale, once again, winding around the exploits of the Brat Prince, as he delves into more trouble, and is, subsequently, rewarded for it. Of course, the man is a charismatic charmer, and, it is easily feasible to anyone paying attention that, his antics, are more endearing than dangerous (mostly), and, somehow, he always cleans up his own messes. In this particular instance, the mess is not entirely his own, however, the resolution, sees Lestat taking a crown, as the only one willing and able to lead the Tribe (so dubbed by Benji and his on-air antics).
As previous articles on the subject matter have revealed, much of the new novel can be read as analogous. Of course, most literature can be read so, but, it is interesting to see it in play in this particular story. Between the publication of Rice’s previous Chronicle, “Blood Canticle,” and this new installment, the author’s social media presence has grown to astounding numbers. Over a million people follow her on Facebook, and, that is not counting her extensive Twitter following. Bearing this in mind, Lestat is, now, a bigger celebrity, than he ever could have been rocking out with The Vampire Lestat on stage. And, readers, all over, who coveted the affection, and the voice, and the seductive flirtations he ranted out on paper, now, find themselves vying for his affection.
Primarily, Anne Rice herself can be centred in this love-affair. Lestat is her creation, her imagining, her child. He can pander to everyone, but, primarily, he will always be hers. With giving him a crown, responsibility, handing him out to “the people,” the listeners, the baby vampires in need of guidance, he has been… given away. The covetous nature of the relationship has been disbanded. Not just for Rice herself, but, for everyone, every reader, every lover that ever snuggled up to a book, alone, and read the words as if hearing his voice in their dark solitude for the first time.
“A singer can shatter glass with the proper high note,” he said, “but the simplest way to break glass is simply to drop it on the floor.”
– Anne Rice, The Vampire Lestat
Suddenly, voices everywhere, in text, on social media, generate opinions that, not every reader likens the image they have of Lestat, or his world, to.
And, the dissonace, can become deafening.
People arguing with fury and crude language over the exact, described appearance of a beloved character, and how this changes from one to another. Rabid fights break out with the same anonymity that a computer screen offers, and, some, quiet-minded victims, walk away hurt by the outrage.
More so, people, take on these personas. Whether this is to cement their views, to take authority out of the hands of those that argue, or to smooth over their loneliness, none can say but the individuals themselves. Quite inexplicably, there are vampires everywhere, supposedly ordinary people that resist argument by stating that they know best, as *they* were there, *they* experienced it, because they… are…! And what will ensue is a series of cryptic messages and hints and plot derivations, all intended to coax the reader into falling into the trap of a roleplayer.
Roleplaying is a common form of escapism; a very acceptable means of coping with harsh realities, and even harsher unrealities.
To clarify, this is NOT an attack on role-players. I, myself, have role-played for many years (please carefully read my opening words), and have both a deep respect and love for the art. Because that is what it is. Art. Anyone who claims differently, has never experienced the bliss of losing oneself in the mindful halls of another person, or another’s literary creation.
But, what about the soft souls that want to see their literary idols everywhere?
The characters ARE real. They do exist. On paper, and in the minds of readers, and in the pen and ink of their creator.
They may even exist by proxy in the words of fans emulating them.
But where does the line get drawn, between adulation, and susceptible gullibility? People can take any set of words, and twist and mold them to what they wish. Roleplayers, are the pinnacle of this behavioural pattern, studying characters and traits, with all the intensity of writers, and none of the subsequent responsibility inherint in caring for the tender hearts of readers.
There is a supreme violation of trust buried in the taking on of a personality that one does not own. It is a simple thing, and a supportable thing, to see why the author does not approve of fan fiction. Why copyrights prevent such uses. Readers enliven their mental images of a character with certain traits. When those traits are spurned for selfish reasons, readers can not only be hurt, but can also grow weary of the franchise.
This is a digression, of course. But, it bears commentary. How many quiet hearts have been broken by someone with an online tag-name that they share with a fan favourite?
Roleplaying aside, this article, in spite of its perpendicular turn into the philosophy of social media, has been written with a heavy heart.
I sense a loss of Lestat.
It is through no fault of the author, if anything, I sense that the omniscient voice has sensed it too, in her writing, and in her word choices.
Whether it is an imagined scene in which Lestat squeezes my hand one last time, and then steps out to meet the demands of his populace, or it is an intentional whisper, that, the reader must now accept the truth: Lestat was never hers. I sense a loss.
From as early on as becoming acutely aware of my own existence, Lestat has been there. In leaving, there is a hole, with ragged edges, and a dark centre, and nothing to repair it. Nothing, except, I hope, his much-desired return. I did not like feeling like a stranger. I often wonder, when thinking on this new plot unraveling, whether or not it is distance that has made me feel… detached.
Lestat was always a Prince. He never needed a crown, a title, a slew of vampires believing in him, to convince us of that. He is a Prince by merit of who he is, what he does, how he makes blood chant in the veins of readers.
There can be only one logical response, to this, and that will be his ultimate return, to the excitable, deeply human monster he has always been in his next iteration.
This beautiful quote, by the most heart-rending author herself, will more than some up the melancholy and love that this reviewer has felt, for a beloved literary companion:
“Lestat and I are dancing; slow dancing like kids did in the 50’s; he’s holding me and I’m leaning against him as we barely move on the dance floor. The bar’s dark and almost empty. Just the lights of the juke box in this corner. And this is my song for him, funky, old, pure — playing on the Juke Box. “Tonight you’re mine…completely.” Oh, how I’ve missed you. How I’ve longed for you. Oh, how much I love you.”
– Anne Rice