I started this thread last week and then had difficulty continuing, in spite of my ever-present willingness to talk about these novels. It’s been a tough week, personally and worldwide, and tougher still considering the circumstances and the dangers in the world and the never-ending horrifying news stories that come from world powers and little backwaters like my own country. As such, after a good week of moping and an unwillingness to communicate more than a word here or there, I decided to dig myself into my escapism and live in it until things improve or until I am in a position to fight for the good things. The good things aren’t always easy to see, and a lot of the time they tend to be hidden behind the big bad that stares at us from the ajar closet in the dark and terrorises us into sleepless nights and hours huddling in front of a night light. And that seems to be a fairly decent starting point for a book ostensibly about a villain that turns into the story of a towering hero and his centuries of accomplishments on a manic journey.
~What can I say? I have a soft spot for the bad boy and the anti-hero, and sometimes even the villain. In a world filled with James Potters, I tend to root for the Snapes~
“Villain” is another word for the Hero of a different story
I picked up Interview and Lestat in one shopping trip and it didn’t take me long into my reading of the former to be a little skeptical of the second book in the series and its somewhat ominous title considering Lestat’s list of sins in Louis’ P.O.V. But a few pages into Lestat I naturally struck a turning point and was astounded at the leap in appreciation, as well as the escape from the dreariness of Louis’ world where everything is bleak and empty, into Lestat’s where everything is something to be conquered, explored, vanquished, understood, defined, experienced… The list is endless. He does The Thing. He looks at it and determines how best to do it, how best to undo it, how best to counteract it and control it. Even when his aim is to abandon all control, he somehow dominates the thing and becomes the highlight of any page he happens to land on.
Lestat made the error of keeping a lot of himself to himself and not sharing his own story with Louis. This invited his fledgeling to fill in the blanks of what life with the manic and vicious Lestat was like and why in his own book that was meant to, in part, smear Lestat, and draw him out by casting lies into the water like rivulets of blood. It worked. And it forced Lestat to tell his own story, his own truth. It doesn’t take Lestat long to set the record straight and win over an audience that had all the potential in the world to hate him at the opening of his very own book.
As such, I try not to treat any fictional villain as a villain anymore. The Vampire Lestat proved that one man’s villain is another man’s hero, and Lestat is an enticing hero with a list of heroic deeds that more than outweigh his sins. Or so I like to think. Arguments are valid and will be heard. But I like my anti-heroes. Lestat is the Heathcliff in my universe; the hero that took more than one wrong turn on his journey towards finding himself, but his goal is still pure and untainted by whatever “evils” he has to face or endure, or in his case, commit. If I’ve learnt anything here, it is never to sell a character short by giving him a proverbial moustache that he can twirl while laughing maniacally and swooping into the darkness. Villains are not villains because they have nothing better to do. They have/had a story, and their goals, their dreams, simply differ from what the protagonist wants. Louis didn’t want to be a monster and he saw Lestat as the reason for his monstrosity. Antagonists are only compelling if they come from a place of humanity, rife with all its sinful behaviour and selfishness, to pollute the hero’s story with their own desires and subvert the hero’s aims.
Sometimes, Heroes Lie
Lestat is a do’er. He looks at life through the eyes of someone who is gluttonous, wanting more of everything, and stopping at nothing to get that sense of fulfilment. Louis is a thinker. He analyses everything until the existentialism eats him alive. It’s hard to see the rosy hues of life when the human mind is hard at work finding the bad in everything and dissecting it, only to discover a great lack of answers and an empty hole where there should be an end, or, at the very least, an explanation. It’s dark and twisted, the human mind is. The good things aren’t always easy to see. And maybe, sure, maybe Louis was feeling a little bit sorry for himself, empty, angry even, and he partly hated Lestat for bringing this side out in him. But, in all honesty, that side of him was always there. Lestat was just the catalyst that gave it voice. Louis was cursed with a thinking mind.
A question can be raised. Did he lie? Or did he ultimately believe what he put into words? Only the author knows, and, in the end, characters do what they want when pen is put to paper. It’s a flaw in the design. We want the characters to be real and magnetic, and they run away with the words, laughing and squealing with happiness that they won. If we try and wrestle them back into their prospective cages and steer the ship down the course we set it on, they win anyway because the story comes out false and insincere. I wholeheartedly believe that Louis was one of these runaway characters, and Lestat was most insulted when he was forced to play the villain in Louis’ nightmarish memories.
But, yes, I may have pinned for myself the trouble with being human (and to me, vampires are still human, they’re just, elevated, changed, whatever you want to call it, but they come from humanity and are trapped in the cycle of who they were when they died). Being human is a constant battle between the soul and the body. The body wants and needs things. The should dreams big dreams. But the dreaming part has an awful lot of time to think, and has to think while seeing bad revolve around the world like the sun’s ugly cousin. I think that this horrifying cyclical nightmare is what Louis found himself trapped in. If I think back to reading Interview with the Vampire I get shivers of disquiet. It was sorely painful, because being in Louis’ shoes was like seeing nothing but pain and suffering everywhere and being powerless to stop it, and, worst of all, perpetuating a lot of it and feeling powerless to stop that too…
“My subjects look at me with love.
And I love each of them.
They’re family. My family. My kin. My blood.
Whatever binds us, ripples through us all. We might not all be shadow, but we are all human. I remind myself every night. I am a man. I always will be.”
~ Raphael de Sangallo, Blood Amaranthine ~
I am rambling, let me stop. But I’ll leave it on this note:
I’ll debate forever until the tips of my fingers are raw from typing, that Lestat is a villain. He’s the greatest kind of hero. He’s the utterly human kind; riddled with insecurities that he masks with incessant bravado, ultimately bound to make one massive mistake after another, and, finally, he tries, to do the right thing, even if his nature drags him into the darkness every handful of decades. Humans write about human flaws because we write what we can relate to the best. And the same facets that make the human monster the most terrifying, make the human hero the most enticing. A hero built on flaws and fears that falls every damn time he tries to walk, but always gets up and keeps moving forward.
~Plus, The Vampire Lestat introduced Marius. What more could a reader ask for?~