Thursday, February 19, 2009

An evening with Anne Rice

I'm taking a bit of breather today after a busy two-day stretch of poly meetings. Every other month my two poly meetings fall on the same week, so on Tuesday I went to my women's poly group and Wednesday I had my co-ed PolyNYC meeting at the LGBT Center.

While I was waiting for the PolyNYC meeting last night, I went upstairs to browse the used book sale and found that someone had given away their entire collection of hardcover Anne Rice books, about a dozen books altogether. I picked up a copy of her seminal novel, Interview with the Vampire, for one dollar. The dust jacket is missing, but otherwise it's in pristine order. This is the third time I've bought this book, and that's an interesting story.

My first exposure to Anne Rice was through one of those book clubs that sends you new books every month unless you tell them not to, and I received a copy of The Vampire Lestat (the second in The Vampire Chronicles). I didn't read it right away, and it sat in my collection for a long time before I actually got interested in the author.

A friend in college named Lara Schultz (one of two redheads in my life from that time period) took me to a book reading at Rice University in Houston where Ms. Rice was a featured guest. I think she was promoting the upcoming Queen of the Damned, the third novel in the series. But since she hadn't quite gotten hit her popularity wave among the goth and gay crowds, or maybe because it was an ill-publicized event, the attendance was very manageable, unlike any of her appearances today. There wasn't even a line at the authors table, so I purchased a paperback copy of Interview and brought it to her to sign, and chatted with her for a while.

Later I loaned that copy of the book to a friend named Michelle Gardner (my predecessor as opinion editor at the college newspaper) who then graduated and skipped town without returning it. I later bought a hardcover edition that I lost in the fire of 2005, but ever since losing my signed copy more than 20 years ago, I've been extremely reluctant to loan books out, as you might imagine. I can probably count on one hand the number of books I've loaned to people in that time period, although important people like my ex (who I lived with and therefore merged book collections) and Tara (who has the same rule) don't factor into that. This year Penny has proven herself trustworthy enough to break that rule, as she has nearly as much reverence for books as I do, although no one can possibly compare with Tara in that respect.

Even though I don't read Ms. Rice's stuff anymore, it's nice having a copy of this first influential book in my collection, since it's the wellspring for a lot of the stories I've been reading lately - The Twilight Saga, Anita Blake Vampire Hunter and the Sookie Stackhouse series, plus I'm watching Joss Whedon's "vampire with a soul" TV series Angel on DVD. What Rice did in 1976 was take the Bram Stoker model and inject a modern and seductive homoerotic element, plus introduce or embellish concepts like "good" vampires, child vampires, the Old World vampire in modern day angle and the first-person narrative to the classic horror story. Even if that woman can never finish a story, her contribution to the vampire mythos will never be discounted.