Sunday, October 17, 2004

Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice

Another audiobook. I’m really starting to like this audiobook thing. When I finish one I can’t wait to get to the library and get another one. This one was okay. I liked it well enough but not to the level of some others. Maybe it’s because I’m listening to it instead of reading it, but I really got hooked into the gimmick of the book, that it is the story of the Vampire, told by the Vampire himself, as he is being interviewed by the Boy. Hyperaware of this construct, I found myself disbelieving a lot of the story because it was told with too much detail, told as if it was currently happening rather than as a recollection of something that happened 200 years ago. And then there was the necessity to keep reminding me that it was an interview by interrupting the narrative for an unnecessary exchange between the Vampire and the Boy. Interruptions that continued until about halfway through the book when they stopped altogether, perhaps because Rice had realized how disruptive they were. But don’t worry, the Boy comes back at the very end, after listening to everything the Vampire has told him, everything about a vampire’s cursed existence, and lo and behold, now the Boy wants to be a vampire, too. Thankfully, the Vampire does not oblige him, and the book ends with the Boy using his tape recording of the interview to figure out where the vampire who made the Vampire lives, and he goes off to find him.

One thing I did like about the book was the way a vampire who was created in one century had a difficult time dealing with the mortal reality of another, so much so that vampires rarely lived for more than a few centuries before taking their own lives. Makes them more fragile than anyone would expect. They are the masters of any single mortal life, but string those mortal lives together into the inevitable progress of centuries, and the vampire is little more than a frightened and senile creature, unable to make any sense out of the world that surrounds them.

I was also disappointed that the question of the afterlife was not explored in greater detail. It was alluded to a few times. What was the relationship, if any, of the immortal vampire to God and the devil? Louis wanted to find out, but he never did and neither do we. Maybe I shouldn’t fault Rice for teasing and then avoiding the subject. Perhaps I’m the only one who likes writing books about questions that can’t be answered.

Saturday, October 2, 2004

The Collected Poems of Emily Dickinson

I enjoyed this a lot less than I thought I would. I remember thinking Dickinson was really cool after being exposed to her in high school, but now having read her poems—all of her poems as near as I can tell—I am much less impressed. I think it might be poetry itself I have a hard time dealing with. I’ve never been much of a fan, and my eyes just seem to dance over those carefully selected words, the lines and thoughts always broken in a way that challenges my understanding. I’ll definitely stick with prose, thank you.

Despite these impressions, here are some of Dickinson's poems that seemed to stand out.

Life XI
Much madness is divinest sense
To a discerning eye;
Much sense the starkest madness.
It is the majority
In this, as all, prevails.
Assent, and you are sane;
Demur—you’re straightway dangerous,
And handled with a chain.

Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune without the words,
And never stops at all,
And sweetest in the gale is heard;
And sore must be the storm
That could abash the little bird
That kept so many warm.
I’ve heard it in the chillest land,
And on the strangest sea;
Yet, never, in extremity,
It asked a crumb of me.

For each ecstatic instant
We must an anguish pay
In keen and quivering ratio
To the ecstasy.
For each beloved hour
Sharp pittances of years,
Bitter contested farthings
And coffers heaped with tears.

There is no frigate like a book
To take us lands away,
Nor any coursers like a page
Of prancing poetry.
This traverse may the poorest take
Without oppress of toll;
How frugal is the chariot
That bears a human soul!

Life CVI
I felt a cleavage in my mind
As if my brain had split;
I tried to match it, seam by seam,
But could not make them fit.
The thought behind I strove to join
Unto the thought before,
But sequence raveled out of reach
Like balls upon a floor.

Time and Eternity LXXXIII
This world is not conclusion;
A sequel stands beyond,
Invisible, as music,
But positive, as sound.
It beckons and it baffles;
Philosophies don’t know,
And through a riddle, at the last,
Sagacity must go.
To guess it puzzles scholars;
To gain it, men have shown
Contempt of generations,
And crucifixion known.

The Single Hound I
Adventure most unto itself
The Soul condemned to be;
Attended by a Single Hound—
Its own Identity.