Recently, Anne Rice announced that she was returning to her most iconic character, the vampire Lestat, with the Oct. 28 publication of “Prince Lestat,” which thrilled me no end.
“Prince Lestat” would immediately follow the events of “The Queen of the Damned,” the third, and I think, the most sensuous book in “The Vampire Chronicles.” It is for me also the most homoerotic of the series, although I think Rice would say these books are instead vampire-erotic since her vampires cannot have sex. Whatever. The point is that in Rice’s work, bloodlust is a metaphor for lust, just as the relationship of the fun-loving Lestat and the depressive (and at times depressing) Louis – as well as that of Daniel, the interviewer in “Interview With the Vampire,” and the vampire Armand – is a metaphor for a gay relationship.
Looking back on it, I realize that these books – along with her thoroughly researched “Cry to Heaven,” about the castrati in Venice; Laurell K. Hamilton’s “Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter” novels; Mary Renault’s Alexander the Great trilogy; and Greek mythology in general – paved the way for my own foray into homoeroticism with “The Games Men Play” series. What Rice, Renault, Hamilton, Patricia Highsmith (“The Talented Mr. Ripley,” “Strangers on a Train”) and Annie Proulx (“Brokeback Mountain”) have demonstrated is that women writers can viably explore men’s emotional and sexual lives with one another.
Critics will tell you that Lestat’s relationship with Louis and their “daughter” – the doomed child vampire Claudia – was Rice’s way of working out her own relationship with her husband, the late poet Stan Rice, and their grief over the loss of their daughter, Michele – called Claudia, after the actress Claudia Cardinale – from childhood leukemia. Indeed, I’ve always thought Lestat and Louis represented two very different approaches to life. Louis is like the person who says, “I have cancer, I have cancer, I have cancer.” Lestat is the person who says, “I have cancer, and I’m going out dancing tonight.” No wonder Rice fell in love with Lestat and made him the driving force in “The Vampire Chronicles.” Louis would’ve stopped the series dead in its tracks, no pun intended. And yet, Lestat loves him.
I don’t buy all the criticism that says that the landscape of vampire lit has been altered forever by the “Twilight” series. I think Lestat’s yearnings are made all the more romantic by his inability to fulfill them.
And I don’t get those who separate “The Vampire Chronicles” from Rice’s Christian books. For me, “The Vampire Chronicles” have always been about existentialism and God, just as it has been important for me to create characters who have a strong sexuality and a strong spirituality.
At one point, the four main characters in my novel “Water Music” – the first book in my series – visit a church during their vacation, and one of them, Daniel, asks another, Alex, if they’re not hypocrites.
“God is love, my friend,” Alex tells Daniel, “or at least he ought to be.”