Friday, March 23, 2012

Page 398

From The Vampire Lestat by Anne Rice:

"Somebody knew what the light had been like in the late afternoon on the day that Troy fell to the Greeks, and someone or something knew what the peasants said to each other in their little farmhouse outside Athens right before the Spartans brought down the walls."

That is my favorite line from a book. It isn't necessarily my favorite book...I don't think I have a favorite book...but this is my favorite line. I first read it 22 years ago. Something about that line stopped me, made me mark the page. I still have the same copy of The Vampire Lestat. It moved with me from North Carolina to New York and back twice. I have always been able to reach out for that particular book with the corner of page 398 folded down, and read that line. And it always strikes me the same way that it did when I was 17.

"Somebody knew what the light had been like in the late afternoon on the day that Troy fell to the Greeks"

Somebody did, indeed, and perhaps, in our subconscious memory, it is all of us who ever watched dust drifting in a sunbeam on an afternoon, that sunbeam slanting in through a window, filled with the dust of books and cat dander and shed human skin cells. The dust in the light of the late afternoon in Troy that day was probably comprised of dirt floor and threads of linen robes and perhaps, perhaps, in the case of Marius, the narrator, the pages of the book in which he fanatically recorded the history of the world as he saw it.

The history of the world as every single one of us sees it is nothing more, and nothing less, than the fantastic, sunlit bits of what we leave behind, illuminated for a moment in a sunbeam.

Consider all the skin cells that you shed in a day. Consider your pets, your clothing, what you track in from the yard...consider your books.

Tomorrow, go to a window that admits the afternoon light, and see what exists there, in a sunbeam. Consider the fact that, if you live in a house that was ever inhabited by someone other than yourself and your family, you could be watching bits of them drifting in the sun.

Consider the fact that in the late afternoon on the day that Troy fell to the Greeks someone your age, your sex, your race was idly mesmerized by the dust in a sunbeam, just before their life fell to shit.

I grew up with the dead, in a house where my ancestors lived and died. We looked out the same antique, wavery window glass and saw the sun at the same angle, and dust in it. I read Marius's words from Anne Rice's fingers and I saw that sunbeam, that same sunbeam that slants across every great and minor event of every generation that has ever walked the earth and I determined to write books that brought that dusty beam of light into the life of every one of my readers.

And, like Marius, and Lestat, and so many of Anne Rice's other characters, my characters remember that sunbeam only faintly, only dimly, because they exist now in a world of total darkness.


  1. This was a great collection of thoughts. I enjoy going to someplace very old and imaging what people passed through there before me, wondering what the future would bring. I'm the future and soon I will be the past, and that is the way of all things.

  2. You are an old soul. You described the way I feel every day for living in England is living with the past. I live in a part of North London, where a village has existed for the past 300 years, parts of it, still retain a sense of the 19th century. Samuel Taylor Coleridge, and Dickens, both walked around here, so I know exactly what you are referring to. I wonder daily, who lived where I live now. Who walked along these roads and what they did. It's impossible not to think of the past in England. It's everywhere...

  3. Thank you both for your kind comments! Alannah, I would love to visit England one day.