'Merrick': So Bewitched, Why, He Feels Almost Human

 by Janet Maslin ("New York Times", October 26, 2000)


We must speak of the elegant undead and of the woman, the one, she who has told the tales of what the beautiful vampires see and wear and do. Sixteen times the woman has brought forth these stories, and now it is 17 on account of "Merrick," the latest to be "penned," to use the word that is her own.
Her powers have served her mightily, so mightily that the stories now grow weary, but still she tells them, still she continues, on and on. How well she knows that some things never die.
Now she tells of beautiful Merrick, the young one who is tied to the white Mayfair witches in ways that must be made plain by the 16 other stories, though not by this one, since much of it is not plain to the stranger and since that family is not now our concern. It is the "voodooiennes" of Merrick's other family who are more present, the ones who gave her exquisite café au lait coloring and strange apparitions and the kind of memories that may be summoned with the help of a bubbling caldron and a boa constrictor and a wealth of votive candles at the altar.
Merrick is of that world and she is also of another, a world in which she collects Rolls-Royces and drinks much costly rum and lives in the finest hotel suite in New Orleans and is so often said to love the "particularly wonderful scent" of Chanel No. 22 perfume that perhaps the one, the woman, the teller of vampire stories, loves it too. The paranormal is not necessarily beyond earthly privilege.
It is David Talbot, he who died as an old man in Miami and now inhabits a fine new 6-foot-4-inch Anglo- Indian body, having moved on in the manner of the hermit crab, as a consequence of "an ill-fated experiment with astral projection," who speaks in "Merrick" of the events that unfold. And it is he who shares living quarters with the Vampire Lestat, who sleeps in a trance in the manner of an ideal roommate, and with Louis de Pointe du Lac, who was once made to resemble the earthly creature named Brad Pitt on the movie screen, and who is still said here to be "a vision of male perfection." Because David Talbot is a member of the Talamasca, the secret society that oversees undead affairs, and that has also taken charge of beautifully decorating Merrick's girlhood bedroom, David does not see the potential in the household of three undead bachelors for television situation comedy.
There is much to be remembered and retold about bygone stories before the slender tale of Merrick can begin. And she, the one who writes, will not be hurried in her task. She invites David to say, "I had done her evil, I knew it, and it was exciting, and I needed her, and I was selfish, and I missed her, and it was as plain as that" when it is not plain at all, and it is certainly not swift. In speaking of the everyday use of nonoccult powers in the home, David explains: "Entering the flat, I turned on all the electric lights in every room, a detail which was our custom by this time, and one upon which I depended heavily for some sense of normality, no matter that it was a mere illusion, but then, perhaps normality is always an illusion. Who am I to say?"
When at last the lights do go on in "Merrick," and the story rises from its bed of flashbacks to lumber forward, there are spells to be cast. This is because Louis would like David to ask Merrick to summon Claudia, the young girl who was loved by Louis and who died and who it seems has spent her time in limbo studying "The Exorcist" in case she should return home. There is another spell that brings forth spirits of Merrick's lost relatives through the use of a voodoo mask, one that is obtained through a trip to a strange and exotic place in the Guatemalan jungle where the hidden jade artifacts are like those found in museums. Only better.
Finally comes the vampirical exchange of vital bodily fluids, though these matters are by now ancient and halfhearted, even if the words of the teller continue to bring about some confusion about the real nature of these activities. "Harder, more of it, take it, take all that I have to give," says an undead blood donor, reminding us of the wicked early books that came from her, the woman, "Exit to Eden" and the several others she gave to the world under names that were not her own.
Among the bewitched are editors, those meant to know the ancient laws of reason and the dark secrets of grammatical construction. None questioned "What mysteries we are, human, vampire, mortal, that we can love and hate simultaneously, and that emotions of all sorts might not parade for what they are not." None would challenge "He was very startled when I laid down this part of the story, but wouldn't have me pause just yet but encouraged me to go on." None wondered what was amiss "as the sky grew ever more lighter." But those are the labors of mortals. What mortals would dare?

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