BLACKWOOD FARM CHAPTER TWENTY TWO
On the first page, Quinn tells us how "that night I connected with Nash as I have connected with few people in my life, and we forged a bond which lasted for my mortal lifetime and beyond it. He sat up with me for hours, comforting me as I poured out my soul."
Quinn tells us he told Nash everything---his panic after Lynelle died, the mysterious stranger, the changes with Goblin, seeing spirits, things he wants to say to Mona, and the sex he's had with Goblin, Rebecca, and Jasmine. We're told Nash is respectful and gentle and compassionate the whole time.
Told. Not shown. It's just summarized.
Now, on the one hand, Quinn just summarizing like this makes a lot more sense when one recalls, as I've been pointing out every time things get lengthy, that he's recalling this to Lestat aloud. That's absolutely realistic. The problem is that summarizing it not only fails to convey the depth of the bond that Rice wants, it's also incongruous with how Quinn has dragged everything else out. If we're forced to suffer blow-by-blow lines of much less important conversations, why is the foundation of this relationship, which we clearly know is going to be important since Quinn says it goes beyond when he was turned into the vampire he is now, glossed over?
I think because Anne Rice wants this dynamic, but doesn't want to do the work of building of it. It's the same reason she does so many "instant connections" just like how LKH has Anita Blake instantly gain supposedly in-depth emotional connections to her new lovers via magic. They both want a shortcut, but there is no shortcut to chemistry. Now, Quinn and Nash may have great chemistry in the later parts of the novel, and that won't be invalidated by a invalidated by the fact the foundation was neglected, but it won't change it either. Really, I think if you want to write the dynamic as it is currently but not how it began, a better way would be to show the dynamic as it is first, then have the "oh this is how it happened" story come later. I think in that scenario, just summarizing instead of truly writing it out works fine. I can't quite articulate why that is though.
Which I think is another reason that the "telling a story to Lestat" format just is NOT a good choice for this story. Because you end up having to just summarize, you can't take the "show the foundation organically" or the "show the dynamic as it is now, and recount the foundation later" options. And because of that choice, summarizing it actually would not have stuck out so much to me...if not for the fact she/Quinn drags on and on about so much else. Like how detailed did the sex scene with Rebecca actually need to be, for instance? How line-by-line his conversations with people recounted? Hell, even the beautiful descriptions of the swamp--ancient cypress and wild blackberries and sickly blue-gum saplings---technically do not fit in this framing device and really should have been summarized to suit it...which, again, is why this format does not work, because those are beautiful descriptions and suit the Gothic style perfectly, and would be a shame to cut. I don't want them cut. I want this book written in the framing device it requires, is all, and "telling a story to someone" is not one that works for what Anne Rice wants to write, nor what she's good at writing. I think she wanted this to be another Interview, maybe, given that it was her most famous success, but it's not the framing device that made that a good story (or that it's a whiny rich boy in the south who become a vampire by Lestat, for that matter)
Quinn tells us how compassionate Nash is, and that he's compassionate because Quinn is young, though we're not told if Nash said this or if Quinn is just guessing. They talk all night till dawn and Quinn says he'll never forget him listening and that he loves him. I find it hard to take Quinn's proclamations of love seriously when he's literally just met them, but I think they're meant to be for real. In response Nash talks about Quinn is a "battered soul" and "probably better for it" and god I don't even know where the start with that. He says how honored he is to be Quinn's teacher "but you don't know me yet, and you may come to change your mind about me when certain things become clear."
...I wish I could be interested in this but there's really too much going on at this point for me to care about this suddenly being dumped in so blatantly. His dark secret is probably he's gay or something, and he and Quinn will make out. That's my prediction.
Quinn assures him that "Nothing will ever change this love" and since Quinn has already told us that their bond lasts even into his vampirehood, we know for almost certain that this is correct (though it is possible they have a falling out after Quinn's turning that he hasn't mentioned left)
Nash reminds him he needs to go in and get dressed because his grandfather's will is being read. It is also mentioned that the bathroom has been repaired to perfection.
There's a lot of really good word usage on this page. Anne Rice uses some really lovely words for common things, without it turning into purple prose like it sometimes does. For some examples:
"drinking coffee like fuel, though I laced mine with luscious amounts of cream and sugar"
"We were under the big oak when the dawn came with its soft silent and shimmering light"
"Feeling lightheaded and like a conquistador of emotions"
And then we get these lovely words when Quinn gets into the limo: "Patsy, who looked like deliberate and absolute trash in her red leather clothes"
Quinn describes the furniture in the legal office, the lawyer's name and age, and how he offers them coffee and soft drinks, and I'd like to remind everyone again this is meant to be a story he's telling aloud to Lestat over the space of the night. I am betting if this was an audiobook, we would be well over the twelve hour mark by now.
Since Patsy had been upset by her trust fund, Quinn says everyone is silently expecting a repeat performance, but what happens instead is that great-grandfather Gravier left a trust to Pops that was bound to go to his only child, which is Patsy, and it's "in the double digit millions" and "Patsy positively screamed with astonished laughter." In other words, "Pops had disinherited Patsy, but it made no difference because he couldn't stop Grandpa Gravier's trust from going to her"
Well, good for her. Glad she got something out of this shitty family.
If you're interested, Jasmine and her family members each got one hundred thousand dollars each, which makes them cry with joy at "the marvel of it" because we need the grateful black staff gushing at white generosity, and Aunt Queen gets an "enormous" amount which is to go to Quinn when she dies, and Quinn himself gets a "dizzying amount of money".
Patsy is super duper happy. Quinn admits he even feels happy for her. She hugs Aunt Queen, who says Patsy can use the money to buy new clothes. Wooow, Rice really has that Old Southern Lady Polite Burn down pat, I truly I have to give her that. Patsy is not put out, however, as she says she intends to do just that (again, good for her) and leaves. Quinn receives two credit cards, which we are informed each have a line credit of a hundred thousand, and a checkbook for a checking account with a rolling balance of twenty thousand dollars a month, and a money market account into which eighty thousand dollars is going to be deposted.
Thanks for meticulously telling us how rich Quinn is, Rice. And I'm sure Lestat thinks Quinn is ever so classy for telling him this so specifically at length as well.
...yeah, I can low-key Southern lady insult too.
There's like a page more of stuff about the household trust and specifics about how the Blackwood Manor can't be divided or pulled down and what can/can't be done with it, because Lestat and the reader totally care, and we finally find out Quinn is the new owner of Blackwood Farm—all buildings, all land. Aunt Queen has the right to live at the property. Patsy does not.
He decides just not to tell her and figures it's not like she'll be around much anyway. Quinn then informs us of all these places the Blackwood money is coming from, namely investments from railroads, precious metals and gems, worldwide banking, shipping, he makes a big list. I guess Rice did think it through, I'll give her that, but I just...it really feels like more of Rice obsessing over how rich her protagonist is, yet more pointless padding, and more “it's so weird to think he's telling Lestat all this not to mention uncouth to talk about money if he's really as proper as he's supposed to be.” And it turns out their holdings are all managed by the Mayfair & Mayfair law firm which handles “only a handful of very select private fortunes” and it is impossible to solicit their services today (Manfred made the original deal with them in the 1800s) but they're also the super duper best at it of course, because whether it's Mayfair Medical or this, the Mayfairs are just the best at everything while also being a family of weird incestuous witches I guess.
I've mentioned this, but I'll mention it again---you may not know this if you don't read a lot of Rice but Rice just seems to have an obsession with wealth and wealthy people and expensive things they own, and while I get that aspect of escapism because I enjoy it too, and do enjoy the opportunity to read her descriptions of luxurious surroundings, and decadence is a big part of Gothic prose and vampire fiction, she just so often gets bogged down in a very...tacky emphasizing of how rich these people are, that it goes from seeming decadent to obnoxious. Like the difference between velvet curtains and lace cuffs and some guy talking really loudly on his new phone so you know he has one. I think it's because she seems to enjoy writing about the technical details of wealth, as you can see here, and it ends up sapping the romance out of items/surroundings/etc the wealth affords, and of all the things I thought I'd ever critize Anne Rice for, sapping the romance out of something isn't one. I think it's also because a key part of decadence, especially in Gothic fiction, and in Southern Gothic most of all, is the aspect of decay. One of the most major themes of Southern Gothic is something that was great once—a manor, a family, etc---is now in shambles, and you can see the shadow of its former self being still grasped at, but it's slipping away. The aesthetic is a run-down great house, an overgrown swamp or garden, not a sleek limo and endless cash. I'm not saying she's not allowed to do this because she writes Gothic fiction, that you can never break the rules of the genre, but I am saying it gives a very different feeling and also I think she's actually best at more traditional Gothic tropes. But for some reason she likes to do stuff like in The Wolf Gift when the protagonist had to constantly name-drop brands of all the modern hi-tech toys he has.
It's not just that it's sort of the anti-thesis of a traditional Gothic way of doing things (which, actually, I think could be totally well-done if done differently) it's just that it's done in a way that feels like someone listing to me what brand names their outfit is (which Quinn actually did, remember) and what each one cost. I'm not impressed or entranced, I don't find it romantic or interesting, I'm just kinda judging them. I do like the realism of explaining how the Blackwoods have the wealth that they do, but the execution of how we're informed of this via Quinn listing it to Lestat by recounting it as part of a story really does not work for me, for the same reasons I've mentioned about this framing device not working for multiple other things. It would work so much better if this was all, from, say, Quinn's internal narrative as it's ACTUALLY HAPPENING versus something he relays to someone else.
Also, obligatory reminder of Rice's classism, which I think is very definitely tied to this. And as an ironic note, the decaying family manors of fine rich families that have run out of money in Southern Gothic novels are used to represent the way rich or formerly rich Southerners cling to the antebellum past and the real or imagined glory they believe they once had. Or rather, WHITE Southerners. It's symbolic of how they can't let go of it, which believe me is a VERY real and disturbing sentiment down here to this very day. I say "ironically" because while traditional Southern Gothic writers are criticizing it, Rice instead seems to have a case of it herself, given the setup she's got with Blackwood Farm and the happy black servants who work for free because they just want to even though they don't even get to sleep in the house proper.
Speaking of the black staff, they are asked to excuse themselves so that the lawyer can reveal something to Quinn and Aunt Queen that Pops confided to him. AQ asks Jasmine to stay and "moved closer to me to protect me from what was coming." What's coming is it turns out Pops had an illegitimate child.
Lawyer: "Now you may or may not know there is a young lady in the backwoods, name of Terry Sue, who has about five or six children. Probably six children."
AQ: "Who on Earth hasn't heard of Terry Sue? I'm ashamed to say every Shed Man on the property knows Terry Sue. She just had another baby---didn't she? Yes I believe she did."
Lawyer: "Well, yes she did. And it's a well-known fact that Terry Sue is one beautiful young woman, and a young woman who likes to have babies. But it's not the new baby that I want to discuss now. It seems that Terry Sue had a child by Pops about nine years ago."
Quinn: "That's impossible! He would never have been unfaithful to Sweetheart!"
Lawyer: "It wasn't a thing he was proud of, Quinn. Indeed, he was not proud of it, and he was deeply concerned that the rumors of it would never disturb his family."
Quinn: "I don't believe it."
Lawyer: "DNA has proved it, Quinn. And Terry Sue of course has always known it, and out of affection for Sweetheart, for whom Terry Sue did baking you know--"
Quinn: "Those big Virginia hams. She'd soak them and scrub them and bake them."
AQ: "What tenderness. Seems she soaked and scrubbed something else too."
Aunt Queen? More like QUEEN OF SHADE.
Anyway, lawyer guy (his name is Grady but I'mma keep calling him lawyer guy since I don't think he's gonna be important) tells us that Pops brought Terry Sue $500 a week and Terry Sue uses it to send the boy, who she's trying to bring up right, to a good Catholic school. Aunt Queen says they will continue to do this and asks to see the child. The lawyer encourages them to do so, saying his name is Tommy and he's very handsome and bright like Quinn. He also suggests even though "Pops never would" to give the other children money too, to equalize things, and that if they bring toys or games for Tommy, to bring them for the others as well. AQ says of course, and asks for a written report of the family's size, to which lawyer guy says he can't put anything in writing about this and begins talking about how they're a family of six and the new boyfriend is "pure trailer trash" and the family lives in a trailer themselves too and there are even RUSTING CARS nearby oh the horror! He literally compares it to a "motion picture set" Someone get this man a fainting couch!
I don't necessarily find this evidence of Rice's classism, by the way, I think this is a stuffy old Southern man acting exactly like I'd expect---of course he judges the poor woman and not the rich man. That's exactly what he probably should be doing in terms of realism. Though in terms of meta, I do think that of course Rice had to make it so if Pops was unfaithful, it just had to be a "trailer trash whore" stereotype who has a billion babies with a billion men, a ready-make cultural setup to judge and dislike, because that way readers are less inclined to judge Pops. Maybe judge his taste, but the real whore here is, of course, Terry Sue. Not like if he had a nice young lady for a mistress, then he'd be the bad guy here, because you couldn't say she'd just seduced him and spread her legs and all the usual. I will be very surprised if Terry Sue ends up not being a very unpleasant character. But not as surprised as I'd be if LKH were writing this. Unlike LKH, Rice's misogyny and other biases actually do NOT always prevent her from giving characters like Terry Sue some depth and empathy. I think she's genuinely trying that with Rebecca even, despite how much I've criticized her portrayal. So we may also get a more nuanced Terry Sue than just "hot town whore"; the mention she's trying to raise the boy "right" gives me hope for that. Don't let me down, Rice
It's not that I think every single character, or every single woman, needs to be super duper nuanced and understandable, especially from a first-person POV where bias should be the case, but just given Rice's attitudes (remember the Latina victims from earlier in the book?) I tend to expect a certain...nastiness around certain things, if you get my drift.
Speaking of, this explains a LOT about how Pops he treated Patsy. He was ashamed because he had done the same damn thing. Though then again since the boy is only half Quinn's age, he's probably been treating Patsy like shit for being a "slut" a lot longer.
AQ asks if the boy knows, the lawyer isn't sure. AQ says the least she can do is buy Terry Sue a decent house because it's “six children living in one trailer. Good Lord, and she's so beautiful too.”
...what does that have to do with it? Is it okay for her and her kids to live like that if she's ugly?
Quinn asks why he's never heard of this woman, and everyone laughs, Jasmine explaining that they would have “double trouble” if he did because “men just fall flat at the feet of Terry Sue.” AQ, ever the sass queen, adds that "something else stands up straight in those instances" omigod Aunt Queen how risque
My advice to Terry Sue is to start milking those men for money. Especially since the lawyer then confides to them that the latest boyfriend sometimes takes out his gun and waves it at the children, and that recently he threw little Tommy against the heater and burned his hand pretty badly. AQ is shocked that Pops never did anything about this, the lawyer explains that Pops "tried to be an influence out there, but when you're dealing with the likes of Terry Sue, it's pretty much hopeless. Now she herself would never raise her hand to those children, but then these men come in and she has to put food on the table."
So she is milking them for money, hence why they get to hurt the kids. Okay. This is interesting. This is more complicated than "well she's just a slut who doesn't give a shit about her kids" this is her having to choose between her children being hurt versus her children starving. She's definitely being a shitty parent here but in a much more nuanced way than I expected, and I'm looking forward to meeting her.
AQ asks not to be told more and says she has to go home and think about it. Quinn thinks about how rich Pops had really been all along even while he'd had all those fights with Patsy about money, how she had "begged and cursed and fought for every dime" even though he could have bought her the whole damn band "and what did he do, this man whom I had so loved? What did he do with his powerful resources? He spent his days working on Blackwood Farm like a hired hand and planted flower beds."
Okay, much as like Patsy and dislike Pops, I can't be on Quinn's side here. Pops is not obligated to give her any money. She's an adult. Maybe if it were survival money, yes, but not "start/fund a band" money. That said, I don't begrudge Quinn for thinking this. Quinn can be wrong! And I'm honestly impressed at his being on Patsy's side here, and his surprising sympathy for her. And speaking of "Quinn can be wrong" I do love the little bit of snobbery there at his being appalled that Pops, despite being rich, might still want to do yardwork like a "hired hand". That's wrong too, yes, but it fits his character.
"And then there was this child, this little boy, Tommy, no less, named after Pops, living on a pittance in the backwoods, with a passel of brothers and sisters in the backwoods, a little boy with a psychotic stepfather."
Ableist slurs aside, this is a good enough point too. I'm not sure if $500 a week is a pittance but then I'm not raising a kid, but it does seem Pops was aware that some of Terry Sue's boyfriends were abusive and didn't intervene, at least that's the impression I got, and Quinn seems to have as well. So this is adding some depth to Pops, knocking him off the pedestal a bit, and I'm hoping that happens for more characters down the line.
But then Quinn immediately boomerangs to thinking "who was I to judge Pops" after Pops has just left him so much money, but then he thinks that maybe "Patsy's character had perhaps been shaped by her lifelong struggle against a man who did not believe in her."
Okay, we're definitely getting some evolution here, or at least the potential for it. Like I said, Rice can do this. She can. She doesn't always. But she can. And I hope this continues.
As they leave to go meet Nash for lunch, Goblin puts his arm around Quinn and says "It's changing, Quinn" to which Quinn replies "No old buddy, it can't change" but admits "I knew he was right."