Sunday, July 15, 2012
Re-reading Rosemary's Baby
Last Friday, the book was Ira Levin's horror classic, Rosemary's Baby. Oh, the memories mention of that book brought back!
I was a weird kid. I read Rosemary's Baby when it first came out. I was nine years old. My eyeballs were probably scorched by the demonic goings-on in Mr. Levin's mid-1960s New York City and his Dakota-like Bramford apartment building, which was filled with sinister plots and people.
I don't quite know why I was allowed to read such a book at such a young age. But even then, I read voraciously, so much so that my parents would wonder, "Why don't you go outside and play instead of sitting in here with your nose in a book?" all summer long. They probably tired of keeping tabs on my reading material.
Anyway, I am sure Levin's groundbreaking horror novel had an impact on me and my writing frame of reference, which, even then, was beginning to form. I'm glad I read it.
Later on, in 4th grade, my friend Michael Taylor and I wandered one Saturday to our small Ohio burg's downtown to see the newly-released film version of the novel. I couldn't wait and Michael was just along for the ride, with a brown paper bag full of popcorn his naive mother had popped for him. Much to our dismay, we didn't get in. A dour-faced ticket taker sat in her glass booth, with a hand-lettered sign above her head, saying something to the effect that minors would not be admitted.
Didn't they know I had read the book at age nine?
We found something else to do that day.
I have since seen Roman Polanski's amazing film adaptation many, many times and I even own it on disc. It's one of my favorite movies of all time.
But re-reading Rosemary's Baby right now, I can really appreciate the reverence Polanski had for the source material. It's almost jaw-dropping now to see how closely Polanski aligned his film with the novel. Same dialogue, same pace, same sequencing. It's as though he truly brought the book to life--just the way the author intended.
I had wondered, when I bought the book, if it wouldn't hold up to my older and much more jaded literary tastes. I was in for a pleasant surprise. Levin's prose is clean, powerful, and without a wasted word. His story immerses you in his world effortlessly and carries you along so that you are lifted out of words on a page (or a screen) and wholly in his universe. That's artistry. And it's a real classic when it holds up so well so many years later (going on 50!).
Of course, the same can be said for Polanski's film, which is also a classic.