Sunday, July 15, 2012

Re-reading Rosemary's Baby

I am signed up for Kindle Daily Deals. Every day, Amazon sends me news of a different book, drastically discounted (usually $1.99 or $2.99). This gets me into way too much trouble, because these are usually really good books.

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.
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  1. I keep meaning to read this. Thanks for giving me a nudge!

    Polanski's film is, I agree, absolutely brilliant. I've watched it so much, the VHS tape is nearly worn out (yes, VHS -- that's how long I've owned the movie!)

  2. would really not only love it, but appreciate it.