I have always wanted and meant to read Ira Levin's 1967 horror classic Rosemary's Baby. I have seen the Roman Polanski film adaptation so many times I can practically quote entire lines or conversations. It is one of those iconic stories that most people know even if they have never read the book or even seen the movie. The movie is subtly creepy. It is just the sort of scary film I can manage. It is not graphic or bloody but is convincingly scary from its perfectly executed power of suggestion. It's what you don't see, what you imagine to be happening that is so frightening.
Last time I was at a bricks and mortar bookstore I came across a stack of remaindered copies of the book in a newly reissued edition. Did you know that it was remade into a miniseries a couple of years ago? I'm afraid I have not even the tiniest desire to watch it (and my book is actually rejacketed with a still from the TV movie). I think it would be impossible to improve on the original, so why spoil it? The new version must take place in Paris since Rosemary stands before a large window in front of a baby carriage. Outside the window you can see the Eiffel Tower in the distance. While I'll pass on watching a new adaptation I will happily buy a cheap copy of the book (even if I prefer the cover shown here).
According to the introduction by Otto Penzler Ira Levin was a skeptic when it came to the Occult and had hoped that the story would dissuade people from believing in it. But the book and shortly after the Polanski movie adaptation were hugely popular. And the movie adaptation was also very faithful to the original story. I can attest to that since I am finally reading the book (a little digression from my Baileys longlisters and other current reads). Levin's writing style is pretty pared down and unadorned, but I think it is all the better for its simplicity. The dialogue is spot on and carries the story along at a nice pace.
My teaser is a description of the Castevet's who seem such mild mannered neighbors! If you have seen the movie or read the book you might recall the 'suicide' of a young girl who had been staying with the Castevets. But it is the description of the couple as they are returning from an evening out that is really marvelous.
"Mrs. Castevet was wrapped in light blue, with snow-white dabs of gloves, purse, shoes, and hat. Nurselike she supported her husband's forearm. He was dazzling, in an every-color seersucker jacket, red slacks, a pink bow tie, and a gray fedora with a pink band. He was seventy-eight or -nine. They came closer with expressions of young alertness, with friendly quizzical smiles. The policeman stepped forward to meet them and their smiles fell faltered and fell away. Mrs. Castevet said something worryingly; Mr. Castevet frowned and shook his head. His wide, thin-lipped mouth was rosy pink, as if lipsticked; his cheeks were chalky, his eyes small and bright in deep sockets. She was big-nosed, with a sullen fleshy underlip. She wore pink-rimmed eyeglasses on a neckchain that dipped down from behind plain pearl earrings."
Oh my, what colorful garb, don't you think! But remember this would have been mid-1960s, so they sound pretty hip all things considered. This is engrossing reading and a nice change of pace from the usual pile of books. Pure serendipity as the movie is being shown later this month at my favorite indie cinema. It is only there for a couple of showings but I am going to try and make one of them, so the book will be finding a place in my bookbag every morning. It's just what I need at the moment.