18 April 2014

The Exorcist, William Peter Blatty

I have just revisited this classic novel by listening to an audio recording made by the author in the late 1990s. I make no secret of the fact that I admire the 1973 movie and no book review would be complete without at least a passing reference to the film. I was one of the teenagers pretending to ignore the Samaritans as they stood on the cinema steps handing out leaflets. As a naive fifteen year old I was quite affected.

Reading in my mid fifties I can listen to large tracts on my iPod in the dead of night without (undue) alarm. We have to remember that the movie was an adaptation, a distillation of the plot into two hours. Inevitably it concentrated on the shocking. The novel stands comfortably by itself as a clever supernatural detective story which manages to explore faith, medicine and the overlap of psychiatric disorders with physical symptoms.
Three individuals lose their lives, a fact some might overlook. A detective working on the first death is inexorably drawn to events and rumours surrounding the house the victim last visited. When the only logical suspect is a twelve year old girl he is mystified. In parallel with his gentle but persistent investigations, the lives of the girl's mother and her household staff begin to coincide with medical doctors and Jesuit priests.
The doctors remain insistent on a physical root cause even when presented with extraordinary symptoms to indicate otherwise. This stalemate threatens to slow progress but sub plots are explored to fill the void. As a last resort the help of an exorcist is recommended and events move rapidly to a memorable climax.
Pacing is masterful, and matter-of-fact descriptions lend paranormal events an eerie plausibility. It's interesting to hear the author's interpretation of his own work and therein lies the audiobook's only failing. Blatty's delivery is deep and gruff for all characters, male, female, young, old. It's often tricky to identify the speaker in dialogue. Nonetheless the book is tidily written, neatly plotted and hard to put down.
I understand Blatty has recently committed something of an authorial sin. In 2011, to celebrate the fortieth anniversary, he wrote a new scene, introduced a new character, and generally spruced up the prose throughout the novel. Well, I listened to the original version and there is little wrong with that.


Michelle said...

Snooker isn't as popular in Canada, but the girls were giving me lessons on the proper pronunciation of the word! lol.

By the way, I can't comment on your blog from the networked blogs link. I had to go to your blog directly. It might be better just to link the blog yourself on FB, rather than using that feature.

Perfect Virgo said...

Maisie in particular is all over it... "did he just play a safety shot?" She reads the frame scores and the match scores at the bottom of the screeen. And no, it's not pronounced like 'hooker!'

Strange about the commenting. I think I'll link manually.

BTW this is the Exorcist thread not the Snooker thread!