Book #8 – The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty
The first time I read this book was probably sometime in college. I’ve never seen the movie, but the book struck me as pretty darn creepy. The last time I read it was in 1999 or 2000, sometime after moving here. Still creepy. This time… Not so much. Maybe it’s because I’m reading it for style this time. Maybe it’s because in the last three years or so there’s been a bit of a jump in how much we know (and how much I know) about the workings of the brain/mind. Maybe it’s because I’ve turned much more skeptical in my world view. I will say that I don’t think Blatty writes an atheist well. Chris is more just not religious than a non-believer. Also, his dialogue just isn’t very good sometimes. Sometimes spot on, sometimes reflecting things no one says…ever.
Before page 120 or so I had made this observation:
The priestly scenes are all full of doubt, often with fragments showing memories, feelings.
Medicine, very clinical. Strong, sturdy, correct sentences.
Psychiatry: dialogue, quick giving of information.
Showing how Blatty thinks of all these things.
But after about 120, it’s all somewhat bland. There’s a few nice passages, but there’s something that I was looking for in Blatty’s writing that is not there.
The triple repeating of a charged phrase: bone-white crucifix (pg 189) brought tension to a kind of bland presentation of events. What makes the pounding in The Haunting of Hill House so effective versus the pounding here?
And I proposed: cadence, rhythm.
Eleanor and Theo in the dark, the “whose hand was I holding” scene.
The repetition, the rhythm. There is a breathing pace to these sentences.
Another interesting thing about that particular passage is that Jackson starts right in. No preamble. It’s right at a subchapter break.
Again jumps in. Of course isn’t afraid to be in Eleanor’s head, but then the book could almost be written in first person.
The cold is more effective here too than in Blatty. Instead of it just being cold, Jackson gives it…malice.
In Block too… the characters try to convince themselves there’s nothing to be scared of, all while the phenomena is taking place.
This pattern, is it a trademark of writers of a particular time?
I’d like to read some Stephen King next. Wish I had a copy of The Shining, but I’ll settle for Dolores Claiborne or maybe one of the Different Season novellas, which are the only things I have around.
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Random: Do people who grew up with vinyl records treat their CDs and DVDs better? I can’t believe how fingerprinted and gucky some DVDs I rent are. What do people do with their DVDs? And then I remember my brother with CDs and DVDs tossed to the four winds around his room, his apartment, and his efforts to later buff out the scratches. Or (to sound really old) is it just that people these days don’t take care of their things?