Rosemary’s Baby

Many months ago I was at the much talked about, much loved Wheaton Public Library buying my usual bags and bags of books, when I came across a beat up copy of Rosemary’s Baby by Ira Levin. I, of course, had heard of the movie and was quite aware that it was a book first, but I have never bothered with either.

The movie I never bothered with because Roman Polanski is a fuck and should be skinned.

The book I never bothered with because I’ve never had the opportunity. Well that obviously changed when I saw it for a quarter. (And, to be quite honest, if it were over a buck, I most likely wouldn’t have bought it as the title just never interested me.)

The story of Rosemary’s Baby (for those who have been oblivious to pop-culture for about 30 years) is not complex at all. A woman, Rosemary, and her husband (whose name escapes me, so we’ll call him Hal) move into a new apartment that has a questionable past — suicides and murders and such. The apartment’s tenants are rather… eccentric, to say the least. Strange shit starts happening, Rosemary gets pregnant and the tenants may or may not be devil worshipers and her baby may or may not be demon spawn.

Let’s face it, devil worshipers and demon spawn just aren’t scary anymore. Sure, back in the day you had The Exorcist (which I desperately need to read) and The Omen, and those are still good now. However, people prancing around a pentagram in dark hoods and robes and black candles just don’t cut it nowadays. But damn if that doesn’t effect the enjoyment of this book.

Levin does a fantastic job of just telling you a story. He doesn’t try to do anything else. The entire book centers around Rosemary, and you don’t know anything beyond what she knows. Levin isn’t trying to scare you, he just sits you down in an easy chair and tells you a tale. The entire tone of the book is very conversational and, because of this, reads quickly. But don’t take that as it reads quickly like a pulp fiction novel, where as few words are used as possible, but quickly in the sense you are talking to a friend, and time slips away from you.

The only problem I had with the book — and this is no fault of Levin, but rather the time it was written — is the ending… or, rather, the reveal of Rosemary’s baby. I believe that, at the time, it may have been shocking, but now it reads a little hokey. The actual ending is really good, unsettling even, because of how Rosemary handles her unique situation, but the description of the kid leaves a little to be desired.

Rosemary’s Baby is the first novel I’ve read by Levin, but I see he’s also written such noted works as A Kiss Before Dying and The Stepford Wives, which I would like to read in the future. Most notably, though (for me), he wrote a sequel to Rosemary’s Baby, called Son of Rosmary, a full 30 years later. I’m really curious about that, and will keep an eye out for it.