The Rockford Files

The Devil You Know

I read Rosemary’s Baby for the first time in late October.  I had watched Roman Polanski’s 1968 film adaptation years ago, but I had never bothered with Ira Levin’s novel, assuming that it would have, at best, the literary merit of an Amityville Horror, and surely not rise even to the level of an average work by Stephen King.

I was wrong.  From the opening lines, I was hooked; I found myself grabbing every spare moment over the next few days to read a chapter or two on my iPad or iPhone.  (The iTunes Bookstore offered it on sale for Halloween for $2.99, and it’s now the first full-length book I’ve ever read on an electronic device.)  The claims of film critics to the contrary, Levin’s 1967 novel is, in many ways, far better than Polanski’s film, and the few ways in which the film adaptation surpasses the novel are entirely attributable to the differences in medium.  Mia Farrow can express Rosemary’s growing confusion and concern better with her downcast face and shifting eyes than Levin can with his elegantly simple language; but the spareness of Levin’s prose highlights better than Polanski’s sumptuous sets Rosemary’s increasing sense of isolation and dread.  In the New York City of the mid-1960’s, surrounded by millions of people, Rosemary is far more alone and vulnerable than she...

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