I have an Exorcist story, but you have to read my review first!
We’ve read a bunch of good books this semester, and The Exorcist is one of the best of the bunch. I’d rank it neck-in-neck with The Shining, probably my all-time favorite horror novel. In fact, I enjoyed all the books we read with the exception of two; I must confess to liking The Amityville Horror,which is craptastic but still fun to read in an awful sort of way.
If you have even a passing interest in horror movies, you know the plot of The Exorcist. The movie is faithful to its source material, even using a number of the book’s best lines. I believe Mr. Blatty wrote the screenplay. But hey, we’re not here to talk about the movie!
I have read The Exorcist a number of times. I’d say that number is less than ten, because that book never triggered my OCD, thus making it a must-read. So I know it pretty well. There is a sequel to The Exorcist, Legion, which is well-worth reading also. The main characters of Legion are Lieutenant Kinderman and Father Dyer, believe it or not.
Here are a few impressions, gleaned from reading the book again.
The biggest thing that struck me is how funny the demon is when it talks. Most of the things it says are blasphemous, but they are still funny. The demon has a sense of humor, something God seems to totally lack. This is an interesting decision on Blatty’s part.
Why? Well, there are theological implications. A sense of humor is a very human trait, especially considering I believe that one of the prerequisites for a sense of humor is suffering. That would mean that humans have more in common with demons than with god. Ah, you say, maybe the demon was a good mimic or channeling Burke Dennings, although Father Merrin states that there is only ONE entity possessing Regan. Possible, but unlikely. The demon has a PERSONALITY that comes through when reading the book, and that’s hard to fake.
One of the understated questions raised by The Exorcist is why do people suffer? It’s a good question (which the book doesn’t answer), explored in greater depth in Legion. People should read Legion, because Kinderman’s fabled carp in the bathtub makes an appearance.
Speaking of Kinderman…he’s based on Porfiry Petrovitch, the inspector in Crime and Punishment. The TV character Columbo is also based on Porfiry. Don’t be fooled by Kinderman; he’s a devious bastard. Denning’s death and the church desecrations are the book’s subplot, which hums along nicely beside Regan’s decline.
Here’s an interesting question: who is the main character of The Exorcist? The title refers to Father Merrin, who bookends the book but isn’t around enough to qualify. Father Karras is the demon’s intended target and a solid choice; Regan’s character has no drive of her own; Kinderman is a strong character, but in the same boat as Father Merrin. My personal choice would be Chris MacNeil, even though after a certain point she becomes little more than a spectator. One of The Exorcist’s strengths is the number of interesting characters; even the minor characters are fleshed out.
Anyway, here’s my Exorcist story. When they released the extended theatrical version, I went to see it in the movies. I was too young to see the original version back in 1973! Anyway, the theater was full of kids, and those kids laughed their asses off from start to finish. That’s the first time I realized I WAS GROWING OLD.
One Reply to “The Exorcist”
Hey George! I’m going to miss these reviews next semester.
I have to agree that this was one of my favorite books this semester and even though I ragged against Amityville, I enjoyed it just the same. Actually, I read Amityville in one sitting even though it drove me bonkers. Weird, right?
So back to The Exorcist…it is a good observation you make about the demon’s sense of humor and its humanness so to speak. I think it is actually true even theologically speaking that humans have more income with demons than God. We are flawed, pitiful, dreadful monsters at times, and experience much suffering in this life. I can see the similarities. So much in fact, that much of my own works—and things I am contemplating—revolve around a similar sentiment. Angelic beings not wanting the world to end—as it is “supposed” to in order to bring about a more heavenly place and demonic beings not wanting to see this world destroyed because after all it is their world too— joining forces to “save” humanity from Armageddon. In both instances, it is the commonality the beings have with humans that drive them.
After reading your review, you are me thinking about who the main character of the book is—I want to say Karras. But there are so many really great ones. But I say Karras because he is who moved the story forward with his actions—research, getting the exorcism approved, and ultimately sacrificing himself to save the girl. As you pointed out, he seems to be the demon’s target as well.