Title: The Exorcist.
Author: William Peter Blatty.
Genre: Fiction, horror, religion, occult.
Publication Date: 1971.
Summary: The book details the demonic possession of 12-year-old Regan MacNeil, the daughter of a famous actress, and the Jesuit psychiatrist priest, down on his luck and losing his own faith, who attempts to exorcise the demon.
My rating: 7.5/10
My Review: As can probably be surmised from most of my quotes, it's not the actual exorcising demons part that made this book interesting for me, as much as Father Damien Karras's crisis of faith around which the book revolves. Blatty manages to make this constant inner-struggle and inner-dialogue Karras has with himself very poignant and easy to relate to, and yet almost not at all preachy or ham-fisted. I found the point he makes about people not needing the devil to commit or give in to evil, and the most common type of encountered "possession" being manifestations of human cruelty, very powerful. What I really enjoyed was that although it's more or less evident that Regan was possessed, as a reader you never get to know whether that is the case for sure. The main argument against her being possessed, the power of suggestion and imagination, is still a very realistic option. To me, this makes the story a little more vague, and thus a little more compelling. In addition to that, I appreciated Blatty's stance that occult is a volatile, dangerous game that claims an enormous amount of minds regardless of whether it exists or not, or whether they believe it or not. And, of course, the main act of the exorcism and Father Karras's ultimate reconciliation with his God is superbly, hauntingly, and very evocatively written. Blatty truly has quite a gift with descriptive metaphor. All in all, I would say it was a solid, decent book. I wouldn't rave about it, but I thought the balance between religion, occult, and fear was well accomplished. I have spoken to a wide variety of Christians, however, that insist that it's one of the most chilling or scary books they have read, so I have a strong suspicion that a book like this is much better received and perhaps understood by people who have had a Christian upbringing, as opposed to people like myself, who have had almost no exposure to monotheism until they were old enough to take an interest themselves. As a person with a heavier occult background and a completely different cultural understanding of the concept of "demons" and "evil" and Hell (in which I don't believe), I feel like I wasn't quite the ideal target audience for the book.
♥ Like the brief doomed flare of exploding suns that register dimly on blind men's eyes, the beginning of the horror passed almost unnoticed; in the shriek of what followed, in fact, was forgotten and perhaps not connected to the horror at all. It was difficult to judge.
♥ "...I need out. I'm having problems of my own. I mean, doubts."
"What thinking man doesn't, Damien?"
A harried man with many appointments, the Provincial had not pressed him for the reasons for his doubt. For which Karras was grateful. He knew that his answers would have sounded insane: The need to rend food with the teeth and then defecate. My mother's nine First Fridays. Stinking socks. Thalidomide babies. An item in the paper about a young altar boy waiting at a bus stop; set on by strangers; sprayed with kerosene; ignited. No. Too emotional. Vague. Existential. More rooted in logic was the silence of God. In the world there was evil. And much of the evil resulted from doubt; from an honest confusion among men of good will. Would a reasonable God refuse to end it? Not reveal Himself? Not speak?
"Lord, give us a sign..."
♥ Perhaps he understood that faith was finally a matter of love.
♥ He lifted the Host in consecration with an aching remembrance of the joy it once gave him; felt once again, as he did each morning, the pang of an unexpected glimpse from afar and unnoticed of a long-lost love.
He broke the Host above the chalice.
"'Peace I leave you. My peace I give you...'"
He tucked the Host inside his mouth and swallowed the papery taste of despair.
♥ "Oh, come on, Mary Jo." Chris smiled. "Don't you know how those Ouija boards work? It isn't anything at all but a person's subconscious, that's all."
"Yes, perhaps," she answered quietly. "Perhaps. It could all be suggestion. But in story after story that I've heard about séances, Ouija boards, all of that, they always seem to point to the opening of a door of some sort. Oh, not to the spirit world, perhaps; you don't believe in that. Perhaps, then, a door in what you call the subconscious. I don't know. All I know is that things seem to happen. And, my dear, there are lunatic asylums all over the world filled with people who dabbled in the occult."
♥ "Never mind, she's in heaven now, Dimmy, she's happy."
Oh, God, let it be! Ah, God! Ah, please! Oh, God, please be!
♥ He looked out the window: they were passing by the Home Relief Station where on Saturday mornings in the dead of winter she would pick up the milk and the sacks of potatoes while he lay in his bed; the Central Park Zoo, where she left him in summer while she begged by the fountain in front of the Plaza. Passing the hotel, Karras burst into sobs, and then choked vack the memories, wiped at the wetness of stinging regrets. He wondered why love had waited for this distance, waited for the moment when he need not touch, when the limits of contact and human surrender had dwinteled to the size of a printed Mass card tucked in his wallet: In Memoriam...
He knew. This grief was old.
♥ Against all reason, against all knowledge, he prayed there was Someone to hear his prayer.
♥ "When you see all the sickness day in and day out," he continued. "Unbelievable. Incredible. Crazy. You know, I looked at my wife just a couple of days ago - or weeks ago - I forget. I said, Mary, the world - the entire world - is having a massive nervous breakdown. All. The whole world." He gestured globally.
♥ "But a myth, to speak plainly, to me is like a menu in a fancy French restaurant: glamorous, complicated camouflage for a fact you wouldn't otherwise swallow, like maybe lima beans," he said earnestly.
♥ "Well, good luck with your daughter."
"Thanks." She smiled wanly. "Good luck with the world."
♥ End of day. The burnished rays of the setting sun gleamed glory at the clouds of the western sky and shattered in rippling, crimson dapples on the darkening waters of the river. Once Karras met God in this sight. Long ago. Like a lover forsaken, he still kept the rendezvous.
♥ Then his eyes locked, stunned, on the thing that was Regan, on the creature that was lying on its back in the bed, head propped against a pillow while eyes bulging wide in their hollow sockets shone with mad cunning an burning intelligence, with interest and with spite as they fixed upon his, as they watched him intently, seething in a face shaped into a skeletal, hideous mask of mind-bending malevolence. Karras shifted his gaze to the tangled, thickly matter hair; to the wasted arms and legs; the distended stomach jutting up so grotesquely; then back to the eyes: they were watching him... pinning him... shifting now to follow as he moved to a desk and chair near the window.
♥ He had turned on his bed then, damply despondent; felt somehow unworthy; incompetent; rejected. It stung. Unreasonably, it stung. Then, finally, sleep came pouring into emptiness, filling in the niches and cracks in his heart.
♥ "There it lies, I think, Damien... possession; not in wars, as some tend to believe; not so much; and very seldom in extraordinary interventions such as here... this girl... this poor child. No, I see it most often in the little things, Damien: in the senseless, petty spites; the misunderstandings; the cruel and cutting word that leaps unbidden to the tongue between friends. Between lovers. Enough of these, and we have no need of Satan to manage our wars; these we manage for ourselves... for ourselves..."
♥ He turned away wearily and waited for the coffee to brew. With lowered head, he gripped the counter and again closed his eyes. Shut it out! he thought; shut it all out! But he could not, and as he listened to the thump of the percolating coffee, his hands began to tremble and compassion swelled suddenly and blindly into rage at disease and at pain, at the suffering of children and the frailty of the body, at the monstrous and outrageous corruption of death.
"If instead of just clay..."
The rage drained to sorrow and helpless frustration.
"...all the prettiest things..."
He could not wait for coffee. He must go... he must do something... help someone... try...
♥ "Well, like you say... as far as God goes, I am a nonbeliever. Still am. But when it comes to a devil - well, that's something else. I could buy that. I do, in fact. I do. And it isn't just what happened to Rags. I mean, generally." She shrugged. "You come to God and you have to figure if there is one, then he must need a million years' sleep every night or else he tends to get irritable. Know what I mean? He never talks. But the devil keeps advertising, Father. The devil does lots of commercials."
For a moment Dyer looked at her, and then said quietly, "But if all of the evil in the world makes you think tbvcm hat there might be a devil, then how do you account for all the good in the world?"
The thought made her squint as she held his gaze. Then she dropped his eyes. "Yeah... yeah," she murmured softly. "That's a point."