Hunter's Reviews > The Exorcist

The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty
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Oct 04, 2007

it was amazing
bookshelves: fiction, horror
Read in October, 2007

** spoiler alert ** The heart of this book is the damaged priest, Father Damien Karras. Blatty does many many things right in The Exorcist. The sense of dread is overpowering, Regan's possession becomes more horrible with each page, and at the most unexpected moments a flash of humor slips through.

What makes the more sensational elements of the book appealing, however, is that they are grounded in characters that are compelling. Father Merrin, even in his brief appearances, is sketched so realistically that the reader feels they know everything there is to know about him. In addition and as evidenced by my quotes and my love of the sequel Legion, I'm a huge fan of Lt. Kinderman.

But what I didn't expect upon rereading this novel was to be so taken with Karras' character. At every turn he is visited with guilt and misery, yet he still continues to help any person who crosses his path. His faith is so shattered that he finds himself hoping the possession is genuine so he can have proof of God. He is haunted by his mother's life and eventual death in destitution, yet he manages to counsel another troubled priest. As overpowering as his grief is he is able to overcome it through friendship with Kinderman, the detective who understands the depth of his pain and love for Regan, the girl he has never met. And in the end the simple desire to help someone, anyone, drives him to a moment of sublime self-sacrifice.

For every bit of evil in the world that The Exorcist throws at the reader, there is Damien Karras standing resolutely in the way. When any other man would have broken under the terrible strains of his life, Karras endures with grace, power, and humor. He is the tattered heart of this novel, and the reason you should read it.
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Comments (showing 1-17 of 17) (17 new)

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message 1: by Hunter (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:06PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Hunter "The brittle remnants of cosmic torment that once made him wonder if matter was Lucifer upward-groping back to his God."-page 3

I was surprised to find, right off the bat, concepts that come into play heavily in Legion.


message 2: by Hunter (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:06PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Hunter "'Shall we summon the writer? I believe he's in Paris!'

'Hiding?'

'Fucking!'",
-page 20

Blatty is unexpectedly funny. He also takes special care with point of view. In the prologue with the priest, the descriptions are lengthier and more ornate. While we're focusing on Chris, the actress, descriptions are reduced to groups of single words- little bursts of description that you might find in a screenplay. It's a nice effect.


message 3: by Hunter (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:10PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Hunter Some of the most compelling passages pertain to Father Karras' overwhelming grief. He is having huge doubts about his faith and his mother has just died:

"They brought her to an ending in a crowded cemetery where the gravestones cried for breath. The Mass has been lonely as her life. Her brothers from Brooklyn. The grocer on the corner who'd extended her credit."-page 97


message 4: by Hunter (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:10PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Hunter And then something entirely different:

"The ersatz text [...] described in vivid, erotic detail an imagined homosexual encounter involving the Blessed Virgin Mary and Mary Magdalene."-page 106

Another search for Ask Jolene...


message 5: by Hunter (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:11PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Hunter Blatty begins using very specific dates and times in the narration:

"The date was Thursday, April 28."-page 125
"They left the house at precisely 6:18 P.M."-page 137

There are several other instances; this has a cumulative effect of ratcheting up the tension. The feeling of being lead inexorably to... something is inescapable.


message 6: by Hunter (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:11PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Hunter And what we're being lead to is this. There have been hints at Regan MacNeil's unusual behavior, and certainly some disturbing imagery. None of it prepares the reader for this:

"'Now, let's see what the trouble is, dear,' he said gently.
"And abruptly was reeling, stunned and staggering, across the room from the force of a vicious backward swing of Regan's arm as the girl sat up, her face contorted with a hideous rage.
"'The sow is mine!' she bellowed in a coarse and powerful voice. 'She is mine! Keep away from her! She is mine!'
"A yelping laugh gushed up from her throat, and then she fell on her back as if someone had pushed her. She pulled up her nightgown, exposing her genitals. 'Fuck me! Fuck me!' she screamed at the doctors, and with both her hands began masturbating frantically.
"Moments later, Chris ran from the room with a stifled sob when Regan put her fingers to her mouth and licked them.'"
-page 128

God DAMN.


message 7: by Hunter (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:11PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Hunter A plot element that bothers me is Regan's hypnotic state (pages 146-150). It's such a hoary cliche, but at the same time it does lead to some chilling exchanges. I just wish Blatty could have gotten there in a different way.

I suppose the point eventually is that she's not actually being hypnotized and that the Devil is fucking with the doctors, but it still rings false particularly since so much else in the novel rings true.


message 8: by Hunter (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:11PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Hunter The introduction of Lt. Kinderman, who is a main character in Legion. In the course of a apparently stumbling interrogation of Chris MacNeil about the murder of her director Burke Dennings, Kinderman indulges in some film criticism:

"'One minor flaw,' he resumed apologetically. 'Only minor. And please believe me, I'm only a layman. You know? I'm just audience. What do I know? However, it seemed to me- to a layman- that the musical score was getting in the way of certain scenes. It was too intrusive.' He was earnest now; caught up. 'It kept on reminding me that this was a movie. You know? Like so many of these fancy camera angles lately. So distracting. Incidentally, the score. Miss MacNeil- did he steal that perhaps from Mendelssohn?'"-page 160

Kinderman is using a fancy camera angle of his own here, distracting Chris while he surreptitiously takes a paint sample from one of Regan's sculptures.


message 9: by Hunter (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:11PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Hunter Lt. Kinderman on myths:

"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."-page 164

This stuck out in light of mentioning baseball mythology over in my review of Moneyball.


message 10: by Hunter (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:22PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Hunter Kinderman on the modern condition:

"All these clubs and these cults where they kill for no reason. It makes you start thinking peculiar things. To keep up with the times, these days, you have to be a little bit crazy."-page 184


message 11: by Hunter (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:22PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Hunter The broken faith of Damien Karras:

"Soon they were leaning against a railing at the top of the steps down to M Street. End of day. The burnished rays of the setting sun flamed 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."-pages 194-195


message 12: by Hunter (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:22PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Hunter Introductions:

"'I'm not Regan,' she rumbled, still with the hideous grin that now seemed to Karras to be her permanent expression. How incongruous the braces on her teeth looked, he reflected.
"'Oh, I see. Well, then, maybe we should introduce ourselves. I'm Damien Karras,' said the priest. 'Who are you?'
"'I'm the devil.'
"'Ah, good, very good.' Karras nodded approvingly. 'Now we can talk.'"
-page 242


message 13: by Hunter (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:22PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Hunter "She lifted a helpless, tormented face to the strong, sad eyes; saw strength; saw pain.
"'Okay,' she said weakly.
"She trusted the pain."
-page 257


message 14: by Hunter (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:22PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Hunter And on Sunday they rested:

"The nuns at the convent of Lille. Possessed. In early-seventeenth-century France. They'd confessed to their exorcists that while helpless in the state of possession, they had regularly attended Satanic orgies; had regularly varied their erotic fare: Mondays and Tuesdays, heterosexual copulation; Thursdays, sodomy, fellatio and cunnilingus, with homosexual partners; Saturday, bestiality with domestic animals and dragons."-page 264


message 15: by Hunter (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:22PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Hunter In pivotal moments during the exorcism scene Blatty refers to Karras' lack of faith by referring to him as "the psychiatrist" rather than "the priest." It's a nice subtle note. (page 357)


message 16: by Hunter (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:22PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Hunter Father Merrin takes a break from his battle of wills with a demon to drop some philosophy:

"'And yet even from this-from evil-will come good. In some way. In some way that we may never understand or ever see.' Merrin paused. 'Perhaps evil is the crucible of goodness,' he brooded."-page 370


message 17: by Hunter (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:22PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Hunter A little hope:

"For a time, Karras watched [Kinderman] as he listed down the street. Watched with wonder. With fondness. And surprise at the heart's labyrinthine turnings. He looked up at the clouds washed in pink above the river, then beyond to the west, where they drifted at the edge of the world, glowing faintly, like a promise remembered. He put the side of his fist against his lips and looked down against the sadness as it welled from his throat toward the corners of his eyes. He waited."-page 385


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