Actually, this may be the third time I’ve read The Exorcist but the first time as an adult.
The paperback copy I have dates from January 1974 and I tried re-reading it last year but it’s one of my few books that is falling apart. Fortunately the book has been re-released in a 40th anniversary edition in 2011 and was made available in ebook form for the first time.
While subversive kids a generation before read EC comics late at night I read stuff like The Exorcist. Reading it as a child it scared the living heck out of me and I was curious to see how it would hold up with nearly 40 years of pop culture baggage tied to it, not to mention experiencing the story as an adult.
I’m pleased to find it holds up quite well. The events depicted — the demonic possession and exorcism of a 12 year old girl — are no longer frightening but the story is told with grace and economy. In its more reflective moments William Peter Blatty adopts a lyrical quality, heavy with the use of metaphor. Some passages read almost like poetry. And much as he did in the screen adaptation, Blatty lets the story unwind slowly, ratcheting up the tension nicely.
I’ll be damned if I couldn’t help but see Max Von Sydow as Father Merrin, though. He was perfect for the role.
The story is dated only in a few minor ways. The character Chris MacNeil works on a film that features a student protest scene that has a strong late 60s/early 70s vibe to it and most of the characters smoke like chimneys. There’s also a weird thing with Father Karras viewing psychokinesis as plausible and documented and I’m pretty sure it’s still considered unproven, since I’ve not noticed any real-life Carrie episodes on the news of late.
Overall, this is still an excellent book, highly recommended for any horror buff that has somehow managed to miss it.