Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Cashing in

Few critics singled out Mr. Levin as a stylist. But most praised him as a master of the ingredients essential to the construction of a readable thriller: pace, plotting and suspense. Reviewing “Rosemary’s Baby” in The New York Times Book Review, Thomas J. Fleming wrote:

“Mr. Levin’s suspense is beautifully intertwined with everyday incidents; the delicate line between belief and disbelief is faultlessly drawn.” Mr. Fleming was less impressed, however, with the novel’s denouement:

“Here, unfortunately, he pulls a switcheroo which sends us tumbling from sophistication to Dracula,” the review continued. “Our thoroughly modern suspense story ends as just another Gothic tale.”

...If Mr. Levin never achieved renown as a literary novelist, that, judging from many interviews over the years, was perfectly fine with him. It tickled him that the phrase “Stepford wife,” and even “Stepford” as an adjective (denoting anything robotic or acquiescent), had entered the English lexicon.

Mr. Levin was less pleased, however, at the tide of popular Satanism his work appeared to unleash.

“I feel guilty that ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ led to ‘The Exorcist,’ ‘The Omen,’” he told The Los Angeles Times in 2002. “A whole generation has been exposed, has more belief in Satan. I don’t believe in Satan. And I feel that the strong fundamentalism we have would not be as strong if there hadn’t been so many of these books.”

“Of course,” Mr. Levin added, “I didn’t send back any of the royalty checks.”

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