Sunday, October 30, 2016

First Lines Second Thoughts — William Peter Blatty's The Exorcist

photo © Mark Butkus 2012

First Lines Second Thoughts is a look at the first lines of well known literary works. On second thought, do these opening words stand alone as poetry? What better time of year than Halloween to take a second look at the opening lines of William Peter Blatty's spine-tingling novel, The Exorcist.

The novel that changed the face of horror and has been scaring readers since it was first published in 1971. In as much as satanic clowns lurk around every corner in 2016, the urban legend of young girls in the 1970s defiled by Satanic cults can trace their genesis to the popularity of The Exorcist. Novel and film.


The Exorcist

Like the brief
doomed flare of
exploding suns that
registers 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."


— William Peter Blatty


The fifth novel by William Peter Blatty is about the demonic possession of a twelve-year-old girl, Regan MacNeil. Inspired by a 1949 case of possession that Blatty heard about in university, The Exorcist tests the spirituality of the two priests — the older, wiser Father Merrin and the younger, doubting Father Karras — charged with handling Regan's exorcism.

Perhaps more famous than the book is the 1973 movie of the same name featuring the haunting Tubular Bells score by Mike Oldfield. Blatty adapted his own novel for the silver screen and  won the Academy Award that year for Best Adapted Screenplay.

A 40th anniversary edition of The Exorcist had the author stating that, "This is the version I would like to be remembered for," as Blatty never had the time or the funds to devote to a second draft.