What am I reading: The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty

Unless you’ve been living under a rock since 1972, you know what The Exorcist is about. I don’t want to discuss the content of the book here since it’s a familiar story, so it’s going to be kind of a short review.

I love the movie based on this book. It’s among my all-time favorite horror movies and has been since my first viewing at the highly inappropriate age of nine. I find religious horror to be extra scary because it seems that no one is safe from its violence, and that’s part of what makes this book so scary to me.

Admittedly, I’ve read this before. Twice in fact. Each time I’ve been chilled to my core, not only because of the demon inhabiting Regan but also by all of the medical things the kid went through before someone thought that maybe there was a paranormal aspect to her illness. Or even a mental one. I know that the book and movie were both conceived of in a time when there was more of a stigma about mental illness than there is now, and it’s frightening to think about the kinds of tests and medications and general bullshit Regan would have gone through to get any kind of mental health treatment.

So now I’m listening to the audiobook version of the story, narrated by the author prior to his death in 2017. Like I’ve mentioned, I’ve been really into audiobooks lately. Listening to someone read the book adds a new layer of depth to the story, at least for me. It’s like an old radio play; someone is doing the voices and acting things out, and it’s another person’s interpretation of the author’s work. It almost feels like reading the book is collaborative and I’m into it. I also like when people tell me stories, so there’s that. I do also like when the author narrates; in some cases, they add things or ad-lib, and I appreciate that too.

In this case, having the author read the book was an excellent choice. Blatty conveys a level of emotion that even the actors in the movie didn’t. His voice is also extremely creepy. More than once I’ve had to turn off the recording or switch books because I’m too freaked out to continue, even though I know what’s going to happen. This hasn’t been something I can listen to when I’m home alone. Or at night. Or on the plane to Florida, where I’m currently sitting.

I’ve heard from more than one person that listening to an audiobook isn’t reading, but I don’t agree. No, I’m not looking at words on a page, but I’m ingesting the same information that’s in the book. It’s not like I’m watching the movie based on the book and calling it read; these are the actual words from the actual book in an audio format. Plus I asked my friend Jess, a college librarian, and she said it counts. I’d say she’s the authority on the matter since her whole job is books and book related things.

So, do I think you should read this book? Sure. Do I think that listening to William Peter Blatty read it is a more enjoyable experience? Definitely.

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