“Rosemary’s Baby” (Post 3/3)


[Explanation of Reading Journal Entries/Ratings]

Post 1/3

Post 2/3


They drank their coffee, talking of Guy’s quickening career.


Instead of saying: “Guy’s career was taking off” Levin uses a word which, archaically, means “giving or restoring life to,” or “a stage in pregnancy when movements of the fetus can be felt.” The word is also often used in fantasy in relation to the use of magic.

An excellent word choice, since Guy’s career is succeeding (and Rosemary is now pregnant) due to the coven’s black magic.

[62] Reference:

The one message for Guy was from a Rudy Horn.


There is a famous Rudy Horn but I’m not sure if Levin is intentionally referencing him:

Rudy Horn (b.1933) was a well-regarded juggler. He began at the age of 7 and toured around the world, appearing on the Ed Sullivan Show four times. He retired from juggling in 1975 and became a tennis coach.

[63] Reference:

“I’m just going to give a party; I’m not going to swim the English Channel or climb Annapurna.”



Annapurna is a massif in the Himalayas in north-central Nepal that includes more than thirty peaks over 20,000 feet above sea level. Annapurna I Main (26,545 ft) is the tenth highest mountain in the world. It was first climbed in June 1950 and has the greatest fatality rate of all the 14 eight-thousanders (referring to meters). One out of every three trying to reach the top has died.

[64] Only after Hutch goes into a coma does Rosemary begin to make her own decisions and stand firm on them. Having no trusted authority figures, she finally finds strength in herself:

“I’d be glad you give you a hand if you’d like,” Minnie said. “I could help you dish things out.”

“Thank you, that’s sweet of you,” Rosemary said, “but I really can manage by myself. It’s going to be a buffet, and there’ll be very little to do.”

“I could help you take the coats.”

“No, really, Minnie, you do enough for me as it is. Really.”

Minnie said, “Well, let me know if you change your mind. Drink your drink now.”

Rosemary looked at the glass in her hand. “I’d rather not,” she said, and looked up at Minnie. “Not this minute. I’ll drink it in a little while and bring the glass back to you.”

Minnie said, “It doesn’t do to let it stand.”

“I won’t wait long,” Rosemary said. “Go on. You go back and I’ll bring the glass to you later on.”

“I’ll wait and save you the walk.”

“You’ll do no such thing,” Rosemary said. “I get very nervous if anyone watches me while I’m cooking. I’m going out later, so I’ll be passing right by your door.”

“Going out?”

“Shopping. Scoot now, go on. You’re too nice to me, really you are.”

Minnie backed away. “Don’t wait too long,” she said. “It’s going to lose its vitamins.”

Rosemary closed the door. She went into the kitchen and stood for a moment with the glass in her hand, and then went to the sink and tipped out the drink in a pale green spire drilling straight down into the drain.



The book was gone. (…) She asked Guy and he told her he had put it in the garbage Thursday morning. (…)

She was surprised and annoyed. “Guy,” she said, “Hutch gave me that book. He left it to me.”

“I didn’t think about that part of it,” Guy said. “I just didn’t want you upsetting yourself. I’m sorry.”

“That’s a terrible thing to do.”

“I’m sorry. I wasn’t thinking about Hutch.”

“Even if he hadn’t given it to me, you don’t throw away another person’s books. If I want to read something, I want to read it.”

“I’m sorry,” he said.

It bothered her all day long.


[65] Vocabulary:

Guy put another chunk of cannel coal on the fire.



Cannel coal or candle coal is a type of bituminous coal, also classified as terrestrial type oil shale.

[66] Reference:

“He’s writing a great play,” Portia said. “At least the first two scenes are great. Really burning anger, like Osborne before he made it.”



John Osborne (1929 – 1994) was an English playwright, screenwriter, and actor, known for his excoriating prose and intense critical stance towards established social and political norms. The success of his 1956 play Look Back in Anger transformed English theater. He was also the author of Luther (Post 1, note [5]).

[67] Reference:

“His name is Altizer and he’s down in – Atlanta, I think; and what he says is that the death of God is a specific historic event that happened right now, in our time. That God literally died.”



Thomas J.J. Altizer (b.1927) is a radical theologian who is known for incorporating Friedrich Nietzsche’s conception of the “death of God” into his systematic theology. He was associate professor of Bible and religion at Emory University (Atlanta, Georgia) from 1956 to 1968. Two Time magazine articles featured his religious views – in October of 1965 and April 1966. The later issue, published at Easter time, put the question on its cover in bold red letters on a plain black background: “Is God Dead?” (note [80])

[68] References:

They saw Morgan! and a preview of Mame.



Morgan – A Suitable Case for Treatment (also called Morgan!) is a 1966 comedy film starring David Warner and Vanessa Redgrave. It is about a failed artist whose upper-class wife is divorcing him. The artist lives in an innately rich and personal world of fantasy and loses his grip on reality. Eventually, he is committed to an insane asylum.

Mame is a 1966 musical based on the 1955 novel Auntie Mame and an earlier Broadway play. Set in New York City, it focuses on eccentric bohemian Mame Dennis, whose famous motto is “Life is a banquet and most poor sons of bitches are starving to death.”

[69] Reference:

The book within was All of Them Witches by J.R. Hanslet.


Not a real book or author; a Levin invention.

[70] References:

Other chapters dealt with other people – all of them, it was to be presumed from the book’s title, witches: Gilles de Rais, Jane Wenham, Aleister Crowley, Thomas Weir.



Gilles de Montmorency-Laval (~1405 – 1440), Baron de Rais, was a knight and lord, a leader in the French army, and a companion-in-arms of Joan of Arc. He is best known for his reputation and later conviction as a confessed serial killer of children. He is believed to be the inspiration for the 1697 fairy tale “Bluebeard.”

Based on testimony, it seems that de Rais murdered for sexual gratification and not in the name of witchcraft.

Jane Wenham (d.1730) was the subject of what is commonly but erroneously regarded as the last witch trial in England. The trial took place in 1712 and was widely reported. She was convicted but the judge set aside her conviction, suspending the death penalty. She was moved from her home town and secreted in a cottage on the 1st Earl Cowper’s lands, where she lived the rest of her life.

Thomas Weir (1599 – 1670) was a Scottish soldier and presumed occultist, executed for witchcraft. After falling ill in 1670, he and his unmarried sister began telling wild stories of crime, vice, witchcraft and sorcery. At first, these stories weren’t believed, but the continued confessions brought them to trial and they were both sentenced and put to death.

[71] Reference:

“Hey,” he called, “On A Clear Day and Skyscraper are both closing.”


(see Post 1, note [23] for Skyscraper)

On a Clear Day You Can See Forever is a musical based loosely on Berkeley Square (1929). It concerns a woman who has ESP and has been reincarnated. The Broadway production ran from October 17, 1965 to June 11, 1966.

[72] Reference:

She read a book called Summerhill that presented a seemingly irrefutable case for permissive child-rearing.



Summerhill: A Radical Approach to Child Rearing is a book about the English boarding school Summerhill School by its headmaster A.S. Neill. It was published in America in 1960. Summerhill, founded in the 1920s, is run as a children’s democracy, where children choose whether to go to lessons and how they want to live freely without imposing on others. The school makes its rules at a weekly schoolwide meeting where students and teachers each have one vote alike.

[73] Reference:

She stopped and looked in Henri Bendel’s windows.

(p. 171)


Henri Bendel, established in 1895, is an American upscale women’s specialty store based in New York City.

[74] Reference:

There was a great raspberry crepe dress that looked like a Rudi Gernreich.



Rudolph “Rudi” Gernreich (1922 – 1985) was an Austrian-born Jewish American fashion designer whose avant-garde clothing designs are generally regarded as the most innovative and dynamic fashion of the 1960s. He was the first to use cutouts, vinyl, and plastic in clothing.

[75] Vocabulary:

What did he need with wands and witch knives and censers and – and junk?




noun – a container in which incense is burned, typically during a religious ceremony.


She had known the answer before she asked herself the question.


[77] This is a beautiful sentence. The structure, the rhythm:

She undressed and took a long cool shower, turned clumsily around and around and then pushed her face up into the spray, trying to think sensibly, rationally.



She didn’t know if she was going mad or going sane.


[79] Rosemary uses the same cold-reading technique on Donald Baumgart that Roman Castavet used on Guy (Post 2, note [35]):

“I’m sorry I didn’t come along that day he came to visit you,” Rosemary said. “He asked me to, but I couldn’t.”

“Visit me? You mean the day we met for drinks?”

“Yes,” she said. “That’s what I meant.” (…)

“By the way,” she said, “he has something of yours, you know.”

“What do you mean?”

“Don’t you know?”

“No,” he said.

“Didn’t you miss anything that day?”

“No. Not that I remember.”

“You’re sure?”

“You don’t mean my tie, do you?”

“Yes,” she said.



Rosemary took up a copy of Time that lay at her elbow. Is God Dead? it asked in red letters on a black background.


The very famous  April 8, 1966 issue of Time (note [67]).

[81] Reference:

The movie changed to something with Keenan Wynn.



Keenan Wynn (1916 – 1986) was an American actor. Though he rarely carried the lead role, he had prominent billing in most of his film and television parts. He appeared in the original Playhouse 90 television production of Rod Serling’s Requiem for a Heavyweight and also appeared in the Twilight Zone episode “A World of His Own.”

Two movies with Wynn opened in America in June of 1966: Stagecoach (June 15) and Around the World Under the Sea (June 22). I suspect Rosemary saw the second of these films; Stagecoach was a remake of the classic John Ford film and she probably wouldn’t have tossed it off as “something with Keenan Wynn.” Around the World Under the Sea sounds like something you could apply that phrase to. Or, Levin could be making the joke that it was pretty likely that you would see something with Wynn at the theater in 1966. (He had been in six movies in the previous year.)

[82] During high-tension scenes, Levin detaches from Rosemary’s emotions and thoughts. It somehow feels scarier that way. The reader can’t help but put his/herself into the situation.

“We’re just going to take you home,” Guy said, finally looking at her. “No one’s going to hurt you.”

“Or the baby,” Dr. Sapirstein said. “Put your shoes on.” He picked up the bottle of capsules, looked at it, and put it in his pocket.

She put her sandals on and he gave her her handbag.

They went out, Dr. Sapirstein holding her arm, Guy touching her other elbow.

Dr. Hill had her suitcase. He gave it to Guy.

“She’s fine now,” Dr. Sapirstein said. “We’re going to go home and rest.”

Dr. Hill smiled at her. “That’s all it takes, nine times out of ten,” he said.

She looked at him and said nothing.



Guy and Mr. Fountain came into the room – “Honey, we’re not going to hurt you,” Guy said – and behind them Dr. Sapirstein with a loaded hypodermic, the needle up and dripping, his thumb at the plunger. And Dr. Shand and Mrs. Fountain and Mrs. Gilmore. “We’re your friends,” Mrs. Gilmore said, and Mrs. Fountain said, “There’s nothing to be afraid of, Rosemary; honest and truly there isn’t.”

“This is nothing but a mild sedative,” Dr. Sapirstein said. “To calm you down so that you can get a good night’s sleep.”

She was between the bed and the wall, and too gross to climb over the bed and evade them.

They came toward her – “You know I wouldn’t let anyone hurt you, Ro” – and she picked up the phone and struck with the receiver at Guy’s head. He caught her wrist and Mr. Fountain caught her other arm and the phone fell as he pulled her around with startling strength. “Help me somebod-” she screamed, and a handkerchief or something was jammed into her mouth and held there by a strong hand.



And then there was another contraction.

And then she was on the bed, with Dr. Sapirstein giving her another injection.

And Mrs. Gilmore wiped her forehead.

And the phone rang.

And Guy said, “No, just cancel it, operator.”

And there was another contraction, faint and disconnected from her floating eggshell head.



[84] References:

As well as she remembered from Hutch’s book, August first was one of their special days, Lammas or Leamas, with special maniacal rituals.



Lammas Day (also known as Lambess) is a holiday celebrated in some English-speaking countries in the Northern Hemisphere, usually between August 1 and September 1 as a harvest festival.

Leamas is the name of the main character in The Spy Who Came Out of the Cold (1963).

[85] Vocabulary:

I’m not sure about this use of the word jog:

Through the keyhole she saw, at a distance of about twenty feet, a small curio cabinet that stood at a jog in the hallway of Minnie and Roman’s apartment.



Knife high, she followed the jog to the left and the right.


The only definition of jog that might be related is “A brief abrupt change in direction,” but that doesn’t quite fit. Anyone have any idea about this one?

[86] The first two parts of Rosemary’s Baby can be seen as psychological horror: Are these things really happening or is Rosemary slipping into paranoia and hallucinations?

But Part 3 absolutely confirms it and Levin makes the genius move of presenting it as a dark comedy. If he tried playing the coven and antichrist straight, it would have come off as absurd in an embarrassing way – the book would have been a joke. But he anticipates our reaction and presents the coven as an outright ridiculous group. Some of the dialogue near the end drops into straight-out humor:

His eyes were golden-yellow, all golden-yellow, with neither whites nor irises; all golden-yellow, with vertical black-slit pupils.

She looked at him.

He looked at her, golden-yellowly, and then at the swaying upside-down crucifix.

She looked at them watching her and knife-in-hand screamed at them, “What have you done to his eyes?

They stirred and looked to Roman.

“He has His Father’s eyes,” he said.



“Go look at His hands,” Minnie said. “And His feet.”

“And His tail,” Laura-Louise said.

“And the buds of His horns,” Minnie said.

“Oh God,” Rosemary said.

“God’s dead,” Roman said.


[87] Reference:

“Just after midnight on June twenty-fifth,” Roman said. “Exactly half the year ‘round from you-know. Isn’t it perfect?”

“But why are you surprised?” the newcomer asked with both his hands outstretched. “Didn’t Edmond Lautreamont predict June twenty-fifth three hundred years ago?”



Comte de Lautreamont was the pseudonym of Isidore-Lucien Ducasse (1846 – 1870), a French poet born in Uruguay. His only works, Les Chants de Maldoror and Poesies, had a major influence on modern literature, particularly on the Surrealists and the Situationists.

Les Chants de Maldoror does not have a specific plot and the narrative style is non-linear and often surrealistic. The work concerns the misanthropic character of Maldoror, a figure of absolute evil who is opposed to God and humanity, and has renounced conventional morality and decency.

Because of the surreal nature of Les Chants de Maldoror, it’s possible that “predictions” can be seen in the work but I can’t find information about Lautreamont making any reference to June 25.

[88] When Rosemary speaks of her baby, the pronouns are not capitalized. When any of the witches do, it becomes a proper noun.

His eyes weren’t that bad really, now that she was prepared for them. It was the surprise that had upset her. They were pretty, in a way. “What are his hands like?” she asked, rocking him

“They’re very nice,” Roman said. “He has claws, but they’re very tiny and pearly. The mitts are only so He doesn’t scratch Himself, not because His hands aren’t attractive.”



Poor little creature.

He couldn’t be all bad, he just couldn’t. Even if he was half Satan, wasn’t he half her as well, half decent, ordinary, sensible, human being? If she worked against them, exerted a good influence to counteract the bad one…


Rosemary’s Baby is a book for anyone who reads for pleasure. It’s swift and tidy and never feels like work or a commitment. If you like it, try (in this order) Levin’s Boys From Brazil, The Stepford Wives and This Perfect Day. (You can skip Sliver and Son of Rosemary. I can’t give you an opinion on A Kiss Before Dying because I still desperately need to read it.)

Controversial (?) opinion: If you’ve seen the 1968 movie, you won’t get much more from reading the book other than re-visiting the story. Not that that’s a bad thing; this is a book I go back to again and again. But Polanski’s version is a rare case where a film does perfect justice to a book.

Next week, we start in on my second David Mitchell book (and his first published): Ghostwritten.


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