“Son of Rosemary” (Post 1/2)

son-of-rosemary-01

[Explanation of Reading Journal Entries/Ratings]

Post 2


 

Ira Levin’s 1997 sequel to his 1967 classic, Rosemary’s Baby. I read a first edition borrowed from the library.

1.5 out of 5 stars.

The Plot:

Nearly thirty years after entering a mysterious coma, Rosemary Reilly wakes up in a nursing home. She reconnects with her adult son, Andy, now a beloved public figure. Andy and his organization are planning a worldwide celebration on December 31, 1999. And though Andy is the son of the devil, he claims that his human side is dominant and there is nothing sinister in his plans.

I find it hard to believe that Levin truly wrote this. His precise, effective, subtly humorous style is absent, making Son of Rosemary read like a subpar knockoff. We are forced to watch Rosemary repeat her mistakes from the first book, as though she learned nothing. New, bland characters are introduced and we get no resolution for previous interesting characters (Guy, Roman, and Minnie Castavet are missing or dead and that’s it).

Son of Rosemary suffers tremendously from being written before the year it takes place. Levin carefully plotted the events of Rosemary’s Baby around real events in 1965 and 1966. Son of Rosemary, taking place at the end of 1999 (but published in 1997) has to assume future events, which forces Levin to be vague and incorrect (a King of England in 1999?).

I understand the significance of Andy’s plan unfolding at the end of the millennium but I don’t understand why Levin couldn’t or wouldn’t wait another couple of years to write this.

I had heard this wasn’t very good, but had to give it a try. Basically, I’m doing this so you don’t have to.


 

[1] We open with a present-tense scene and then shift to past tense for the rest of the book. Wicked and well done; this made me optimistic:

In Manhattan, on the crisp, clear morning of Tuesday, November 9, 1999, Dr. Stanley Shand, a retired dentist twice divorced, leaves his apartment on Amsterdam Avenue for his daily constitutional. Though eighty-nine he walks vigorously, his plaid-capped head erect, his eyes bright. He is buoyed both by good health and a secret, a glorious secret that warms his every waking moment. He has been a participant – indeed, has recently become the last living participant – in a cosmic event thirty-three years in the making that is now, within two months of its ultimate fruition.

At Broadway and Seventy-fourth Street an out-of-control taxi shoots across the sidewalk and squashes Dr. Shand against the wall of the Beacon Theater. He dies instantly.

(p.3-4)

Who else has introduced a character in paragraph one only to kill him in paragraph two?

[2] A very awkward sentence construction:

Guy must have died early in the twenty-seven years.

Or Satan was a welsher and why not? To mangle Oscar Wilde or whoever, once you commit rape, the next thing you know, you’re not paying your debts.

(p.21)

I had to read this several times to understand what was being said (on the first few reads, the word “to” seemed a continuation of the “Satan” sentence; as though Satan has mangled Oscar Wilde).

Vague/confusing word choices kept coming up in Son of Rosemary , giving a very un-Levin-like sloppy feel.

I also can’t find what quote this is supposed to be referencing (“once you commit rape, the next thing you know, you’re not paying your debts.”)

[3] References:

“Andy was lying on the floor on his stomach,” she said. “Watching television. Kukla, Fran, and Ollie.

(p.27)

Kulka, Fran and Ollie (1947 – 1957) was an early American television show using puppets. It was created for children but soon watched by more adults than children. It did not have a script and was entirely ad-libbed.

Fran was Fran Allison (1907 – 1989), a radio comedian and singer who was usually the only human to appear on screen. Kulka was a Punch-type character and Ollie was a one-toothed dragon. There were other puppet characters, as well.

[4] One of the many callbacks to Rosemary’s Baby (Post 1, note [5]), with one slight addition:

“He was a very good actor, as I said last night. He was in three Broadway plays, Luther, Nobody Loves an Albatross, and Gunpoint.”

(p.45-46)

Gunpoint is not a real play; it’s likely the play Guy was cast in (after Donald Baumguart was blinded), which changed its name three times (Rosemary’s Baby Post 2, note [49]).

We get no resolution to Guy’s story in Son of Rosemary, which I really wanted. I expected him to be revealed as a character or his fate to be explained by Andy, but Rosemary never finds out what happened to him (and she never appears very interested). We also never learn how/when Minnie and Roman Castavet died.

[5] This is the sort of “satire” we get:

He too looked good in Republican, sitting there with his head on his hand listening to Mrs. Lush Rambeau.

(p.56)

I can only assume this is a play on Rush Limbaugh. Not the cleverness I expect from a sequel to Rosemary’s Baby.

[6]

They sighed. He let go of her and they sat up straight, shaking their heads. Settled their coats, fixed their hair.

(p.57)

[7] Reference:

“That’s the Whitestone Bridge… And that’s Queens, the whole shootin’ match…”

(p.60)

The Bronx-Whitestone Bridge is a suspension bridge in New York City that crosses the East River and connects Queens and the Bronx. It opened in 1939.

[8] Reference:

Craig looked like Adam Clayton Powell and Kevin looked like a nineteen-year-old kid named Kevin.

(p.69)

Adam Clayton Powell (1908 – 1972) was a Baptist pastor and an American politician, who represented Harlem, New York City, in the United States House of Representatives (1945-71). He was the first person of African-American descent to be elected from New York to Congress.

[9] Reference:

“What are you watching?” Rosemary asked, looking at Robinson pleading with Hedy Lamarr, no, the one who looked like her.

The Woman in the Window,” Craig said. “Fritz Lang, 1944.”

(p.70)

A film noir that tells the story of psychology professor Richard Wanley (Edward G. Robinson) who meets and becomes enamored of a young femme fatale (Joan Bennett). At the end of the film, Wanley awakens in his chair at his club and realizes his entire adventure was a dream in which employees from the club were main characters.

This is a classic Levin touch. He’s foreshadowing the end of Rosemary’s story, but only if you know the Lang film.

It’s also an example of how Levin is cheating. Andy’s group has a “film club,” but they only watch old movies, which means Levin can avoid any talk of current actors, trends, releases, etc.

A literal reading of this book’s ending (it was all a dream of 1965 Rosemary) could explain why these 1999 facts are wrong or avoided: Rosemary wouldn’t know anything about the cultural scene of 1999. But then, she shouldn’t be able to visit Central Park and see John Lennon’s memorial; it didn’t exist until the 1980s:

She found [a path] bending back from the road she’d been on, an asphalt lane curving down past a sign, Strawberry Fields.

(p.106)

 

The disc was a mosaic of black and white tiles, its pattern a wheel with curiously jagged spokes. At its center a four-letter word lay inset in black capitals amid the mass of red roses; she raised the glasses to be sure of it – MAGI.

(p.107)

[10] Vocabulary:

“Why don’t you review the things we’ve done – the specials, the commercials, the whole magilla.”

(p.72)

(Usually spelled megillah.) Everything, every aspect or element. The term refers to the Megillah, five books of the Bible read on certain Jewish feast days and considered by some to be very long and tedious.

[11] Reference:

“I feel like I’m in an MGM movie, the old MGM. Norma Shearer, Garbo…” She swooned on the satin.

(p.73)

Norma Shearer (1902 – 1983) was a Canadian-American actress and Hollywood star from 1925 through 1942. Her early films cast her as a spunky ingénue, but in the pre-Code film era, she played sexually liberated women. She won an Academy Award for her performance in The Divorcee (1930).

[12] References:

He told her about his ex-after-twenty-years, Veronica, in real estate now in Little Neck, and his daughter, Mary Elizabeth, going for her master’s in economics at Loyola.

(p.78)

Little Neck is an upper middle class neighborhood of Queens, New York City.

There are several Loyola colleges, but I am going to assume Joe is referencing Loyola University Maryland; a Roman Catholic, Jesuit private university located within the Archdiocese of Baltimore.

[13] Reference:

He brought her an angel – a curly-headed lad with a lyre and a book and a fine pair of wings, reclining in terra-cotta relief on a plaque about four inches square, white on della Robia blue.

Andrea della Robbia made it,” he said. “Circa fourteen seventy.”

“Oh my God, Andy!” she said, cradling it in both hands, adoring it. “It’s the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen!”

“It’s named ‘Andy,’ ” he said. “For him, I guess.”

(p.87)

Andrea della Robbia (1435 – 1525) was an Italian Renaissance sculptor, especially in ceramics.

He did not make a piece titled with this description titled “Andy.” Most of his work with angels also involved other figures, though there are some white-on-blue that show an infant alone.

[14] Reference:

Four mountain men more wildly bearded than their cough-drop namesakes, the Smith brothers.

(p.93)

The Smith Brothers were makers of the first cough drops produced and advertised in the United States, becoming one of the most famous brands in the country in its day. The company’s logo showed the bearded brothers.

[15] The trope of the “Meet me later; I’ll tell you everything” character being killed off was old even when Levin used it with Hutch in Rosemary’s Baby. To use it again – and have Rosemary not see it coming or push Judy to tell her something now – is exhausting.

“I’m so anxious to get out of here. I’m leaving. Please, can we get together this evening? We must?”

Leaving?” Rosemary said.

Judy nodded. “Leaving GC, leaving New York.”

“Oh Judy, I know you and Andy have problems-”

“Had,” Judy said. “It’s over. I knew it the second night in Dublin. Remember? That was the night he had the fever, after you and he got caught in the rain – where was it, in the park?”

Rosemary nodded.

Judy sighed. “He used to like it when I had to play nurse or Mommy – all men do, or so I hear – but that night he – oh, I’ll tell you later. Please, you have to make time. There’s too much to tell you now, and I have to tell you before I go. And I want your counsel too about certain things.” (…)

Rosemary looked at her. “What do you mean?” she asked.

“I’ll tell you everything later,” Judy said. “And I beg you, don’t tell Andy I’m leaving.”

(p.116)

Judy’s dead. It’s so obvious that she’s dead. If Levin was playing this scene for humor, it doesn’t work.

[16] Reference:

In the Sulka boutique she examined a handsome black satin robe trimmed and lined in royal blue that would be super on Andy.

(p.122)

Amos Sulka & Company is a maker of high-priced men’s wear. It was founded in New York City in 1893 and closed its last store in 2002.


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