“Son of Rosemary” (Post 2/2)

son-of-rosemary-02

[Explanation of Reading Journal Entries/Ratings]

Post 1/2


 

[17]

Andy sat in a back corner of the room on one of the plastic stack chairs, his legs out and crossed at the ankles, his arms folded, his head lowered. Joe, next to him, beamed at Rosemary, giving her two thumbs up and Andy an elbow.

(p.130)

[18] Several Irving Berlin songs are referenced in this book (the only acknowledgments on the copyright page are for Berlin songs: “Let’s Face the Music and Dance”, “Change Partners”, “Blue Skies”, “Isn’t This a Lovely Day”, and “Cheek to Cheek”).

[Joe put] a tape in the deck.

They rolled, in a slow tide of taller traffic, across Thirty-third Street and up Tenth Avenue, while Ella Fitzgerald sang the Irving Berlin Songbook. (…)

“Get the news,” Rosemary said.

“I like this.” [Andy said.]

“Me too,” Joe said, looking in the mirror.

(p.133)

Is there significance/irony for the Devil and his son to love the music of Irving Berlin?

Irving Berlin (1888 – 1989) was an American composer and lyricist. Born in Imperial Russia (birth name Israel Isidore Baline), he arrived in the United States at the age of five.

His second marriage was to a young heiress, Ellin Mackay. He was Jewish, she was Catholic; her father opposed the marriage and tried to drive them apart, but they married and remained married for sixty-three years, until her death in 1988.

The idea of a religiously opposed marriage being a true love story seems a good guess for the aspect of Berlin that Levin is playing with.

[19] Another un-Levin-like piece of sloppiness (see also Post 1, note [2]):

“Thanks for the wheels, Joe baby,” he said. Smiled at her as the cab closed.

“Get him,” Joe said, letting the outer door close. “Joe Hollywood.”

(p.136)

I think I understand what this exchange means, but it’s confusing, especially since Joe is using the name “Joe” toward Andy.

[20] Reference:

One said the dogs that smelled the still-warm blood were Weimaraners belonging to the owner of one of the upper-floor apartments.

(p.140)

A large dog originally bred for hunting in the early 19th century. Early Weimaraners were used by royalty for hunting large game.

 

[21] Several times, Rosemary thinks of herself as “Garboed” when going out in disguise:

Rosemary was well Garboed: new bigger shades, a scarf around her head.

(p.164)

 

She left the Tower at seven, fully Garboed.

(p.173)

What’s the reference?

Greta Garbo (1905 – 1990) retired from acting at the age of 35 and declined all opportunities to return to the screen. Shunning publicity, she began a private life and neither married nor had children. Throughout her life, Garbo was known for taking long, daily walks with companions or by herself. In retirement, she walked the streets of New York City dressed casually and wearing large sunglasses.

[22] Reference:

“When did they give up on ‘Avenue of the Americas’? ” Rosemary asked, looking up at a street sign.

“Officially, just a few months ago,” Andy said.

(p.165)

Sixth Avenue – officially Avenue of the Americas, although this name is seldom used by New Yorkers – is a major thoroughfare in Manhattan. The avenue’s official name was changed to Avenue of the Americas in 1945. After the name change, round signs were attached to the streetlights on the avenue, showing the national seals of the nations honored. However, New Yorkers seldom use the avenue’s newer name and the street has been labeled as both “Avenue of the Americas” and “Sixth Avenue” in recent years.

New York has yet to officially “give up” on the Avenue of the Americas; another incorrect assumption of 1999 by Levin.

[23] Vocabulary:

A scream sheared up to the vaulted ceiling, banged off into the transepts, rang back doubled into the nave.

(p.177)

transept

noun – (in a cross-shaped church) either of the two parts forming the arms of the cross shape, projecting at right angles from the nave (the central part of a church building).

[24] Reference:

Jimmy Durante had put it so well: Did you ever have the feeling that you wanted to go and still have the feeling that you wanted to stay?

(p.202)

Jimmy Durante (1893 – 1980) was an American singer, pianist, comedian, and actor. His distinctive clipped gravelly speech, New York accent, comic language butchery, jazz-influenced songs, and prominent nose helped make him one of America’s most familiar and popular personalities from the 1920s through the 1970s.

He sang the song “Did you Ever Have the Feeling That You Wanted to Go” in the 1942 film The Man Who Came to Dinner.

[25] Reference:

Sipped coffee at the coffee table, scanning the Times’s front page – the Quebec disaster, sixty-six dead, across the top half; below the fold, boxed side-by-side pieces about preparations for the Lighting parties at the White House and Gracie Mansion.

(p.212)

Archibald Gracie Mansion is the official residence of the Mayor of the City of New York.

[26] Last chapter, 18, is cheekily titled 6 + 6 + 6 (p.231). That’s the Levin I know.

[27] Reference:

Listened to a muezzin’s call to prayer segue into cantorial singing.

(p.240)

noun – a man who calls Muslims to prayer from the minaret of a mosque.

[28] Reference:

The grand stairway of the QE2.

(p.240)

Queen Elizabeth 2, often referred to simply as QE2, is an ocean liner used as both a transatlantic liner and a cruise ship from 1969 to 2008.

[29] Reference:

“He’s got the complete works of Elizabeth Arden in the guest bathroom.”

(p.243)

Elizabeth Arden (1878 – 1966) was a Canadian-born American businesswoman who founded what is now Elizabeth Arden, Inc., and built a cosmetics empire in the United States.

[30] The last scene appears to be Rosemary waking up in bed with Guy in 1965, before the events of Rosemary’s Baby. Hutch calls her on the phone and offers Rosemary and Guy an apartment at the Dakota.

I believe this scene itself is a hallucination and Rosemary has been trapped in a hellish loop where the events of the two books will forever repeat. Levin drops clues to this interpretation. Often in “it was all a dream” scenarios (like the movie The Woman in the Window, referenced in Post 1, note [9]), the character finds dream elements explained by objects around him/her in the waking world. In Son of Rosemary’s ending, the only thing Rosemary sees that could have entered her dreams from before falling asleep is Dracula by Bram Stoker:

“Bram Stoker!” she cried. “Of course!” She caught her breath as he sat back beside her. “We got an apartment in this old house called the Bram,” she said. “the Bramford!”

(p.251)

Everything else that happens after she “wakes” in bed with Guy echoes elements from the supposed “dream” of 1999, and often in nonsensical ways. There’s also a suggestion that this hell-loop has already repeated more than once:

“Oh Guy!” she said. “It was awful! It went on and on, and I slept, and it started again, and went on and on…”

(p.251)

 

Guy makes a joke of Rosemary being a psychic:

“My wife is a psychic and she dreamed last night that there’s going to be a revival in 1999!”

“Since when am I a psychic?” she asked.

(p.252-53)

…which she made mention of in 1999, to Joe/Satan:

“How’d you do it?” he asked.

“I’m a psychic,” she said. “I have visions.”

(p.146)

A moment later, Rosemary tells Guy:

“I just may let Ernie cut my hair…”

(p.253)

….while in 1999, Rosemary and Andy had this exchange:

“Your hair looks different,” he said, unzipping his jacket.

“You like it? Ernie got inspired.” She showed him both sides.

(p.125)

If Rosemary had also been using a hairdresser named Ernie in 1965, she likely would have commented on the coincidence in 1999.

Hutch’s final dialogue dissolves into nonsense (and frankly, this doesn’t sound like the Hutch we met in Rosemary’s Baby. He was never so pushy with Rosemary):

“He’s supposed to leave the day after tomorrow; he had a cousin ready to move in but she was hit by a taxi yesterday and will be in hospital for at least six months (…) Do you want to discuss it with Guy? Though what there is to discuss, I can’t imagine. Seize the moment; there’s another chap here waiting to call someone about it. I’ll hold, I have a nickel, but I’m getting glared at. Oh, before I forget, Roast Mules? Exactly three minutes and twelve seconds by the clock.”

(p.254)

Dr. Shand was hit by a taxi (Post 1, note [1]), which broke the spell keeping Rosemary in her coma; Roast Mules was an anagram puzzle which Rosemary pondered over for most of the book (and never solved). And just a few pages before Rosemary “wakes,” Joe/Satan told Rosemary:

“Son of a gun, three minutes and twelve seconds and there they go.”

(p.247)

Ergo, concordantly, vis-à-vis: Rosemary’s “waking” is actually the nightmare beginning again.


 

Son of Rosemary didn’t take off until the last ten pages and then it was fantastic (or at least good enough to upgrade my rating from 1-star to 1.5). I don’t believe the ending changes anything about our understanding of the reality of Rosemary’s Baby; I think it implies a much worse fate for Rosemary than we ever imagined.

I read this because I’m a Levin completionist and I’m as interested in what makes a book bad as what makes one good (especially when the same author can give us both). If you share those sentiments, go ahead and read Son of Rosemary. You can get through it in an afternoon. Just try to rent it from a library or pay very little for the experience.

This Friday: Will we end the year on a good note? Let’s see with Thornton Wilder’s Bridge of San Luis Rey.

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