Friday, November 23, 2007

Aaron's Book of the Week :: The Stepford Wives by Ira Levin

The Stepford WivesThe Book of the Week is the first paperback printing of The Stepford Wives by Ira Levin. This is to honor Mr. Levin, who passed away last week at the age of 78.

Ira Levin was a successful novelist and playwright. Notable among his nine plays are the thriller Deathtrap (1978), one of the longest-running plays in the history of Broadway, and the comedy No Time for Sergeants (1956), which launched the career of Andy Griffith and inspired the television show Gomer Pyle.

Most of his seven novels involve elements of science fiction or horror, although it is often ambiguous in the story whether these elements are real or imagined. His most important novels were Rosemary's Baby (1967), in which a pregnant woman comes to believe that her child is the Antichrist (note that both the novel and the Roman Polanski film predated William Peter Blatty's The Exorcist); The Boys from Brazil (1976), about a conspiracy to clone Adolf Hitler; and The Stepford Wives (1972).

The Stepford Wives follows Joanna Eberhart, who moves with her husband and children to the sleepy suburban town of Stepford, Connecticut. She begins to suspect that there is something very wrong with the too-perfect wives of Stepford, and that this has something to do with the secretive Stepford Men's Association. Levin uses the premise to frame some very interesting social commentary (fitting right in with our recent theme of social science fiction). The Stepford Wives was made into an effectively creepy movie starring Katharine Ross in 1975, and into a bad comedy starring Nicole Kidman in 2004. For thoughts on what a wasted opportunity the recent film was, see my commentary on the book group's web page for The Stepford Wives

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