Friday, October 14, 2011
Short Story Connections - Daphne du Maurier
I just finished Don't Look Now: Selected Stories by Daphne du Maurier. It was the monthly selection for a group I joined in GoodReads that is only reading books by NYRB Classics, and appropriately spooky, full of horror and ghosties. I was surprised to like it so much, because I only read Rebecca by the same author because I was trapped on a cruise ship in unrelenting fog and ran out of the books I brought to read. It wasn't terrible, just another book that I would not bother reading again. I'm not much for mysterious dead wives and big bleak mansions.
What I really noticed was how many other stories these stories reminded me of. I remember when we did the SFF Audio podcast about The Horla by Guy de Maupassant, and how the story itself had all these connections to stories we'd read in school, movies that had been made, and so on.
"Don't Look Now," the title story, is about a couple on vacation in Venice. They encounter a strange couple and one of the two claims to see their recently deceased daughter. It reminded me of The Comfort of Strangers by Ian McEwan, and I was cringing as the end got closer, fully expecting it to be as disturbing as McEwan's had been (although, granted, McEwan wrote his after Daphne du Maurier). The story had a twist, completely different, but memorable.
"The Birds" is a chilling story of nature gone wrong, and is the basis for the Alfred Hitchcock film of the same name. I keep reading that there isn't much in common between the two besides the name, but I'll have to delay judgment until I've seen it. Just add it to the epic list of movies I've never seen! In some ways it brings to mind stories where humanity does not necessarily prevail, tangentially relating to novels like Earth Abides. (Is that a stretch? It makes sense to me!)
"Kiss Me Again, Stranger" is like the scary stories we used to tell in the dark during sleep overs. I remember one in particular that my friend Mercedes-from-California told me when she was sleeping on the trundle bed in my room - something about a girl home alone, hearing about a serial killer on the radio and reaching down to be comforted by her dog who always licks her hands, and realizing in the morning that it must have been the killer under her bed since her dog was trapped outside (or dead in the bathroom, depending on how scary you want the story to be). Think of a scary story you told at night... this story is like that.
"Monte Verità" is the story of a mysterious community living at the top of a mountain. I did a little hunting around, and the Swiss mountain of the same name really is the home of multiple utopian societies throughout history, and currently has some sort of vegetarian group centered there. It has also been a draw to thinkers and philosophers, particularly in the 20th century. Daphne du Maurier wrote it halfway through the century (published in 1952), and it makes you wonder.... This story was probably my favorite. It had elements of crazy fantasy right next to disturbing reality, and it made it seem much more possible.