the birds (and other stories)

the birds and other stories

The Birds & Other Stories In December, Little, Brown and Company published a new digital edition of Daphne du Maurier's The Birds and other short stories, giving me the opportunity to check out the shorts of an enduring master of the form.

The Birds, of course, is the story that inspired Hitchcock's movie. It's been a while since I've seen the movie but I don't remember being all that impressed by it. A bit more impressed with the story, especially the silence and determination  of the birds. Once can feel the solitude and desperation of those during the time where the only communication about what was going on in the world came from the daily radio news broadcasts. A silent wireless never means anything good.

Monte Verita is probably the longest story in the book, and certainly the most annoying. The ending becomes all acid-trippy, and not in a good way. Just an annoying way. And then the narrator of the story, a friend of a couple who went mountaineering but the wife never returns, decides that, "I knew then that I had loved her always, and that though she had met Victor at first, and chosen him, and married him, the ties and ceremony concerned neither of us, and never had." Really, dude? Really? Pretty damn sure of yourself there; do you honestly think you loved her more than her husband, who returned to the site of her disappearance every year without fail until he died in that place? Really?

The Apple Tree is such an excellent representation of an unreliable narrator. I haven't experienced or played around with this form much, but I enjoyed how, because the story is from the husband's point of view, it's so very easy to trust his version of events, to even deny the alternate versions as they begin to creep in. There's not much here, just glimpses, as to the wife's view of their relationship (and you wouldn't expect there to be, given that the events are from his point of view) but it is enough.

The Little Photographer's protagonist, however, never gave cause to change the reader's mind. I hated her from the instant her story began. This wasn't because she was rich and spoiled, and not even the way she feels that everyone else is helpless beneath her beauty, but the way she relates her impression of the things others cannot help in themselves: "he did not walk with that lurching, jerky step that produced stifled hysteria in the watcher" (like his sister did). I appreciated the level of hatred I had for the marquise, and her comeuppance but actually wondered why du Maurier didn't infuse more of a gray area into her motivations.

Kiss Me Again, Stranger provides a sweet (as in delicious, rather than treacly) twist on the traditional woman-in-potential-peril story or even a "Is this woman really a ghost?" story. It's the protagonist's vulnerability that saves him.

The Old Man's twist is truly surprising, at least for me. I'd read that this, the shortest story in the book, had the most affecting ending and it certainly does... and keeps one waiting for it until the very last moment.

This is a pleasing collection of differing time periods, characters, supernaturalish and non-supernaturalish (with bits of magical realism thrown in). I'm off to explore how many du Maurier short stories are out there!