Friday, January 02, 2009

Don't Look Now by Daphne DuMaurier

The New York Review of Books has put out this new selection of short stories by Du Maurier, best known for the novel Rebecca, and for the Hitchcock adaptations of that book and her short story "The Birds." The title story, "Don't Look Now" was also made into a rather creepy but well-regarded film. And this is one reason I'm interested in the collection. (The other reason is I've loved Du Maurier since I was a girl and I found My Cousin Rachel on the shelves of the summer house my grandparents used to rent in Nonquit, Mass.) Anyway, in the fall I'll be teaching a graduate workshop on adapting fiction to film, so I've been giving some thought to my reading/viewing list. But I haven't collected my ideas on that yet, so in the meanwhile I'd just like to point out how well these stories prefigure contemporary American magic realism. (Du Maurier was British and writing largely in the 40s and 50s.)

While some of these stories are very lightweight (and irony or surprise heavy), some have held up quite well. I kept thinking of contemporary writers like Aimee Bender and especially Kelly Link and how they use strangeness to convey a sense of mystery and wonder about the real world. In a number of stories, Du Maurier bends time or brings in psychic phenomena or natural but extreme phenomena (such as those birds), but underneath readers understand that these are post-world-war stories, a kind of supernatural vision of post-traumatic stress. They're ghost stories with soul.

1 comment:

Amy said...

You should consider doing this: