Echoes from the Macabre: Selected Stories Daphne du Maurier


Published: 1976


311 pages


Echoes from the Macabre: Selected Stories  by  Daphne du Maurier

Echoes from the Macabre: Selected Stories by Daphne du Maurier
1976 | Hardcover | PDF, EPUB, FB2, DjVu, audiobook, mp3, ZIP | 311 pages | ISBN: | 4.38 Mb

ECHOES FROM THE MACABRE is actually the perfect title for this collection of longish short fiction from the reliable Daphne Du Maurier. Up to this point, Id only read The Birds (which appears here - inescapable in many an anthology of my youth), Dont Look Now (love the story - which appears here - as well as the excellent film) and the odd parallel timeline piece Split Second (not here), so it was nice to be able to sink my teeth into a solid selection and explore her writing.What you get here, as might be expected, is solid skills wedded to some interesting tones and themes.

As I said ECHOES FROM THE MACABRE is apt - the stories move on the peripheries of genre and sub-genre - nothing here is straight-ahead horror of most any definition - theres suspense and thriller structures, to be sure, something like the traditional English ghost story in one case, an enigmatic tale that struck me as very Robert Aickman, some pieces that rub up against the weird tale without being that weird, psychological examinations...

in a way, she shares a lot with Shirley Jackson, I feel (a decidedly more dry, British take on Jackson, to be sure).The Old Man is the shortest piece here, an interesting observation of odd family dynamics at a distance, with an ending thats not so much a twist as its a complete change of focus that makes us reconsider our moral judgements. I imagine that ending might bug those who felt theyd just signed on to be told a story and finish off feeling tricked, but I enjoyed the sudden, near-surreal shift of conception and reminder just how much control a good writer has over the reader (this would be a good writing class story, as well, I think).The Chamois is perhaps the most maddening story here - its an enjoyable read but I also felt that the gestural vagueness that Du Maurier can evoke was perhaps here a little too vague (at least for me).

A husband and wife (not so much emotionally distant as mutually independent - deft psychological writing lucidly and concisely sketches this out for us) pursue rare chamois in the Greek mountains, lodging with a rural goatherd to help with the hunt. Its hard to say if I thought this story was successful because its hard to say exactly what happens here - the revelation of the husbands fear of heights was quite well done, offering an unexpected, suspenseful moment.

But the wifes fixation on the goatherd, paralleling the husbands fixation on the elusive chamois, seemed too vague to me (especially considering later statements near the climax). As to the significance of said goatherds name being Jesus, well... A good story to discuss, but it leaves you hanging a bit, and not completely in a deliberate, intended way, I feel.When I first read Dont Look Now, long after seeing the film, I was surprised at how much of the movie is actually in it - including that truly bizarre and disturbing ending (those who hate the movie, or even just the ending, might get a chuckle out of the husbands last thought at the closing of this written version).

A husband and wife, visiting Venice (the drowning city) after the death of their young daughter, run into a pair of sisters, one of whom has psychic visions and speaks to the dead. An emergency splits the couple up, but when the husband sees something that doesnt make any sense, hes off on an endless chase round the City of Death, trying desperately to figure out whats going on and why. Once you know the secrets of this story, its a pleasure to read for minor details: the setting, the double return, the warnings, the initial appearance of the rain-slickered girl.

Truly, an odd little gem.Theres a long tradition in the horror genre (in its broadest definition here as the strange and supernatural tale) of explorations into the imaginations of children (Sredni Vashtar & Thus I Refute Beelzy, and the film PHANTASM spring to mind), especially those bordering on adolescence - when something is being left behind and some other knowledge is being gained.

The Pool, while dramatic, is probably the gentlest story here - a tale of imagination and the private rituals of thoughtful children, in which the loss of innocence and growing awareness of the approaching confusion and complexity of the adult world ends up expressed in self-destructive actions. I expected this was based on some of Du Mauriers personal memories and was proved right with a little research.The Blue Lenses - in which a woman recovers from an eye operation only to discover that everyone around her now look distinctly different (saying how would ruin the fun) is an extended foray into the suspense/thriller form - in ways, reminding me of Ira Levins Rosemarys Baby as our poor harried protagonist succumbs to mounting disbelief, desperation and paranoia (all while Du Maurier does a nice job sketching out the power dynamics between convalescent patients and doctors/nurses).

The solution when it comes, may be unsatisfying to some but one can see it as another example of her playing with the authors control over story. And the ambiguous final tag, I felt, had some nice psychological depth to it.Kiss Me Again, Stranger is an extended character study but quite a well-done one. Du Maurier gets right inside the head of a young, working class mechanic, somewhat bored and jaded, and her command of his internal voice is so authentic it impresses immensely - honestly, not very much happens in this story, but the thoughts and musings and observations of this young man as he goes to the movies and falls for an enigmatic young woman who works as an usherette - impulsively taking her out for the evening and a jaunt which culminates in a visit to a diner and then a graveyard - just flows along on marvelous, lucid writing that tumbles from thought to thought effortlessly.

Theres that psychological interiority of Aickman I mentioned before, but not as obscure as Aickman, and the story itself - which resolves into an odd, after the fact suspense tale tinged with sadness - really only has one of two possible endings (Ill say this - it is NOT The Tale of the German Student)!But I think that fans of Robert Aickman should really check out Not After Midnight because its here that Du Mauriers stylistic explorations comes closest to that singular writer. A British Professor, not a fan of much human contact (in truth, a wonderfully charming snob - his snobbery forms some of the most entertaining reading), vacations in Greece (nice evocation of the beautiful, rugged, sun-drenched countryside), commandeering a recently vacated cottage (after complaining about his sub-standard, plebeian rental) and running afoul of a debauched, loud-mouthed American Southerner and his wealthy wife who reportedly spend their days scuba diving.

Theres intrigue, night swims and effective plotting as our narrator discovers more to the situation than meets the eye and delves into the dark rites of Silenus. Im not totally sure the ending is successful - but then Id really like to discuss the ending with someone - I wont give anything away on this side of the spoiler zone - but the story is told in flashback and the opening heavily implies that our narrator has returned from Greece with (view spoiler)[some kind of social disease that ruins his career, although the ending frame suggests a more subtle reading is that he returns as an incipient alcoholic with a newly acquired taste for young boys.

Hard to say (hide spoiler)]

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