miércoles, 28 de septiembre de 2011

Daphne Du Maurier's "Monte Verità" & "Don't Look Now" (Peril of the Short Story for R.I.P. VI)

"Monte Verità" & "Don't Look Now"
by Daphne du Maurier
England, 1952 and 1971

I love that Daphne du Maurier photo up above.  Despite the weird Project Runway fashion statement that she's making with her ensemble, there's something about her expression that makes me feel that I could bond with her--or, more realistically, that makes me feel that I'd at least want to bond with her--should our two worlds ever meet.  Unfortunately, my first two reading dates with Daphne didn't go as swimmingly as I would have hoped.  For starters, experiencing "Don't Look Now," the 1971 short story of hers which I read first, was a little like watching a cool, edgy Hitchcock thriller for about an hour and a half and then finding out that M. Night Shyamalan had been brought in for the last 15 minutes to deliver one of those lame-o, implausible endings that he's famous for.  What the hell, girl and/or "M"?  You had me with the creepy old clairvoyant sisters and the sudden reappearance of the beloved but unfortunately long deceased young daughter.  You lost me with that ending--particularly the goofball last line which reads like a parody.  The 1952 "Monte Verità," at 79 pages maybe more a novella than a short story, was a disappointment for other reasons.  A genre splice pairing a mountain climbing adventure and a supernatural mystery focused on a mystical cult of true believers hidden away from the modern world, it all just got a little too H. Rider Haggard She outlandish for me although people more inclined to Brit adventure/supernatural mystery pastiches may naturally have a higher tolerance for this sort of thing.  Oddly enough given all this kvetching, though, I'm not at all opposed to seeking out a little more Daphne du Maurier action in the future.  If reading her at long last was kind of like being set up on a blind date with a hipster chick and then finding out that the hipster chick in question was not only inexplicably all bent out of shape about R.E.M. breaking up but also wrongly excited about Sting's Back to Bass solo tour, I still think she's a fine stylist in terms of her storytelling mechanics, in drawing attention to the emotional nuances of (and between) her characters, and--despite apparent disagreements with her judgement from time to time--also fairly good company in terms of how many of the supernatural aspects of these two stories are grounded in character reactions that feel realistic for the most part.  But R.E.M.?  Sting?  "Hipster"?  WTF?

"Don't Look Now" and "Monte Verità" are the first and last stories featured in Daphne du Maurier's nine-tale Don't Look Now collection, read here as part of the "Peril of the Short Story" festivities for R.I.P. VI.  New York: NYRB Classics, 2008, 3-58 & 267-346.

12 comentarios:

  1. Wow. That is a GREAT picture of D du M - I find it a bit creepy actually. I've had the same experience with her, where many things about her writing is superb but then, wham, it goes a bit wrong for me. Eh, maybe I just haven't read the right thing yet. I really enjoyed your review of these stories, although I'm not feeling inclined to read them - you got me laughing with your supposedly hipster chick scenario.

  2. It really is quite the ensemble, isn't it!

    I haven't read either of these (have only read Rebecca, and that was really a listen), but your metaphors are, as always, evocative. Rebecca does, at least, maintain the stylish Hitchcock vibe to the bitter end.

    (And before this REM news broke I assumed they'd broken up, like, 10 years ago...)

  3. You actually read the stuff. Which alone made me smile and then I read post and laughed. Can't comment with any real insight yet as I won't read the short stories until next month, but am curious about your observations. As Emily already said, her longer formats can maintain the Hitchcock edge throughout which is one of the reasons I enjoy her novels. Quietly suspicious and occasionally misanthropic but in this strange hopeful way. And as I do not know what Project Runway fashion might mean, I will once again allow myself to ponder your fascination with aspects of pop culture of which you are dismissive... :)

  4. Oh my, you had me laughing! I have this colelction but haven't read it yet. have read and enjoyed Rebecca though. And I must say, Daphne's outfit is quite, um, eyecatching.

  5. Oh.... I enjoyed this post. Hehe. And how seriously you are taking R.I.P.! You are quite dedicated, I'm amazed. I can't remember the story Don't look Now as the movie keeps on popping up. I saw it late one night on TV at the age of 15 or so and was grossed out by the half (or totally ?) naked Donald Sutherland.
    I saw that there is a movie about Daphne duMaurier that looks interesting. I've never seen this photo before.
    I have not read the second story... Don't give up on her just yet. She can do better although I'm sort of convinced you will not end up being a fervent adorer.

  6. *Sarah: Ha, I didn't actually notice anything at all "creepy" about that photo until you mentioned it--just kind of the sly smile. Thanks a lot for ruining it for me! Du Maurier's writing is good enough for me to want to give her another chance, though, even if she isn't quite the be all and end all of hipster spookiness that almost everybody else but you promised me. Whatever. :D

    *Emily: Apparently the outfit's striking to everybody outside of Isabella's Canada! Anyway, thanks for the metaphor love and the plug for Rebecca--will probably give either that one a go or the Frances-approved My Cousin Rachel when it's time to, uh, hook up with Daphne again. P.S. LOL, know what you mean about that musical news!

    *Frances: I'm never quite sure whether you're really laughing at me instead of with me when I find myself in these reading predicaments, but I still trust your judgement about the longer-format Du Maurier (and it's not like she's boring to read or anything). "Quietly suspicious and occasionally misanthropic but in this strange hopeful way"? I can see that. As for that pop culture accusation of yours, prob. half of the "fascination" is that it's just impossible to avoid and the rest falls into the "know thy enemy" category. Cheerio!

    *Stefanie: Thanks, that's good to hear--can't deny that Du Maurier brought out something of my more devilish side somehow! Will keep your Rebecca recommendation in mind and will look forward to hearing what you think of the Don't Look Now stories whenever you get around to them (I'd still like to read "The Birds" and maybe one or two others at some point).

    *Isabella: Nothing's wrong with the outfit--at least, not if you want to be able to swap clothes with Michael Jackson!

    *Caroline: Thanks, glad people seemed to have fun with this post (I know I did, ha ha!). Speaking of which, I am enjoying reading a slightly different mix of things for R.I.P. this year and I have no plans to give up on Du Maurier just yet. There are aspects of her work I like, and a couple of her novels sound appealing to me. Thanks for the warning about the nude Donald Sutherland thing; I just borrowed the DVD from the library, but now I know I'll need to brace myself for such a disturbing twist!

  7. That IS a great picture. And "H. Rider Haggard She outlandish" is a terrific adjective that deserves wide deployment. I haven't read either of these, but I did see the naked Donald Sutherland movie, which I deeply resented, not because of the story (or Donald Sutherland's nakedness) but because it succeeds in making Venice look incredibly sinister, when in fact it's a glorious, impossible dream city.

  8. Never laughing at you. Always laughing with you. And enjoying your charming individualism.

  9. *Scott: I'd hoped to watch Don't Look Now over the weekend but didn't, but now I'm (counterintuitively?) holding out hopes for a grimy, squalid affair that makes even Venice seem depressing. An old school art movie in other words! In any event, thanks for the kind words.

    *Frances: Thanks for clearing that up, my friend. You are, of course, the female version of "a gentleman and a scholar" in my book, but the archaic, Hawthorne-y "gentlewoman" just doesn't sound quite right even though the "gentle" part mostly fits the bill. :) Happy reading to you this week as always!

  10. All these posts I am seeing about Daphne du Maurier make me really want to read something by her. I have just read Rebecca and My Cousin Rachel because that is all the library has by her. I am thinking I am going to have to buy something...

  11. Hehe, nice one. I was not much of a fan of "Monte Verita" myself. Pfft. But I liked "Don't Look Now" a bit more. I think you should try "The Birds." That was the best one in the NYRB collection I have, if I recall correctly. Actual Hitchcock this time, of course, but quite different from the film, I understand.