I didn’t realise that I had previously read Stories of Suspense as selected by Mary E. MacEwen until I was reading these nine short stories, but having foreknowledge of what was going to frighten me didn’t affect my enjoyment at all!
I saw the Alfred Hitchcock movie of The Birds at a slumber party as a teenager and was traumatised, as prior to that my television and movie viewing had been quite sheltered. If I remember correctly the movie had a different setting and more glamorous characters to Daphne du Maurier’s short story, but similarly to my reaction after watching the movie, since reading this I’ve been watching out for killer birds when I go walking.
Of Missing Persons by Jack Finney is the story of a man who is offered the opportunity of a better life on the planet Verna. The people photographed in the brochures advertising Verna look relaxed and content, the grass is greener, the sky is bluer and the air is cleaner than on Earth. I’d go there myself. The only thing that dated this story was reading about people enjoying a relaxing cigarette after their breakfast swim.
I found myself feeling sad while reading Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes. This is the story of a man with a lovely nature and a low IQ who was chosen to take part in an experiment that increased his intelligence threefold. The story was written as a diary and watching his mind expand was a joy, until he got to the point where he became too clever to communicate with the people he had previously loved and esteemed.
Taste by Roald Dahl featured several of the nasty characters that this author creates so well. This story squared a pair of wine snobs off against each other, as one bets his daughter against the other’s property.
Knowing what had happened to the missing person didn’t spoil my enjoyment of Lord Dunsany’s Two Bottles of Relish. I won’t say anymore for fear of giving away the end, although the title gives the reader a very big clue.
The Perfectionist by Margaret St Clair was funny and awful all at the same time. The narrator’s Aunt Muriel was a terrible artist who blamed her artistic failings on her subject’s inability to sit still, until she thought of a way to make them sit still. If my lovely Aunty G is reading this, please don’t ever ask me to sit for one of your beautiful paintings 🙂
The remaining stories were Charles by Shirley Jackson, Contents of the Dead Man’s Pockets by Jack Finney and Midnight Blue by John Collier.
My copy of Stories of Suspense is stamped as having being the property of the Kent Road Primary School in Hamilton in western Victoria, which closed about twenty years ago. There is a pocket inside the back cover for the cards and a leaf where the due date was stamped, both of which brought back happy memories of being a library monitor at my own primary school many years ago. I vaguely remember buying a pile of books from an Op Shop when passing through the town some time ago.
I wouldn’t be at all surprised if I read Stories of Suspense when I was in primary school myself, as Victorian schools then were probably all issued with the same books. The stories certainly stood up well to a reread.