So I thought these would be some nice short stories about children on their birthdays…you know like the title… but alas this was three dark and sad tales. Truman Capote is more famous for Breakfast at Tiffany’s and In Cold Blood, but all his work seems to involve unconventional characters and sadness or tradgedy.
The eponymous story isn’t so much about children on their birthdays but rather on the arrival of a new girl, who arrives in town and introduces herself during the narrator’s cousins birthday. She is only 10yrs old but procoscious, and great drems to be an actress in Hollywood. The story ends (and starts) with her being hit, and presumably killed, by a bus.
The second story, A Christmas Memory, is autobiogrpahical. After his parents divorced Capote went to live with his mother’s relatives in Alabama, where he became close to an older relative. They have little money and spend all year saving their pennies to buy ingredients for Christmas cakes which they make for acquaintances they barely know or people like President Roosevelt. The story ends with our young protagonist being sent away to school, for a few years he recieves letters from her until old age and dementia prevent her from even getting out of bed.
And when that happens, I know it. A message saying so merely confirms a piece of news some secret vein had already received, severing me from an irreplaceable part of myself, letting it loose like a kite on a broken string. That is why, walking across a school campus on this particular December morning, I keep searching the sky. As if I expected to see, rather like hearts, a lost pair of kites hurrying towards heaven.
I liked this story the best out of the three as it was sweet as well as sad.
The last story in the set, A Tree of Night, is about a young woman, Kay, taking the train home after her uncle’s funeral. The train is crowded and she is forced to sit next to an odd couple, the woman is talkative and aggressive who forces Kay to drink whiskey with and won’t let her leave. The man is described as mute, he stares at Kay unnerving her, at one point he reaches over and strokes her face. He reminds Kay of a her uncle, and then of a childhood boogeyman. The story ends with Kay still trappen in the carriage with the couple.