Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

In The Coast of Chicago (1986), the collection in which “Bijou” appears, Stuart Dybek, a Chicago native, mixes realistic narratives about urban life, usually involving young male protagonists, with a few unconventional stories like “Bijou.” Bijou is a rather old-fashioned name for a movie theater, and that is ironic, given the avant-garde nature of the film being described. Bijou is also French for “jewel,” and the word can be applied to anything, including this story, that is exquisitely wrought or well made.

Dybek gives his unnamed narrator the distance, if not the “aloofness,” of the critic and commentator in the first sentence of his story, having him use the French phrase, dernier cri (the latest fashion). There is something pretentious about the narrator throughout. Note, for example, his overly elaborate description of the “modern hospital” in the wretched country where the film was made: “In the modern hospital, set like a glass mural against the sea, ceiling fans oscillate like impaled wings of flamingos above the crisp rhythm of nurses.” The second simile in particular is the product of someone who is being precious about language, as in the use of “siren” as a verb in the following sentence: “As ambulances siren, they flash through color changes with the rapidity of chameleons.”

Although the narrator has keen powers of perception, he shows no emotion in his account of the horrors....

(The entire section is 468 words.)