I have always been fascinated with the short story format as they make for an easy read and finish quickly without the agony of waiting for a sequel 😉 But that’s what makes it one of the most difficult format to write in. One needs to fill in all details of characters, scenario, relationships, etc and yet tell a tale too. I have been as ardent fan of Roald Dahl since I read his short story book called Kiss Kiss. I am reviewing here the omnibus of all his short story books and some more unexpected tales. Hope you will love this one too.
Title: The Collected Short Stories of Roald Dahl
Author: Roald Dahl
Genre: Fiction / short stories
Roald Dahl ( 1916-1990) needs no introduction for who is not familiar with Charlie and the Chocolate Factory or Matilda? Beauty of Dahl is that he wrote with equal ease for kids as well as adults. While his children’s stories are widely read among the young readers, the adults are not far behind. Roald Dahl served as a fighter pilot in WWII and some of his tales drwa inspiration from those times. He was a British writer, poet and novelist who wrote simple tales but with a hidden sting which amuse the reader to the core. Though one may find some dark tones in his writings, there is a general kind heartedness in his writing.
This book has all the short stories that Roald Dahl ever wrote for grown ups. It’s an omnibus of his books, namely, Kiss Kiss, Switch Bitch, Over to you, Someone like you and eight more unexpected tales. I am going to select a few and let you decide whether my review rates well with you or not. Some of his tales will seem adulterous and salacious; reader caution is advised.
^ Spoiler Alert – I am telling the whole tale here to give you an idea of how dubious this writer can be.^
Mrs Bixby & the Colonel’s coat
Mr & Mrs Bixby live an ordinary life where in he is a dentist with a practice in town while she stays at home to take care of all homely duties. Or so the impression seems to be on the surface. Mrs Bixby is bored with her husband though she married him as he checked all the points on her checklist for a potential mate. So she has adulterous liaisons with other men on the sly. One such admirer gifts her a mink coat as a parting gift.
Loathe to part with it but unsure how to conceal it from her husband for he is bound to question where it came from, she devises a clever plan. Mrs Bixby walks into a pawnbroker shop and deposits the coat against a ticket, to be redeemed for a sum of $50. She refuses to give any name on the ticket though the pawnbroker tells her it’s for her own good as sometimes the items get misplaced. But she wont listen.
She hurries home and later tells her husband that she chanced upon finding a pawn ticket in the cab; would he please go and redeem it if there is something worthwhile at the other end? Ever the dutiful husband, he does so and then excitedly calls his wife who is waiting with bated breath. He pleads with her to come to his office and see the gift which is a “mink”.
Mrs Bixby hastens to her husband’s office where a pleased-as-punch Mr Bixby presents her with a mink cuff!!! stupefied, she walks out dazed, much to the amazement of her husband. Mrs Bixby decides to go and confront the pawnbroker for there is no doubt in her mind that he cheated her out of the mink coat. As she walks out into her husband’s office reception, her gaze falls on his secretary who is just back from lunch and is in the act of hanging up a mink coat!!!!!
Dahl’s Uncle Oswald was a very adventurous character who seemed to have done it all which he dutifully recorded in diaries. The complete set of these diaries were left to him and he consulted a lawyer to figure out which ones he could retell without incurring a defamation suit. For you see, almost all his uncles escapades involved wives of other men whom he has no trouble seducing with his irresistible charm. Finally, Dahl chose this tale which begins in the Sinai desert where Uncle Oswald decides to explore to find scorpions to add to his collection while driving to Jerusalem.
On the way his car breaks down and he manges to find a gas station to get it serviced. A seemingly diseased attendant informs him of a major break in the car which will need a spare part to be ordered from Cairo. Uncle Oswald resigns to the fact that he will need to spend the night under the stars when a sleek Rolls Royce drives in. He gets talking with the owner, who upon hearing of his predicament, generously offers him a stay at his place for the night.
Not quite believing his luck, Uncle Oswald jumps into his car and off they go to a very remote location in the desert where a royal mansion greets them. The man explains that he has a very beautiful daughter and wants to keep her protected from the evil eyes of preying men. When he meets his host’s wife, he can’t believe how gorgeous she is. And then there is the daughter who is undenyingly beautiful and in the flush of youth.
Uncle Oswald spends the entire dinner mentally salivating over the dilemma of whom should he choose to seduce tonight; while both the women flirt with him, though subtly so as not to alert the man of the house. But after dinner, both women leave the men to go to their bedrooms without a backward look. Uncle Oswald retires for the night, cursing his ill luck. Just then he hears the door open and before he could speak out a very naked feminine body slips into bed with him.
The lovemaking is intense though the woman does not allow him to speak; he has no way of deducing which one of them it is as she possessed the ardour of a young woman but the technique of a practiced lover. Once its over, she quietly slips away, leaving him sated and pleasantly exhausted. He decides to find out in the morning which one was his lover as he has left a very visible mark on her neck.
Next morning when he meets them at the breakfast table, he is stumped to see both of them wearing a scarf to cover their neck. Accepting his defeat with a soft smile, he heads out with his host to the gas station. On the way his host tells him that he had another reason for hiding out here as he has another daughter who suffers from leprosy. Seeing Uncle Oswald’s horrified look, he hastens to assure him that only the most “intimate” contact would be contagious and so he has nothing to worry!!!
Lasting impression on me:
In both these tales, its difficult to gauge who is the victim. It’s almost as if Dahl changes his mind midway to turn the hero into the villain. I love this dubiousness in his stories though they may appear dark and convoluted to some. His heroes appear to have flaws and seem to fall flat on their face at most times. Some of his tales leave the ending to the reader’s discretion and may lead towards the most outlandish result.
Needless to say I am a fan of his tale-telling; might say something of my bent of mind too 😉
Roald Dahl in my mind is a 5 ***** master story-teller and I would rate his books anything but that.
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What do you think of short stories? Any favourite author for them?
I am on a no-book-buying pact as I am pretty much broke; not to mention that I am running out of space as well!! But incase anyone wants to trade their books or send me gifts, please do check out my Wishlist on Amazon & Want to read on Goodreads.
Coming up tomorrow is [R] for From Russia with Love
For the uninitiated, AtoZ challenge is a blogging challenge wherein one has to write on every alphabet from A to Z and post on all days of April, except Sundays. Usually its better to devise a theme as it makes it easy to write the posts. Plus readers have a reason to stay hooked too.
The A to Z Challenge is created by Arlee Bird of Tossing it Out
and co-hosted by
Alex J. Cavanaugh of Alex J. Cavanaugh
Jeremy Hawkins of Hollywood Nuts
John Holton of The Sound of One Hand Typing
J Lenni Dorner of Blog of J. Lenni Dorner
Some of my previous posts you might be interested in catching up on