Saturday, March 30, 2013

Tales of the Unexpected, Roald Dahl

Tales of the UnexpectedFrom "Taste": There were six of us to dinner that night at Mike Schofield's house in London: Mike and his wife and daughter, my wife and I, and a man called Richard Pratt

I decided to forgo reading the 900 page volume of all of Roald Dahl's short stories and purchase a smaller collection to make sure I actually liked them first. And I did. Tales of the Unexpected is full of just that - tales with so many unexpected events. This is Roald Dahl at his morbid best. His children's books may be morbid, but they're nothing in comparison to his adult short stories. I particularly liked "Lamb to the Slaughter"; it was funny in a bleak sort of way. "Man From the South" is of course, genius. It's about a ridiculous bet that happens. "Taste" also deals with a huge, and plain foolish, bet. "Dip in the Pool" was really good too. There were more that I loved, but it would take too long to list them here. But Roald Dahl is a genius. In about 10 pages, he manages to make you drawn into the story, makes you feel chilled, and makes you gasp. All of the stories take place in the ordinary world, but what lurks beneath it is stunningly portrayed. Human nature is laid bare, events are laid bare, and Dahl draws heavily from his own childhood experiences in many of the stories.

The stories also never end in anything definitive; Dahl gives just enough of a conclusion to keep you wonder and guessing and thinking. In "Nunc Dimittis" for example, the ending is such a teaser. The story itself is wonderful, and at the end, you think you know what happened, but you can't be 100 % sure. Roald Dahl's tales really are unexpected; there were many instances when the story took a twist that I was shocked by, a twist that I hadn't expected at all. And that makes the stories all the more delicious. They're aptly named, that's for sure, and I loved them.

I don't know if I have a specific favorite story; they were all really good, and all really chilling and effective. Some of them were perhaps a bit too effective. "Parson's Pleasure" for example had me literally gasping out loud at the end. No, gasping isn't the right word; more like, exclaiming. It was just so...evil, the ending. I could almost hear Roald Dahl laughing as he wrote it.

Often (but not always), Roald Dahl writes from the first person, but the narrator is a witness to the events. "Man From the South", one of his most famous and chilling stories is narrated by someone who witnesses the sinister bet that takes place. They're not actually a main character in the events, but they just happen to see it all. However, not all of his stories are told like that.

I really, really loved this collection of stories, and Roald Dahl was really a genius writer. I've been reading a lot of morbid fiction lately (mostly Roald Dahl), so I think I might take a break and read something lighter. Still, I would highly recommend this one.

Read Tales of the Unexpected:
  • if you like Roald Dahl
  • if you like short stories
471 pages.
Outstanding Book That Will Stay On My Bookshelf For Rereading (jf I own it)!

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