My copy: trade paperback
Purchased: April 28, 2008
from: Fully Booked
Read: March 19, 2010
According to the book's flyleaf blurb, Roald Dahl began writing after a "monumental bash on the head" he sustained as an RAF pilot during WW2. I hope I wouldn't need the same kind of blunt force to compel myself to blog again.
So, I'm pushing myself to review letter D of my A to Z challenge series. D is for Dahl. Yes, I know, why is a 43 year old woman reading Dahl for the very first time? I don't have a good excuse.
I remember my sister had a couple of them on her shelf in the room we shared growing up. But for some strange reason, I've never been compelled enough to read any. I even have my own collection of his children's stories, and still, no Dahl. Well, better late than never, right?
I am happy I finally read him and even happier I chose this collection of short stories to give me my first taste of Dahl. He is a most imaginative and entertaining writer. That bash on the head must have knocked around some of his gray matter giving him a different view of life, because he can take ordinary themes and twist them around a little bit here and there, turning the prosaic into strange and unexpected tales. I liked the way he twisted around the theme of adultery in the collection's second story of Mrs. Bixby and the Colonel's Coat. Very cleverly written.
Dahl is a deft storyteller who can pack a lot into a short story. Less able writers would require a novel for each of his short story plots. In fact, his short stories do not end with that unfinished feel that most stories leave you with. He brings his tales to satisfying denouement in as few words as possible. I can imagine that takes a great deal of talent.
Another favorite in the collection is Parson's Pleasure, the story of a rare furniture collector slash conman who travels the countryside in search of fine furniture sold way below market value. And dresses up as a parson to do it. The jaw-dropping ending left me aghast even though the bad man got his comeuppance.
Story number 4, Man from the South, is the story of a man who makes bets with strangers, not for cash, but for body appendages. It seemed vaguely familiar, and then I remembered I have watched that on TV, which reminded me that back in the 80s, there was a series called Tales of the Unexpected. I googled it, and yes, my memory, in one of its rare moments of functionality, served me right. That series was actually hosted by Roald Dahl. The link leads you to a wikipedia post on the TV series.
Of course, the title story, was what got to me in the first place. The Great Automatic Grammatizer is about a splendid but scary invention -- a machine that can spew words and words to produce articles and novels. Hmm, because of my low level of desire to blog these days, I need a machine like that. A great automatic bloggerator.