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Review: Roald Dahl collected short stories & my uncle Oswald (1 Viewer)

kenewbie

Senior Member
So, I read this in Norwegian, not sure if the exact same book is available in other languages since it is a hybrid 2-for-1 sort of thing. The novel My uncle Oswald should be widely available though, and there are loads of short story compilations to choose from.

The shorts

The Visitor, An African story, Lamb to the slaughter, The landlady, Skin, Taste, and a bunch of others.

Dahl's trademark is twists. A part from a few odd ones, every story he has ever written has some sort of twist towards the end. Now, these stories are quite old, so readers of contemporary literature will find a lot of these twists to be quite weak. Very few of them packs the punch you would find in Fight Club, or in movies like The Sixth Sense. There are few endings that give you goosebumps when you realize what is going on. The exception might be "The Visitor", which had a really nice twist (and also introduces the character of Uncle Oswald).

Many of his stories are very well known, they have been featured on radio, TV-series, many of them printed in schoolbooks and so on. Coupled with pretty extensive foreshadowing, you know what is coming long before you reach the end of the story. I had vague recollections of many these, without knowing where from. I probably read or heard quite a lot of them when I were younger.

The language he uses is pretty much identical to his stories for children. It is clean and easy to read, so free of complications that if it wasn't for the macabre content, it would read like a story for kids. What surprised me the most was the occasional staggering amount of detailed information on some narrow field. Take the story "Taste" as an example. There is a huge amount of details pertaining to wine in that short; how it's made, the difference in the quality of soil in certain vineyards affect the end product, the names of different districts and where they are located in relation to each other. It struck me as ahead of its time. Then again, the end reveals something that might very well disqualify everything previously mentioned.

Some characters and locations are reused over several stories. Quite a few are set in WW2, where Dahl himself served in the Royal Air Force. For some reason, these are the least interesting to me. He wrote best when he just let his imagination flow, the WW2 stories are more nostalgic and suffer under it.

My uncle Oswald

Uncle Oswald, although fictional, is introduced as an uncle of Dahl himself; an eccentric womanizer and adventurer from high society. He is what Patrick Bateman would be if Ellis worked for Disney. The novel is meant to be an excerpt from a staggering 32 volume encyclopedic diary that Oswald mailed to Dahl on his deathbed.

It reads like a overgrown short story. There is little to be found in theme or metaphors, everything is just there at face value. Which is quite ok, this is clearly not intended to be anything other than an easily consumable, funny story.

You never really believe in the story, it is outrageously unlikely. Again, it was probably never written to be believable. It is a yarn spun by an old man for the entertainment of his nephew. Bits of the book are very funny, although it does lack punch in some aspects.

Uncle Oswald meets a number of famous people in very compromising situations. The royalty of Europe is represented, and people such as Freud, Einstein, Picasso, Monet, Joyce and a host of others. While these encounters are mildly entertaining, they could be better. You never get any real feeling for what the people he meets are like, the encounters are too shallow.

The book is still quite a nice experience. I smiled a lot while reading it, and it is short and easy to read, which makes it a good option when you just want to sit down and be entertained for a couple of hours.

k
 
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enron1982

Senior Member
I picked up Tales of the Unexpected-a short story collection of his, last month. The stories are entertaining and some quite surprising. I've read eight of them so far. I've been reading one here or there.
 
T

Truth-Teller

Roald Dahl is God.

This is the man who inspires me to write.

His plotting, his pacing, his atmospheric jaw-dropping, scene-shattering, twist-ending is what kills you. The only man who can successfully mesh both humour and horror, at the same fucking time.
 
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