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The best of Roald Dahl: A short critique and other curious observations
I’ve just finished reading “The best of Roald Dahl” – a collection of short stories spanning the author’s lifetime. As is the case with most short story books, this one too was a mixed bag – a mélange of tales – amusing, bewildering, disturbing and unfortunately a few disgusting ones too. Although short stories are not usually meant to be related to each other in any way (more so if they span across such a diverse and elaborate oeuvre), yet I did find a few common shades in a lot of characters.

The portrayal of men for instance, is more or less negative – if a man is not portrayed as outright lascivious, you’ll still find him one dimensionally negative – overbearing, domineering as a husband, nonchalant as a father and just plain selfish otherwise. And before the feminists give a shriek of joy, I’ll draw their attention to the fact that women (whenever they are given a significant part in the story) are not treated very kindly either. In fact they too are portrayed in a somewhat disparaging light – meek and submissive at first but cunning and sadistically cruel as the story progresses.

Being an ardent animal lover, I found the last few stories (under the title ‘Claude’s Dog’) outright revolting – especially graphic, encyclopedic details on dog races, rat catching and bird poaching (you get the general idea :-)).

But more the anything else, I found at least three tales spooky! I realized that some of the stories that I was reading touched upon subjects which were similar to or had allusions to what I had blogged about just recently (there is even reference to an entry which I had written on my notebook but am yet to type it out!):

“Edward The Conquerer” deals with reincarnation of a Lizt as a cat. In the story one of our protagonists even plays Chopin to appease the cat! It reminded me of the post here.

“Galloping Foxley” starts with musings of a happy, contended commuter thus reminding me of the post I made about joys of commuting in Bangalore.

But the story that takes the cake and even shows shades of clairvoyance is “Royal Jelly” - It deals with a man who has an almost unnatural affinity for honey bees and therefore starts an apiary. Uncanny because I am about to post something on a similar subject shortly - I’ve been avoiding posting the rough draft written some two weeks ago (days before I encountered the story!) for want of time. Then there is obviously an unmistakable allusion to the picture I posted last month. Perhaps these are portents that I should make haste (besides engaging in apiculture).
posted: 16.9.04


I've always been a big Roald Dahl fan, but i must conceed, Royal Jelly was rather scary. However, all in collection made for a fascinating read. He intended that the stories be 'spooky' and scary. The negativity of the characters plays a big role in giving the stories their impact. I loved it for all that it is and all that it is not.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7.10.04  

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