Roald Dahl is known for his bangin children’s books: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, The Gremlins, James and the Giant Peach, Matilda, Fantastic Mr. Fox, The BFG, etc. He never shied away from “adult” themes because he respected children by challenging them with sophisticated and nuanced concepts. I wasn’t allowed to read James and the Giant Peach when I was younger because it said the word ass and I’m still bitter about it. More like James and the Giant
Roald Dahl’s children’s stories are cool but I had no idea he wrote adult lit too until I came upon a collection of short stories at Powell’s City of Books. Powell’s, located in Portland, is the largest independent bookstore in the world. It’s truly a city of books and if you’re ever in Portland, you should live there for the day.
My collection, The Best of Roald Dahl*, contains 25 short stories organized chronologically by publication (from Madame Rosette in 1945 to Claud’s Dog in 1953). You’ll find no happy endings here, but hey, a happily-ever-after is borrrrrrring. If you love a dark, macabre finale like me, you might also enjoy Flannery O’Connor’s Everything That Rises Must Converge.
The downside to a collection where every ending is a twist is that you’ll paradoxically come to expect the unexpected; however, despite the fact that you know it’s going to end poorly for the characters, Dahl manages to suck you in and root for them.
I highly recommend this particular collection because it includes the majority of his published adult short fiction. My favorites are Lamb to the Slaughter and Pig. The Best of Roald Dahl receives 5 out of 5 camel humps. If you’re interested in the short story format (personally, it’s my favorite route to meet an author for the first time), check out my previous reviews of short story collections: Girl With Curious Hair by David Foster Wallace, Self-Help by Lorrie Moore, Welcome to the Monkey House by Kurt Vonnegut, Like You’d Understand, Anyway by Jim Shepard, Men Without Women by Haruki Murakami, In the Valley of the Kings by Terrence Holt, Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris, Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri, Tenth of December by George Saunders, The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2005 edited by Dave Eggers, and The Best American Short Stories 2013 edited by Elizabeth Strout. Just to name… a zillion.
*Roald Dahl. The Best of Roald Dahl. New York: Vintage Books, 1978. Print.