Switch Bitch by Roald Dahl

4/5 stars.
ebook, 100 pages.
Read from February 18 to 22, 2014.

If you’re like most people, you know Roald Dahl for his wonder contributions to children’s literature. What most people don’t know is that he published quite a bit adult content and there is nothing child-friendly about these pieces. The stories in Switch Bitch were actually written for Playboy and published separately in 1965. Also, on a complete side note, did you know that Roald Dahl wrote two scripts based off the works of Ian Flemming, the author of the notorious James Bond series. One was Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and the other was the Bond film, You Only Live Twice . With the Bond film, it was the one Bond movie that was the furthest away from the plot and story line of the actual book by Flemming. So there you have it, now you know that Dahl was a successful bad-ass adult writer as well. You were just likely too young to know that before. I know I was.

Knowing that these stories were written for Playboy really gives me a better understanding as to why these stories were so graphic. Yes all of the stories were about sex but that isn’t what made them graphic. It was that each one of the stories in this collaboration had a the undertones of a horror story. Like his other works of short stories, these continue to emphasize just how awful adults are and with this collaboration, specifically men.

In the story The Visitor, the main character of Oswald, whose womanizing adventures Dahl would eventually write a full length novel on called My Uncle Oswald, is one of the few stories in which by the time you finish the story you are satisfied and a bit less horrified with the outcome as Oswald is not a likeable character. Oswald is travelling in the middle east, where he has been bedding a lot of women and ditching them as soon as he can. In an effort to disappear from his last one night stand,  he finds himself stranded at a gas station in the middle of no where. The circumstances of the stranding are in themselves suspicious as the gas attendant appears to be physically suffering from a condition and is overly attentive to the weary Oswald who is terrified of catching whatever it is this man has. However, it appears to be Oswald’s lucky day as a rich man drives by shortly and offers for him to come and stay up in his mansion for the night while his car gets repaired. The man has a gorgeous wife and daughter. Outwardly, Oswald promises to be decent but inwardly he is already scheming to get one or both of the women into his bed. The events that follow are indeed maniacal and comical.

The Last Act, is by far the most cruel story in the book. I know that I felt particularly horrified and disgusted with the presumed ending of this story.  Anna Cooper finds herself widowed and it was like half of her soul was taken from her. She moves on but not willingly. After finding some moderate success in life after her husbands death she encounters the man who she was dating in high school before she met her late husband. What initially appears to be a promising romance turns into one of long held grudges and cruelty.

Honestly, there is something addicting about Dahl’s writing as I’ve devoured a few books of his short stories now. He is able to make his stories entertaining, funny and dark all at the same time. I believe he also has a great understanding of the human condition, both the good and the bad spectrum’s and he uses them to his advantage. If you are ready to shake up your childhood then I would highly recommend reading some of Dahl’s short stories and adult work. You can find one collection that compromises of the core of his short stories in, Twenty-Nine Kisses.

Kiss Kiss by Roald Dahl

3/5 stars.
ebook, 240 pages.
Read from December 09 to 16, 2013.

Even as an adult this man’s writing continues to captivate me. However, with this adult collaboration, Dahl has emphasised the disturbing in a less than friendly fashion by having the central theme of these stories be completely about how awful adults are to each other. So take the quirkiness of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and the despicable characters in The Twits and then mash them together with some realism and adults and you have Kiss Kiss

Out of all the stories I would have to say that “Royal Jelly” truly caught me off guard. I don’t know if I’m slow or if Dahl is that good at writing but I truly did not see the ending of this story coming and I recall my jaw dropping when I read the last paragraph.  The story is a depiction of a couple that has had a baby who is struggling to get enough to eat. The babe just refuses to eat and as a newborn it is wasting away.  This is the first child the couple has had after failing to conceive before. The mother is severely distressed and exhausted so it makes what the husband does even harder to bear.  The husband works with bees and in an act of desperation, despite knowing in a way what the effects would be, feeds his withering baby royal jelly, which is the food used to produce and create the Queen bee.  Firstly, what I found so disturbing about this story was that a father would use his own child as a type of science project, though sadly, I don’t think is completely unheard of. Secondly, when trying to explain to his frantic wife that what he has done is a good thing, the wife calms a bit but as a reader I felt far from consoled! I could just see that this story was going to turn into a horror, and it did, the ending was truly ghastly.

After reading so many pieces of Dahl’s work I absolutely adore the way he is able to leave the reader hanging at the end but always in the best way possible. He leaves the reader inquisitive and allows them to draw their own conclusions without absolutely gutting the reader. Even while writing about how awful adults are, he still manages to provoke his adult readers to use their imaginations which is what I still truly treasure with Dahl’s writing. Whether you are a child or an adult Dahl still finds away to stir your imagination and provoke curiosity. I believe it was this gift that made him such a phenomenal writer.

Recommended read for Dahl lovers and those who appreciate quirky and creepy reads!

Separate Kingdoms: Stories by Valerie Laken

3/5 Stars.
(ARC) Paperback, 224 pages.
Read from December 07 to 08, 2013.

I’d like to thank Goodreads for free ARC copy of this book. This is a refreshing collaboration of intricate and intriguing short stories. This book was a quick read and I enjoyed the similar themes of division, loss and love and the emotional depth that each story contained.  The author played with the dynamics of how each of these themes affect us. No matter who you are, where you are from and who you are with we all share the same pursuit for love and will all be faced with our own losses and divisions in that pursuit. Some of the stories are heart-retching while others make you feel a bit uncomfortable but I believe that is the desired effect.

I found the story of the woman who lost her leg particularly touching.  The story is narrated from the point of view of the husband as he struggles to reconnect with his broken wife who has yet to come to terms with the loss and actually embrace and love the body she now has.  What was particularly effective was how you were able to get a perfect idea of the spite and hatred the wife had for her own position despite the story having been narrated from the husband’s point of view. It just details how well the husband knows his wife. It’s torture to see what the husband has to deal with in terms of being mindful of his wife’s turmoil but in also trying to address his own needs to reconnect with his wife and ultimately help her improve her well-being. The story’s ending was, thankfully, hopeful.

The story involving the adoption of a child I found difficult. There was so much tension between these two very different women over the selection of which child they were going to adopt together. This story was narrated from just the one woman in the relationship so I felt the need to take her maternal side (despite having not children) as her partner seemed eager to have the process over with and didn’t seem to be too bothered with which child they ended up taking home with them. The couple’s predicament felt very real and in a way and had a sense familiarity to it. The overwhelming urge the narrator had to adopt the one specific child, while the story never went there, was going to have explosive implications for the couple and Laken did an excellent job in depicting this.

Overall I enjoyed Laken’s writing and would recommend this novel for anyone with an appreciation for well-written short stories.