Saturday, June 13, 2009

Review: My Uncle Oswald

It is disquieting to think that the man who wrote James and the Giant Peach could also come up with My Uncle Oswald. True, Roald Dahl’s short stories are intended for adults and range from the diabolically clever to the downright salacious to the disturbingly macabre. But Uncle Oswald falls on the far end of the salacious range, bordering on raunchy.

In this novella, Oswald – who was first introduced to Dahl fans in “The Visitor,” one of the stories in Switch Bitch – tells the tale of how he made his fortune. This adventure involved selling “potency pills” to diplomats and starting a sperm bank with contributions from unwitting, very prominent, donors. Both ventures turn on the remarkable efficacy of the Sudanese blister beetle.

The book is funny. Dahl is a master at drawing the reader into unbelievable scenarios involving unlikable characters. Here, Oswald and his vixen sidekick Yasmin tour Europe seducing royalty, artists, authors, and geniuses – delivering their ill-gotten gains to the Semen’s Home and making readers giggle at their antics. It is easy to finish, but leaves a tinge of embarrassment. As Oswald himself points out:
The act of copulation is like that of picking the nose, It’s all right to be doing it yourself but it is a singularly unattractive spectacle for the onlooker.

PS: Dahl was married to American movie star Patricia Neal for 30 years. Will the wonders of Wikipedia never cease?


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