Collected Stories

Overview

(Book Jacket Status: Jacketed)

The only hardcover edition of Roald Dahl’s stories for adults, the Collected Stories amply showcases his singular gifts as a fabulist and a born storyteller.

Later known for his immortal children’s books, including Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, James and the Giant Peach, and The BFG, Dahl also had a genius for adult short fiction, which he wrote throughout his life. Whether fictionalizing his dramatic exploits as a Royal Air Force pilot during...

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Overview

(Book Jacket Status: Jacketed)

The only hardcover edition of Roald Dahl’s stories for adults, the Collected Stories amply showcases his singular gifts as a fabulist and a born storyteller.

Later known for his immortal children’s books, including Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, James and the Giant Peach, and The BFG, Dahl also had a genius for adult short fiction, which he wrote throughout his life. Whether fictionalizing his dramatic exploits as a Royal Air Force pilot during World War II or concocting the ingeniously plotted fables that were dramatized on television as Tales of the Unexpected, Dahl was brilliant at provoking in his readers the overwhelming desire to know what happens next—and at satisfying that desire in ways that feel both surprising and inevitable.

Filled with devilish plot twists, his tales display a tantalizing blend of macabre humor and the absurdly grotesque. From “The Landlady,” about an unusual boardinghouse that features a small but very permanent clientele, to “Pig,” a brutally funny look at vegetarianism, to “Man from the South,” in which a fanatical gambler does his betting with hammer, nails, and a butcher’s knife, Dahl’s creations amuse and shock us in equal measure, gleefully reminding us of what might lurk beneath the surface of the ordinary.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“With the inventive power of a Thomas Edison and the imagination of a Lewis Carroll . . . Roald Dahl is a wizard of comedy and the grotesque, an artist with a marvelously topsy-turvy sense of the ridiculous in life.”
—CLEVELAND PLAIN DEALER

“Dahl has the mastery of plot and characters possessed by great writers of the past, along with a wildness and wryness of his own. One of his trademarks is writing beautifully about the ugly, even the horrible.”
—LOS ANGELES TIMES

“A collection of Roald Dahl stories is always occasion for applause.”
—CHICAGO DAILY NEWS

“An ingenious imagination, a fascination with odd and ordinary detail . . . are the first strengths of Dahl’s storytelling.”
—NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW

“[Dahl’s] stare is unblinking, and most of his tales are irritants, provocations. Fantastic as Grimm, neat as O. Henry, heartless as Saki, they stick in the mind long after subtler ones have faded: incredible (literally), unforgettable, and vengefully funny.”
—from the Introduction by Jeremy Treglown

Erica Wagner
I’d read his tales before; but I was happy to read them again. I was glad to be affected by them, and troubled by them; glad to recall my childhood discovery of this writer. Difficult, strange, enchanting, yes — and bloody tremendous, terrific, fantastic too.
— The New York Times
Dennis Drabelle
… looking for leitmotifs in Dahl's stories seems almost beside the point. Whether pegged to children or adults, what they all had in common was simply this: a magician's touch unsurpassed in 20th-century fiction.
— The Washington Post
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780307264909
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 10/17/2006
  • Pages: 888
  • Sales rank: 451,840
  • Product dimensions: 5.25 (w) x 8.26 (h) x 1.83 (d)

Meet the Author

Roald Dahl (1916-1990) was born in Llandaff, South Wales, and went to Repton School in England. His parents were Norwegian, so holidays were spent in Norway. As he explains in Boy, he turned down the idea of university in favor of a job that would take him to 'a wonderful faraway place'. In 1933 he joined the Shell Company, which sent him to Mombasa in East Africa. When World War II began in 1939 he became a fighter pilot and in 1942 was made assistant air attaché in Washington, where he started to write short stories. His first major success as a writer for children was in 1964. Thereafter his children's books brought him increasing popularity, and when he died children mourned the world over, particularly in Britain where he had lived for many years.

Biography

"I have never met a boy who so persistently writes the exact opposite of what he means," a teacher once wrote in the young Roald Dahl's report card. "He seems incapable of marshaling his thoughts on paper." From such inauspicious beginnings emerged an immensely successful author whom The Evening Standard would one day dub "one of the greatest children's writers of all time."

Dahl may have been an unenthusiastic student, but he loved adventure stories, and when he finished school he went out into the world to have some adventures of his own. He went abroad as a representative of the Shell corporation in Dar-es-Salaam, and then served in World War II as a pilot in the Royal Air Force. After the war, Dahl began his writing career in earnest, publishing two well-received collections of short stories for adults, along with one flop of a novel.

The short stories, full of tension and subtle psychological horror, didn't seem to presage a children's author. Malcolm Bradbury wrote in The New York Times Book Review, "[Dahl's] characters are usually ignoble: he knows the dog beneath the skin, or works hard to find it." Yet this talent for finding, and exposing, the nastier sides of grown-up behavior served him well in writing for children. As Dahl put it, "Writing is all propaganda, in a sense. You can get at greediness and selfishness by making them look ridiculous. The greatest attribute of a human being is kindness, and all the other qualities like bravery and perseverance are secondary to that."

In 1953, Dahl married the actress Patricia Neal; two of his early children's books, James and the Giant Peach (1961) and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (1964) grew out of the bedtime stories he made up for their children. Elaine Moss, writing in the Times, called the latter "the funniest children's book I have read in years; not just funny but shot through with a zany pathos which touches the young heart." Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was a colossal hit. A film version starring Gene Wilder was released in 1971 (as Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory), while James and the Giant Peach was made into a movie in 1996.

Dahl followed his initial successes with a string of bestsellers, including Danny, the Champion of the World, The Twits, The BFG, The Witches and Matilda. Some adults objected to the books' violence -- unpleasant characters (like James’s Aunts Sponge and Spiker) tend to get bumped off in grotesque and inventive ways -- but Dahl defended his stories as part of a tradition of gruesome fairy tales in which mean people get what they deserve. "These tales are pretty rough, but the violence is confined to a magical time and place," he said, adding that children like violent stories as long as they're "tied to fantasy and humor." By the time of his death in 1990, Dahl's mischievous wit had captivated so many readers that The Times called him "one of the most widely read and influential writers of our generation."

Good To Know

When Dahl was in school, he and his schoolmates occasionally served as new-product testers for the Cadbury chocolate company. Dahl used to dream of working in a chocolate manufacturer's inventing room. He wrote in his autobiography, "I have no doubt at all that, 35 years later, when I was looking for a plot for my second book for children, I remembered those little cardboard boxes and the newly invented chocolates inside them, and I began to write a book called Charlie and the Chocolate Factory."

Dahl's first book for children, The Gremlins (1943), was a story about the mythical creatures that sabotaged British planes. (Dahl claimed for most of his life that he had coined the term "gremlins," but it had been in use by members of the Royal Air Force for years.) Walt Disney planned to use it as the basis for a movie, but the project was scrapped, and only 5,000 copies of the book were ever printed.

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    1. Date of Birth:
      September 13, 1916
    2. Place of Birth:
      Llandaff, Wales, England
    1. Date of Death:
      November 23, 1990
    2. Place of Death:
      Oxford, England

Table of Contents

Introduction by Jeremy Treglown
Select Bibliography
Chronology

An African Story
Only This
Katina
Beware of the Dog
They Shall Not Grow Old
Someone Like You
Death of an Old Old Man
Madame Rosette
A Piece of Cake
Yesterday Was Beautiful
Nunc Dimittis
Skin
Man from the South
The Soldier
The Sound Machine
Mr Botibol
Vengeance Is Mine Inc.
The Wish
Poison
Taste
Dip in the Pond
The Great Automatic Grammatizator
Claud’s Dog:
—The Ratcatcher
—Rummins
—Mr Hoddy
—Mr Feasey
My Lady Love, My Dove
Neck
Lamb to Slaughter
Gallopin Foxley
Edward the Conqueror
The Way Up to Heaven
William and Mary
Parson’s Pleasure
Georgy Porgy
Mrs Bixby and the Colonel’s Coat
Royal Jelly
The Champion of the World
Genesis and Catastrophe
Pig
The Landlady
The Visitor
The Last Act
The Great Switcheroo
The Butler
Bitch
Ah, Sweet Mystery of Life
The Hitchhiker
The Umbrella Man
The Bookseller
The Surgeon

Appendix: Dates of Composition and First Publication

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