This weekend I read a bunch of Roald Dahl’s short stories for adults. His stories are told in a voice I associate with Thurber: that boozy, 1950s war-of-the-sexes voice, where male characters are only interested in sex and drinking and female characters are only interested in nagging their husbands and drinking. It’s so far from anything I know to be true that it reads like a pleasant escape to a different world, like reading science fiction.
One thing Dahl does that Thurber can’t is plot his stories like a sonuvabitch. Almost every one of Dahl’s stories has a tense middle and a one-two surprise punch at the end. Also, a lot of the endings make you smile, even though they often involve murder. Murder is hilarious and/or satisfying in the mind of Roald Dahl, and once you’re in there with him you start to enjoy it too — at least until you start thinking about how much of your childhood reading was influenced by a man who thinks murder is the last word in comedy.
I read somewhere that they’re planning to release the unfinished manuscript of the sequel to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator. They’re calling it Charlie and the Hilarious Blood Bath.
Well, I guess J.K. Rowling already sort of wrote that one.
Try Roald Dahl’s grownup stories if you like Thurber’s writing style or Saki’s black humor.