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Tales of the Unexpected Paperback – July 14, 1990

4.3 out of 5 stars 49 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From the Inside Flap

Dahl is a master at introducing readers to a new sense of what lurks beneath the ordinary.

About the Author

When Roald Dahl said, "I am an old man full of metal," he wasn't kidding around. "The head of my femur (that's the large round bone of the hip joint) has been sawn off on both sides and a fearsome stainless-steel spike with a ball on top has been hammered into the hollow of my thighbone and glued into place."
"What on earth, you will ask, has all this got to do with writing books for children? Quite a lot and I'll tell you why. It turns the body into a rickety structure and a rickety structure is no good for climbing trees or going for long walks. It prefers to be sitting comfortably in an armchair with a writing board on the lap and the feet resting on a suitcase. Thus it encourages my work and the only work I know is writing books."

Roald Dahl was born in Wales in 1916 and educated in English boarding schools from the age of nine until twenty. During World War II, he was a Royal Air Force fighter pilot in North Africa and Greece. When his active duty was completed, he was transferred to Washington, D.C., where he was asked to write about some of his adventures. ""A Piece of Cake"," his first published work, was an account of a fighter plane crashing in Libya. His first piece of fiction was called ""The Gremlins"," a story about little creatures who make trouble for the Royal Air Force by drilling holes in the planes and wreaking general havoc.

Fifteen years later, Roald Dahl found himself telling bedtime stories to his children over and over again, and those were the basis for "James and the Giant Peach", his first published children's novel. After that came "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory", to be followed by many others, including "The BFG, The Witches", and "Matilda".

Every book of Roald Dahl's was written in a little brick hut in the apple orchard about two hundred yards away from his home. He wrote them all in pencil ("I never could type"), sometimes with an old sleeping bag wrapped around him, since there was only a paraffin stove to heat the drafty hut. "When I am up here," he said, "I see only the paper I am writing on, and my mind is far away with Willy Wonka or James or Mr. Fox or Danny or whatever else I am trying to cook up. The room itself is of no consequence. It is out of focus, a place for dreaming and floating and whistling in the wind."

Things that Roald Dahl wrote about himself:

I have a passion for paintings and have collected them for many years.

I make good orange marmalade.

I breed orchids and am a keen gardener.

I eat lots of chocolate.

The only dish I have never eaten is tripe.

Beethoven is wonderful.

Pop singers are horrible.

I would like to have been a good doctor.

I have had eight major operations, three on the hips, five on the spine, and countless smaller ones.

Kindness is more important than piety.

I wish my dog could talk to me.

More can be learned about Roald Dahl in his autobiographical "Boy: Tales of Childhood and Going Solo", as well as in the chapter called "Lucky Break" in "The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar and Six More". Roald Dahl died in 1990 at the age of seventy-four. Although the world lost one of its most beloved authors, what he has left behind is a rich library of wonderful tales for children of today and tomorrow to discover and enjoy.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Reissue edition (July 14, 1990)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679729895
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679729891
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.9 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (49 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #66,609 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Roald Dahl is at the peak of his powers in this collection. For anyone who knows him only as the author of the Willy Wonka books--or who thinks of him purely as a children's book author--this is the book to change your mind and make you think admiringly about Dahl's considerable powers as an adult writer.
The book is comprised of gem after gem. Two of Dahl's most famous stories are here. One is "Lamb to the Slaughter," about the wife of a police detective who kills her husband in a most unconventional way and then disposes of the murder weapon in a manner that would make any criminal proud. The other, "Nunc Dimittis," describes the lengths to which a society smoothie goes for revenge.
Dahl's descriptive powers are basic, but his imagination is limitless. He manages to calmly, smoothly pull you into his stories and make the most outrageous things seem perfectly in keeping and perfectly normal--while still just a bit askew.
The stories are all vintage Dahl. Each has elements of the macabre and the grotesque, couched in the comfortable trappings of middle-class life: marriage, tidy houses, bills, resentment, secrets, tidy houses, and so on. Dahl pulls off the neat trick of making the macabre laughable, though--he's not trying to scare the reader as much as make us shout with laughter and recognition and then settle back to enjoy a shiver of anticipation. In "William and Mary," the terminally ill narrator is propositioned by a neurosurgeon friend to give his brain up for experimentation after death. Despite the gruesome details, the story is hilarious:
" . . . So when I get you on the table I will take a saw, a small oscillating saw, and with this I shall proceed to remove the whole vault of your skull.
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By A Customer on March 4, 2001
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I was enchanted with Roald Dahl's writing as a child ever since I read CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY and JAMES AND THE GIANT PEACH. I was pleasantly surprised to stumble across this book while browsing through the shelves of my university's library. After reading TASTE and then LAMB TO THE SLAUGHTER, I found it difficult to put the book down. I find Dahl's style of writing and his keen attention to detail an absolute delight. Every story is a treat and I relish the moments that I have a bit of time to read a story or two. As a busy student, I don't have much time for recreational reading, and that's why short stories are a favorite. I enjoyed the book so much that I decided to purchase a personal copy from Amazon because this is a book I would like to read more than once. I had just been reading some of Shirley Jackson's short stories and was delighted to find another author who is consumately skilled in the genre. For those of you who like unusual stories with a twist, this book is for you.
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Format: Paperback
This is a terrific book of some of Roald Dahl's most deliciously twisted stories. Always suprising, clever, ingenious and, of course, unexpected!!! Deceptively simple writing with attention to odd and ordinary detail reveals wonderfully wicked stories. I cackled through the whole thing. Some are also quite thought-provoking, like "Genisis and Catastrophe." Favorite stories include "The Sound Machine" "Skin" "William and Mary" and "Georgy Porgy". HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, unless you like your stories cute and wholesome, in which case you'll probably be offended by this book. Thanks for listining!
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Format: Paperback
I decided to forgo reading the 900 page volume of all of Roald Dahl's short stories and purchase a smaller collection to make sure I actually liked them first. And I did. Tales of the Unexpected is full of just that - tales with so many unexpected events. This is Roald Dahl at his morbid best. His children's books may be morbid, but they're nothing in comparison to his adult short stories. I particularly liked "Lamb to the Slaughter"; it was funny in a bleak sort of way. "Man From the South" is of course, genius. It's about a ridiculous bet that happens. "Taste" also deals with a huge, and plain foolish, bet. "Dip in the Pool" was really good too. There were more that I loved, but it would take too long to list them here. But Roald Dahl is a genius. In about 10 pages, he manages to make you drawn into the story, makes you feel chilled, and makes you gasp. All of the stories take place in the ordinary world, but what lurks beneath it is stunningly portrayed. Human nature is laid bare, events are laid bare, and Dahl draws heavily from his own childhood experiences in many of the stories.

The stories also never end in anything definitive; Dahl gives just enough of a conclusion to keep you wonder and guessing and thinking. In "Nunc Dimittis" for example, the ending is such a teaser. The story itself is wonderful, and at the end, you think you know what happened, but you can't be 100 % sure. Roald Dahl's tales really are unexpected; there were many instances when the story took a twist that I was shocked by, a twist that I hadn't expected at all. And that makes the stories all the more delicious. They're aptly named, that's for sure, and I loved them.

I don't know if I have a specific favorite story; they were all really good, and all really chilling and effective.
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