Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Lamb to the Slaughter and other stories

71. Lamb to the Slaughter and other Stories, by Roald Dahl

The title story in this collection of five is fairly well-known, as it is often anthologized. It's the one about the wife who bashes her husband over the head with a frozen leg of lamb, and then feeds the murder weapon to the police investigating the crime!

"Parson's Pleasure" and "The Bookseller" have similar themes. In each, someone is taking advantage of others' ignorance or weakness to trick them for financial gain, but is in the end hoist by his own petard. "The Butler" also involves trickery and deceit, but here a pretentious nouveau riche is caught by his butler and cook.

But the very best of these stories is Dahl's first published work, based on his wartime experiences. "A Piece of Cake" is a hallucinatory story of a pilot who crash lands in the desert between the Italian and English lines. Extraordinary writing: "I knew that the hotness was unpleasant, but that was all I knew. I disliked it, so I curled my legs up under the seat and waited. I think there was something wrong with the telegraph system between the body and the brain. It did not seem to be working very well. Somehow it was a bit slow in telling the brain all about it and in asking for instructions. But I believe a message eventually got through, saying, 'Down here there is a great hotness. What shall we do? (Signed) Left Leg and Right Leg.' For a long time there was no reply. The brain was figuring it out."

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