Switch Bitch: Adult entertainment

After Charlie and the Chocolate Factory I had rather a yen for a Roald Dahl story or four. But not one of his mildly subversive children’s stories; no, I figured it was a good time for some of his famously inappropriate adult stories. Switch Bitch I knew nothing about, except that it was supposed to be rather unpleasant—indeed, the title’s pretty nasty-sounding. I wasn’t aware that it was an anthology when I checked it out, though; even though I knew it was seperate stories, the first one was part of the “Uncle Oswald” series and I had some expectation of continuity of character, at least, through the stories. Alas, only the first and the last share a character; the middle two are rather unrelated. At least I recognized it. Ask me about the time I tried to read Bradbury’s I Sing the Body Electric! as a novel sometime.

Anyways, the stories, while basically distinct, share some characteristic elements, mostly of plot. It’s all about awful twist endings after some guy gets some action. Essentially, three of them are ribald jokes, extended to short-story length. They’re the sort of jokes where some sort of ambiguity in the negotiation of some elaborate sexual deal ends up with the luckless protagonist suffering an assignation with a donkey or something (nowadays, of couse, they charge a premium for the donkey as a special service). This sort of makes sense: all of these stories were originally published in Playboy, which billed itself as (and in the 60’s and 70’s possibly was) “sophisticated adult entertainment”. So you take a dirty joke, pad it out with the talents of a gifted author, and boom, sophisticated adult entertainment. It’s a win all ’round: Hugh Hefner gets rich, a generation of Americans gets to feel high-class, and Roald Dahl gets to write dirty stories. They’re well-written (Roald Dahl was a twisted fuck, but he was definitely a competent writer) but, as my description suggests, they’re basically trifles. The exception in the bunch is “The Last Act”, which is, y’know, still centered around a sex act and the unfortunate fallout, but it’s got a peculiar pathos, a very nasty ending, and an apparently unnecessarily sadistic character. You know Dahl’s famous nasty streak? It’s not even remotely disguised here.

Anyways, the book as a whole was an absorbing read, and not just because it’s dirty stories. What can I say, the man has a delightfully strong narrative style (evidenced especially in the Uncle Oswald stories) and an eye for a description (particularly olfactory).

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About Jake
I'm a mathematics professor at the University of Louisville, and a geek.

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