Title: Kiss Kiss (1960) (229 pages)
Author: Roald Dahl
Genre: Horror Anthology
Summary: Eleven stories centered on different types of love and the horror that follows. Dahl’s mainstream successes like Matilda, BFG, and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, are iconic pieces of youth literature (and good movies too.) This was my first experience with writing of his not aimed toward children; these stories were collected from various literary magazines he was published in. I expected demented and terrifying scenarios out of this book because the adult imaginations of the world belong to children who never grew up, people that have maintained their senses of wonder and helplessness. I bought it for the cover art and name recognition, but also looked forward to seeing what an unrestrained Dahl could do. These stories proved to be different than his kid writing but of equal, maybe even slightly lesser, quality.
The first story, The Landlady, is well-written but too plain for me to care about. A creepy elder luring a youth into a trap is typical and easily predicted when viewed through my modern and saturated viewpoint. Luckily the next story, William and Mary, manages to make up for the failures of the first. The typical struggles of a husband and wife are taken to horrifying extremes in a flawless blend of harsh reality and science fiction happenings. The stories that follow are very hit or miss, Dahl’s narrative style in this book is consistent to the point of being formulaic. The best moments were when things got unreal, when the creativity ran wild. In addition to William and Mary the stories that shouldn’t be missed are Parson’s Pleasure, Mrs. Bixby and the Colonel’s Coat, Royal Jelly, Edward the Conqueror, and Pig.
What kept me reading: The subtlety. Though I didn’t like The Landlady I smiled imagining the logical and grisly end. Dahl leaves the reader responsible for a story conclusions throughout the entirety of Kiss Kiss. Regardless of if someone enjoyed the reading they are rewarded at the end because, while what happens isn’t explicitly stated, they read and therefore were able figure it out. The resultant feeling of cleverness is undeserved but welcome like a parent taking care of a fake sick kid.
Recommended for: Anyone that comes across a copy
Fun fact: This isn’t Dahl’s only book for adults but it’s the only one I’ve encountered.