#6 – Twenty-Nine Kisses From Roald Dahl

May 20, 2008

Like everyone from my generation with any sense, I was a big fan of Roald Dahl when I was a kid.  Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator was probably the most exciting book I had ever read when I first picked it up in Grade 3, and I went on to read most of Dahl’s classics after that (but still haven’t gotten to The BFG yet, sorry Clare).  I never got into his mature writing back in the day, though – I got The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar and Six More as a gift once and was pretty moved by it, but that’s as far as I got.  I clearly had no idea what I was missing.

Twenty-Nine Kisses From Roald Dahl is an omnibus of two of Dahl’s apparently numerous adult short story collections, Someone Like You and Kiss Kiss.  I can’t recall exactly who recommended Someone Like You to me, but I thought this would be as good an introduction as any.  And I was surprised to find that many of the stories here were eerily familiar to me.  Some of them I could easily identify: I read “Skin”, about an old man with a lost painting tattooed on his back, in an undergraduate English class; “The Champion of the World” is an early version of the children’s book Danny, the Champion of the World; and the story about the man who bets his finger that he can light a lighter ten times in a row was used in the movie Four Rooms.  But there’s others that were swimming around my subconscious, and I don’t know how they got in there.  It made these already creepy stories even creepier when I seemed to have some murky memory of them.

And like I said, these are some creepy stories.  Having just read Dahl’s children’s work before this, I wasn’t really prepared for how unsettling Twenty-Nine Kisses is.  I’d be hard-pressed to come up with a prevalent theme throughout the stories – there’s a bunch of gamblers, con men and poachers in the mix, but there are also beekeepers, computer programmers, and random nobodies.  There are morality fables, tales of the idle rich, and the odd science fiction story thrown in.  The only real common thread is that every story just throws you off a bit.  Half of them end in death, the one that starts off vaguely like a children’s story turns jaw-dropping horrifying by the end, and the most seemingly happy ending comes in one of those stories where the guy turns out to be Hitler.  Hard to enjoy that at face value.

Not to say I didn’t enjoy this book, though – on the contrary, I thought every story in it was brilliant.  It was never what I was expecting (except where I had some weird recovered memory or something of the punchlines), and it made me laugh out loud in surprise more than once.  If, like me, you’re uninformed about the creepier works of Roald Dahl, this is as good a place to get acquainted as any.



  1. Hey mind telling me where and how you got a hold of this? its hard to find online!

  2. Funny, I wasn’t actually looking for this one, I was just trying to find a copy of Someone Like You and this was the most convenient version. I found this in the New Brunswick library system, but I guess it’s out of print now, yeah?

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