MY UNCLE OSWALD by Roald Dahl

MY UNCLE OSWALD

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Roald Dahl's first full-length adult fiction is immaculately phrased, crisply turned, and terribly disappointing. What one anticipates above all with Dahl (Kiss Kiss) is an inventive notion, and the farce notion here is one that's been diddled around with in dozens of books and stories already: collecting sperm from famous men and freezing it for future sale re artificial insemination. DaM's version is the 1938 diary of Oswald Hendryks Cornelius--his memories at age 43 of his escapades some 25 years earlier. English youth Oswald makes his first fortune at 17 by journeying to the Sudan, purchasing a chunk of the world's most potent aphrodisiac (ground-up Blister Beetles), and selling it in pill form to the wealthiest men (and then women too) of Paris. But Oswald returns to England determined to strike it even richer. Enter A. R. Woresley, Oswald's chemistry tutor at Cambridge--who's doing research in sperm preservation, extracting semen from prize bulls--and, after Oswald has helped out with the sticky mechanics of bull-semen-snatching, he naturally gets the idea to transfer the technique to humans. Needed (once reluctant Woresley agrees to cooperate): a resourceful female confederate. They find such a woman in Yasmin Howcomely ("She was absolutely soaked in sex"), and soon the trio has its game plan: Yasmin will slip each famous man the super-aphrodisiac, greet the expected response with a condom, and collect an authenticating signature before hurrying off with the "stuff. . . in the bag," ready for Woresley's freeze-dry process. Among Yasmin's conquests: dear old Renoir; randy young Picasso (too fast a mover, alas, to pause for prophylaxis); homosexual Proust (Yasmin dresses as a boy and simulates buggery--"I could have shoved it in a jar of pickled onions and he wouldn't have known the difference"); D. H. Lawrence (sterile); Puccini ("stupendous"); Einstein ("all brains and no body"); and G. B. Shaw (a 63-year-old virgin). Along the way, there's elaborate sexual slapstick with just the right balance of elegance and bawdiness--but somehow it's never really funny, and the single basic joke is repeated with variations that don't really develop or progress. Mildly entertaining ribaldry, then, dotted with famous men in heat--a classy enough Rabelaisian diversion, but not the grabber of a novel that Dahl's fans might have hoped for.
Pub Date: April 11th, 1980
ISBN: 0140055770
Page count: 212pp
Publisher: Knopf
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1st, 1980




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