My Uncle Oswald Review
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I’ve joyously read James and the Giant Peach and basked in the sweet glow of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Some of my warmest childhood memories are of the great Roald Dahl’s un-patronizing sense of rebellious humor and the seemingly limitless depths of his imagination. When got older, I read Tales of the Unexpected (Dahl’s Twilight Zone-ish tales with a twist) and enjoyed them. But there was something missing, and I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. I wanted Dahl’s cheeky and satiric imagination wrapped in a more adult world. Recently, I found that book. With Roald Dahl’s My Uncle Oswald, I now understand that missing something: sex farce. Yes, the good old British tradition of adult sex farce.

It’s great to know that Roald Dahl is not above giving the world his own literary version of a British Carry On movie. Or, more accurately, My Uncle Oswald is a high-brow equivalent of Timothy Lea’s Confessions books (Confessions of a Window Cleaner, etc.), which were wildly popular in the risqué and more sexually liberated atmosphere of the late ‘60s and ‘70s.

My Uncle Oswald’s anonymous narrator offers to us the diary and adventures of Oswald Hendryks Cornelius, “connoisseur…seducer of women, and without doubt the greatest fornicator of all time” (who has also appeared in two short stories by Dahl, “The Visitor” and “Bitch”). Here the narrator shifts, and we are pulled in by Oswald—who, as a college student, heads to Khartoum (in the Sudan) to find the legendary Blister Beetle, which he has been told has incredibly potent aphrodisiac–like powers. Oswald buys enough Blister Beetle powder to last many, many years. Back home in good old England, Oswald includes the Blister Beetle as an ingredient in a tablet—but only a pin head’s amount, as the stuff is really, really powerful and can change a man into a raving, sexual lunatic in nine minutes—which he hopes he can market.

Needless to say, Oswald finds the right people and makes a fortune for himself. Soon he partners up with an old chemistry professor, A. R. Woresley, who has discovered a method for indefinitely freezing sperm. Oswald, always on the make, concocts a plan of action: capture the sperm of the period’s great intellectuals, artists, and kings and sell the product to women who want a strong genetic progeny. The only problem: they need someone to slip the little rubbery thing on the target to catch the product. So they team up with the sexy Yasmin Howcomely, who becomes the seducer and sperm catcher.

What ensues is a pure sex farce, as we’re treated to different historical and literary characters as they’re overcome with passion upon consumption of the Blister Beetle powder. Some highlights include the overly-sexed Piccasso and the very gay Proust.

My Uncle Oswald is fast, funny, and irreverent—perfect for the reader who enjoys their sex light and sassy. The narrative has the potential to get repetitive really fast (and Dahl even has Oswald admit this fact), but thankfully the book speeds along so fast that there is neither unnecessary character development nor flabby exposition.

In the character of Uncle Oswald, we have an unscrupulous rake and roughish anti-hero (and prodigious fornicator, don’t forget) who deserves a cult following—and a film adaptation. In the book, we have a satire on capitalism, class, the male/female dynamic of sexual power (and his decided lack thereof), and the evolution of the sexual revolution (both scientific and political).

So, all you adults out there, forget BFG and curl up with MUO. Enjoy the to speak.

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