Switch Bitch

I’m almost done with Switch Bitch by Roald Dahl.  I spotted it on my roommate’s (Daf) shelf and was drawn to it.  As a child Roald Dahl was one of my favorite authors. I loved, loved, loved The Witches. I thought he was only a children’s author, so seeing this book with the word Bitch in the title shocked me a bit. I asked Daf “Is this by Roald Dahl the children’s author??”
He said “yeah, but it’s not for children.”  I’d picked up the book and read description on the back

“Roald Dahl’s stories have a nasty sting in the tail. The four outrageous stories in Switch Bitch certainly do…In each case Roald Dahl sets up a realistic situation, then loads it with amazing and fantastic sexual possibilities. Then, somewhere this or the other side of pornography, he produces a denouement of the bananas-skin kind- black bananas skin at that-New Statesman”

Daf told me to take it and read it.  We were talking about Camden for some reason earlier that day which is why he said “I actually think I bought that in Camden.” Taking this as an encouraging sign, I took it with me, a little apprehensive because I was a bit weary of reading an “adult book,” but also a bit excited because I must remind you I really loved Roald Dahl as a child.  I was thinking I might still love him in this context.
I was right.
Roald Dahl is an amazing writer, I can’t believe I put him in a box of:  “just for children.”  He is equally as “fantastic” now as he was back then, and I bet even the children’s books would still more than suffice for this kind of entertainment. I highly recommend giving this book, any of his books, a read.

I do have to say though, it is not exactly…the most feminist friendly.  I wouldn’t say that it’s the worst I’ve read, not at all, by far not as at all- but not exactly feminist either.  I feel like his ability to write in some ways makes the fact that it’s not very feminist bearable.  I guess it’s sort of like Quieten Tarantino.  He’s super violent (also not exactly feminist), I usually hate watching violence, but I’m absolutely hooked when I watch his movies.  I think Roald Dahl belongs in the same category of skill.  Of being able to tell a story really, really well. Captivating. I mean at some points I literally gasped out loud. I was in a cafe reading it and with a hand over my mouth during the chapter The Great Switcheroo, I audibly let out an “Oh no!” Catching myself embarrassed, because I was talking to a book…in public.

The first story I read was The Last Act, which is the second to last story in this short book. This one, unlike the other stories was written from the point of view of a woman. The way Roald writes is almost too real.  I could feel myself in her body, especially in the last scene- he described it so well.  Horrible, but with something so delicious about this type of sad story that digs deep down within you, to make you remember (maybe something from your past) or live the scene as if it were real- in your own self, as if you could feel, smell, hear everything.

Again, I would not say these stories offer a feminist analysis.  Nor I would consider them appropriate frameworks with which to view sexuality, gender, race etc…And this can be sort of dangerous territory for such a compelling writer that allows the reader to be right up close, right in the story, with the skill of his words.  So a trigger warning is issued (especially for The Last Act, this one is rather dark).  Yet, still, I recommend it- despite being able to give it to feminist thumbs up.



1 Comment

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One response to “Switch Bitch

  1. Damien RS

    Haven’t read this one, but I grew up with his story collections _Kiss, Kiss_ and _Someone Like You_, as well as more kiddie books like Wonka and Giant Peach. I don’t think those collections are “pornographic” but they are dark and disturbing, dark as in dark side of human nature, or weird things happening, or both. It’s been years, but I don’t remember them as anti-feminist; just an older time, and the women aren’t sympathetic, but neither are the men. Definitely interesting and effective stories.

    OTOH, could the kids’ books hold up to feminist analysis? Horrible aunts in Giant Peach, but that doesn’t mean much by itself, and I don’t remember Chocolate Factory in enough detail to think of a trend.

    (I always thought highly of my parents for letting me read those; much later, my mother said that might have been more carelessness in leaving them around. 😦 )

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