Photography: Short Stories and Sports Books

I’ve always had a big interest in books. And amid my interest in the classic and the contemporary novels, I’ve had a big passion for short stories and sports books. I’ve quoted a few of them on my Literature and Sports pages but wanted to share them as pictorial form. You’ll find these two photos and plenty of others on my Instagram page of Raphaelalexx.

short-stories

sports-books

Awards/Notifications: Liebster Time

An awards post now. My thanks to the ever awesome Vinnie who continues to entertain, educate and impress on his stylish blog, for the nomination. You should definitely hop on over if you haven’t already.

I’ll have to skip the 11 fun facts for reasons of time, but I’ll happily answer Vinnie’s questions and provide my own for nominees.

liebster

Continue reading

Awards / Notification: Season’s Greeting Tag

I’ve been included in the very awesome Abbi’s Christmas-themed ‘Season’s Greetings’ post. Abbi has a super fantastic blog and I really recommend you go and take a visit if you don’t know her blog already.

Minions Christmas

Continue reading

Line(s) of the Day #Roald Dahl

Roald Dahl

And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.

One of the writers I read most as a child, Roald Dahl (1916 – 1990). My fondness for Dahl has been obvious from posts where I rate him as one of my favourite short story writers, have a soft spot for his TV show and have mentioned him in award posts when talking about reading influences.

Reviews and other Features – A – Z Reading Challenge

Zoe, Natasha and Kim have all done this very cool A – Z feature based on reading. Literature has been a big part of the blog and has always meant a lot to me, so there was no way I wasn’t going to get in on the fun.

A-Z

Author you’ve read the most books from:

Roald Dahl. He had such a wonderful imagination and was one of the writers who got me into reading from a very early age.

Continue reading

Iconic TV Shows: Tales of the Unexpected

Tales of the Unexpected main picture

The writing magician that was Roald Dahl always had the ability to captivate, so it’s no surprise that a show based on adapations of his short stories fully brought us into his dark, riveting and mysterious world.

Roald Dahl’s Tales of the Unexpected, (which later became Tales of the Unexpected when the show was expanded to include other writers), was not the first show to develop short stories into a 30 minute TV adaptation. Dahl himself set up Way Out in 1961, a short-lived show focusing which showcased the best ways of trying to kill off your spouse and avoid detection (though most were written purely for TV). He later contributed six stories to the more similar Alfred Hitchcock Presents.

Beginning in 1979 and running until 1988, Tales of the Unexpected adapted a short story and brought it to life with a sharp script, mostly well-known actors and more often than not, a shrewd, sharp and cunning twist. And these were no ordinary stories. Whether about killing off a spouse, making money quickly, getting revenge or dealing with an incredible discovery, at its best the show was able to capture the intrigue and suspense of people put into an extreme and often, unenviable position.

Roald Dahl reading

When the show hit its creative peak, it was a joy. ‘Run, Rabbit, Run’, about a American stationed in Paris during the resistance who goes back years later to get material for a book, slowly unravels to reveal an eerie aspect of the human condition. ‘A Harmless Vanity’ and ‘Youth from Vienna’ are both more than a clever ending; they capture how our appearance both reflects and affects our personality and the consequences it has on us and those around us.

Roald Dahl stories also tended to stand out. ‘Lamb to the Slaughter’ with its ingenious and untraceable method of murder, ‘The Way up to Heaven’ with its delicious sense of karmic revenge, and the psychologically disturbing ‘Georgie Porgie’ are Dahl at his best. The earlier series’ even had an introduction by Dahl which frequently gave a useful insight into his inspiration and intention for the story.

Curiously though, the greatest episode of the show was neither by a well known writer, starred high profile actors or followed any of the common themes. ‘The Flypaper’ by Elizabeth Taylor (no, not that one) was far more sinister and terrifying than any of the other 111 episodes. Beginning with the police searching for the body of a young girl in a rural town, we soon see an unhappy orphan forced to take piano lessons by her uncaring and critical grandmother. She notices the interest of a creepy older man on her way back but her fears are ignored by her grandmother. Aware that the body of the girl was found, and police are on the lookout for her killer, she notices the same man stalking her a week later and has to try and outsmart him.

Roald Dahl's Tales of the Unexpected

As with any show where each episode brought a new set of characters, weaker episodes were betrayed by an uninspired premise that even quality actors could not save. ‘Mr Botibol’s Finest Performance’, of a wealthy lonely man and his love of classical music, is nothing more than a tedious example of how pathetic failure can be. It is arguably Dahl’s worst story and a bewildering decision to adapt. ‘The Party’ highlights the problem critics would have had with the show. An unimaginative storyline, of a boring long-time employee believing he is undervalued, an unlikely set of reactions and a ‘twist’ seen the proverbial mile away.

But what the series strived for, and largely succeeded in, was capturing the creativity of talented short writers such as Robert Bloch, Ruth Rendell and John Collier, as well as Dahl himself, and bringing it to a wider audience. Actors of the calibre of John Mills, Janet Leigh, Joseph Cotton, Derek Jacobi and John Gielgud also elevated it, especially as most stories were dominated by two or three main characters.

While it is easy to mock the low budget of the programme, short stories rarely gain the limelight its literary genre relatives, and few shows have managed it better. Tales of the Unexpected may have lacked the morbid flair of Alfred Hitchcock Presents, or the imaginative sense of surreal like The Outer Limits or The Twilight Zone, but for the most part it was brilliant at reminding us the glory in the unexpected.

Years: 1979 -1988
Created by: Roald Dahl
Number of series: 9
Number of episodes: 112

Best Short Story Writers

There is something glorious in an imaginative, well crafted, and perfectly executed short story. Other literary genres may get wider recognition, but the alchemic skill of being able to turn a clever premise into writing gold is all too rare. All the more reason then, after very considerable consideration, to salute eight masters of the genre who consistently raised the literary bar.

Edgar Allan Poe

Edgar Allan Poe

The Gothic godfather and enigmatic maestro himself. Poe was a genius for creating evocative, horrifying atmospheres in stories such as the strikingly symbolic The Fall of the House of Usher, twisted fable Metzengerstein, and the frenetic The Pit and the Pendulum. Poe’s intensity, and gift for capturing despair and madness, is unparalleled. With his nameless narrator in The TellTale Heart he captures true insanity; a gruesome, motiveless murder, before revealing how a conscience can take the most unlikely form. And as if that wasn’t enough, his stories of the intellectual amateur investigator C. Auguste Dupin, with his considered and logical reasoning to solve a mystery, helped inspire the detective genre.

Ray Bradbury

Ray Bradbury

With the success of Fahrenheit 451 and The Martian Chronicles it’s no surprise he’s best known as a science fiction and fantasy writer, but Bradbury’s work covered and surpassed all genres. What makes Bradbury stand out was his genuine love for writing, enabling him to create all kinds of imaginative and unique settings in his stories, once writing every day for 69 consecutive years. Those uninitiated should check out Long after Midnight, a 22-story collection published in 1976. One Timeless Spring is about a 12 year old who believes his parents are slowly poisoning him, A Piece of Wood is of an idealistic determined to leave the army and put an end to armed conflict, and The Pumpernickel tells of a sentimental old man and his idea of recapturing his past. The haunting title story itself, about three ambulance drivers going to collect a dead body, sets all new levels of perfection.

Roald Dahl

Roald-Dahl

The writer who first really got me into reading, and judging by his numerous awards and countless film and TV adaptations, I’m in good company. His devilish sense of humour, gifted descriptions and cunning twists meant readers were riveted no matter how dark or outrageous the set-up. Hugely consistent in quality, Dahl usually wrote in a knowing third person narrative, giving the feeling that we were in on the secret and the characters would be the last to know. Whether in literary form, or in stories adapted for television series Tales of the Unexpected (which he created) or Alfred Hitchcock Presents, stories like Lamb to the SlaughterThe Way up to HeavenThe Landlady and Skin shows he always knew how to connect to an audience.

Saki

Saki

Raised from the age of two by his grandmother and strict puritanical aunts, Hector Hugo Monroe’s creative outlook was always going to be different to most. Believed to have taken his pen-name from an obscure Persian poem, Saki was a playful and witty writer who was adept at enabling the reader to sympathise with his child characters whilst hilariously mocking authoritative family figures. His Clovis and Reginald stories are a delight, noticeable for their strong characterisation and satirical elements.The Storyteller though, is a personal favourite and one that perfectly encapsulates his style. An aunt struggles to look after a young and impatient niece and nephew, before a stranger bothered by all the noise, decides to tell a curious story to hold their attention.

James Thurber

James Thurber

There is no point disguising how much of a fan I am of the unique Ohio humourist who wrote most of his stories for The New Yorker, frequently with his own gloriously distinctive annotations. His work has made me laugh more than any other writer. Thurber was able to capture the absurd and the ridiculousness within family life with sharp but endearing descriptions that could make even the simplest of plots hugely entertaining. In his stories, be they about a browbeaten daydreamer in The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, or how a family pet could divide opinions even within households in The Dog that Bit People, Thurber was one of the most involving writers around. Also worth checking out are his modern takes on fairy tales, in particular with The Princess and the Tin Box.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

It’s scary to think just how much Doyle eventually grew to hate his iconic character Sherlock Holmes, whose unprecedented success he felt eclipsed all his other literary work. Indeed, Doyle tried to kill off the greatest literary sleuth of all time in The Final Problem, only for the public’s insatiable demand for more stories forcing him to bring Holmes back. The consolidation would be that the ruthless Holmes and fiercely loyal companion Dr Watson have left an indelible mark far beyond the detective genre. And this was evident even from the first story, A Scandal in Bohemia, when Irene Adler outsmarted Sherlock Holmes, over twenty years before women in Britain were permitted to vote. So much was packed into the 56 short stories, and with demand showing no sign of abating, that even now film and TV makers are finding different ways to adapt them to a new audience.

Oscar Wilde

Oscar Wilde

A strong candidate for the most entertaining ever dinner guest, the much celebrated and oft-quoted wit Oscar Wilde also had a skill for short stories. Though not as prolific in the genre as others on the list, the Dublin-born writer had a lyrical flair and parable style tone seemingly written for children. Stories such as The Happy PrinceThe Selfish Giant, and The Model Millionaire, have a touching and inspirational nature. Wilde also delighted in exposing hypocrisy. Apart from his skill in satire, canny use of unhappy or unresolved ending and ignorant characters, what helps separate Wilde from others was the almost poetic and seamless style Wilde had, best seen in The Nightingale and the Rose.

Ernest Hemingway

Ernest Hemingway

Though it means no Franz Kafka, Dorothy Parker, John Collier, O Henry or Graham Greene, Ernest Hemingway just had to be on this list. One of literature’s all time greats, the author of spellbinding classics including The Old Man and the SeaFor Whom the Bells Tolls and the astonishing first novel Fiesta, Hemingway had a seemingly minimalist style that worked just as effectively in short stories. A particularly memorable one, and one that encapsulates what Hemingway was all about, is A Clean Well Lighted Place. Set mostly in a Spanish cafe, with few characters, no hidden twists or dramatic language and with little actually happening, it is as deep a story about loneliness that you could hope to find. The KillersHills like White ElephantsThe Capital of the World and The Snows of Kilamanjaro are among others to highlight Hemingway’s extraordinary gift for subtle language and wider significance.