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Thursday, July 28, 2016

What Are Very Best of Roald Dahl’s Collected Short Stories for Adults?

Roald Dahl would have been 100 years old on the 13 September 2016 so it is apt time to re-evaluate his work. In this post, I will examine his short stories written for adults.

In 1991 Roald Dahl published 48 of his short stories in The Collected Short Stories of Roald Dahl. The book collects in one volume his adult short stories previously published in Kiss, Kiss (1960), Over To You (1946), Switch Bitch (1974), Someone Like You (1953) and includes eight further ‘Tales of the Unexpected’ (1980). Collected Stories , a hard cover book of his collected stories, was published in 2006 (Everyman’s Library). The stories are presented in chronological order: Find Jeremy Treglown’s excellent Introduction here:

Roald Dahl was a brilliant, agile writer who appealed to a mass audience. The obvious question is what are Dahl’s best short stories and how do you go about assessing his work?

Last month I reread Dahl’s short stories and gave each an impression mark out of 10 based on the following criteria:

·      the ingeniousness of the storyline
·      the quality of the writing
·      the ability of the narrative to keep you guessing as to what is to happen next
·      its exposure of human folly through humour/ satire
·      the subtleties &/ or the outrageousness of the resolution

#15 William and Mary (25 pages) written 1959 from Kiss, Kiss

William Pearl, a teacher of philosophy, is diagnosed with terminal cancer. He is approached by Dr Landy, a brilliant neuro-surgeon, who proposes Pearl leave his magnificent brain to Science. On the surface, this story appears to be a Frankenstein like parody but it is essentially about the strained relations between the hateful, misogynistic William husband and his subservient wife.

A short-lived series ‘Way Out’ (1961) hosted by Dahl featured a short tele-play of the story. William and Mary- Part 1:

#14 Claud’s Dog (52 pages) from Someone Like You

This story actually consists of four loosely connected sub-stories ‘The Ratcatcher’, ‘Rummins’, ‘Mr Hoddy’ and ‘Mr Feasy’. What I particularly admire about the stories is the credible, social realism which propels these stories. As in Dahl’s collection of World War 2 stories Over To You (1946), he is fictionalising his experiences, rather than immersing us in a total artifice. By far the best story of the four is ‘Mr Feassy’ which takes the reader into the shonky world of greyhound racing.

Roald Dahl has overviews of most of Dahl’s stories but contain spoilers. Here’s there’s synopsis for ‘Mr Feasy’:

#13 The Last Act (26 pages) from Switch Bitch (first published in Playboy, January 1966)

Anna Greenwood’s husband is killed in a motor vehicle accident near the beginning of the story. Her children eventually move away and Anna is left terribly alone. She thinks about killing herself but her friend Elizabeth Paoletti asks her to fill in one day for some sick colleagues at an adoption society and this changes her life. While in Dallas she rings an old boyfriend Conrad Kreuger and they arrange to meet. I like the truthful way this story shuffles to its climax.

A wiki synopsis can be found here:

#12 Katina (21 pages) from Over To You (first published Ladies Home Journal, March 1944)

This story is set in Greece in early April 1941 and fictionalises an experience of Dahl’s as a fighter pilot in the RAF. A young girl Katina is left orphaned after the Germans bombed the village of Paramythia & after she is found amongst the ruins she becomes a kind of mascot for the pilots. A series of amazing anecdotes focussed on the RAF resistance against a much larger German air force is punctuated with a terrible personal tragedy.

#11 The Great Switcheroo (21 pages) from Switch Bitch (originally published in Playboy April 1974)

At a cocktail party at Jerry and Samantha’s, Victor Hammond lusts after Samantha and in a late night conversation with Jerry, Victor tells him about a friend who has an ingenious scheme of wife swapping with his neighbour without the wife’s knowing about it. They agree on their own “switcheroo” and Dahl handles the subsequent events which lead to the “searing paroxysm” with considerable skill, delicacy and riotously good humour.

Short film on Vimeo:

#10 Parson’s Pleasure (21 pages) from Kiss, Kiss

9 to 1 will follow

Other honourable mentions include:

Official Roald Dahl site:

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

AFTER THE BOMB: TRUMBO- the film, the biography & the documentary


The film is an excellent additional text for the elective, particularly if supplemented with Bruce Cook’s biography TRUMBO (1977) which was recently reprinted by Two Roads to coincide with the release of the film.

Starring Bryan Cranston (of Breaking Bad fame) as Dalton Trumbo, the film begins in 1947 as Trumbo is about to be questioned as part of the Hollywood 10 by the House of Un-American Activities (HUAC) about his membership of the Communist Party and his inclusion of communist propaganda in his films. The film follows Trumbo’s Court strategies, his eventual imprisonment and his career as a screenwriter after he is blacklisted by the main Hollywood studios and beyond.

The film is largely chronological in structure and requires some pre-knowledge of the events to better appreciate the significance of Trumbo’s courageous struggle. Cranston as the eccentric and brilliant Trumbo is outstanding. The best part of the film is how Trumbo tirelessly works under assumed names with the other Hollywood 10 and how they eventually break the ban in 1960. Although she is not mentioned in Bruce Cook’s bio, Helen Mirren is represented as the staunch but highly satirised anti-communist Hollywood gossip columnist Hedda Hooper. 


Bruce Cook wrote this bio in 1976 when Dalton Trumbo was an ill old man. Cook interviewed Trumbo and many of his contemporaries to piece together his life story. Cook would show up at their house and largely lets them tell their connection to Trumbo and what he was like.

The relevant chapters to the Cold War include (pages 207-355):

7 The Ten
8 The Blacklist Begins
9 Ten Months in Kentucky
10 “Engaged in Selling”
11 Breaking the Blacklist  

The writer of the TRUMBO film script, John McNamara, provides an insightful Foreward to the biography ‘THE BOOK AND I.’ He takes us through his love of the bio, the development of the script and the selection of the actors.

The book, of course, details in far greater detail the events of the blacklisting of the Hollywood 10, but what stands out more than in the film is Trumbo’s tenacity, integrity, and in particular, his shrewd combatative nature in trying to deal with overwhelmingly powerful political forces of government.

Documentary Film

Trumbo (2007) is available on Netflix and on YouTube. It is based on the letters of Dalton Trumbo and directed by Peter Askin. It will add another layer to your understanding of this complex and exceptional man.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Upcoming Release: PUNK CHAPBOOK SERIES 2016

A message from Wolfgang Carstens of Epic Rites Press:

That’s right, my friends, the punks are back!

Last year witnessed the birth of the punk chapbook series— featuring chapbooks by Bill Gainer, John Yamrus, Tony Moffeit, Rob Plath, Doug Draime, John Macker, Zarina Zabrisky, RD Armstrong, Mike Meraz, Lawrence Gladeview, Misti Rainwater-Lites and Matt Galletta. Every book featured art by the legendary Janne Karlsson. 

12 chapbooks, 1 package. 
No waiting around for new books to be delivered.

The idea exploded with the subtlety of a literary roadside bomb.

Well, I’m doing it again.

12 chapbooks.
180 pages of madness.
No bullshit.
No pretense.
No bells and fucking whistles.

$40 USD plus shipping.

This year’s line-up features:

PADDY WAGON by Wayne F. Burke
SEXY DEVILS by Todd Cirillo
50 EURO by Karina Bush
DEAD CITY JAZZ by James Duncan
GET WELL SOON by Matt Amott

Every chapbook will feature art by Janne Karlsson.

I will be launching these alphabet grenades into the world as soon as they are ready. I have listed October as a deadline but chances are they will arrive much sooner than that. If you enjoyed season one, you will love season two. I couldn’t have found a more hardcore bunch of motherfuckers to spill their guts across the blank page.

Everyone who puts in an advanced order will be put into a draw to win a fabulous ERP package that includes 15 Epic Rites Press titles and other goodies from the ERP war chest!

And hey, please “like,” “tweet” and “share” this with your friends and contact list. Put it in your blog, scream it from the rooftops, and spread the word however you can: the punks are back!

Here comes the boom, baby, boom!

Thank you,
Wolfgang Carstens

Update: 27 July 2016

See the chapbook covers:

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Book Review/ Interview: Karina Bush MAIDEN (48th Street Press, Philadelphia, 2016) 44 pages

This is the first collection of poetry by the young Irish writer Karina Bush. The book features 39 love poems which sometimes have a provocative and raw physical edge to them. The language is openly sexual and thrusts towards wordless spaces, where heightened emotions and energies are given voice. Peter Jelen of BareBack Magazine, who has published some of Bush’s earlier work, has hyperbolically described her writing (in an interesting article about his blog the review review) as raunchy enough “to make Bukowski blush”:

MAIDEN is published by 48th Street Press who has previously set to ink significant small press poets, such as, Douglas Blazek, Paul Harrison and the late F.A. Nettelbeck. Bush says of her involvement in the project in a recent interview which follows this review, “48th Street Press contacted me in late 2012 after reading some of my work online. We developed a very productive working relationship. I was mentored and the input from the press was constructive in the formation of the book. I have the deepest respect for Chris as an editor and publisher.”

In the interview, Karina Bush also makes it clear that she is not a confessional poet and the lover represented in the collection is not a composite. She says of the book’s construction, “It’s art. It isn’t literal. The Maiden is a character, an archetype, a tool for me to explore the complex emotions involved in desire and falling in love. The book is a love story, every poem inspired by the same man.”

The cover for MAIDEN was designed and created by Bush and features a prominent heart-shaped leaf together with titles and phrases from the poems in bold pink. Asked about her choice of the heart-shaped image of the book’s cover, Bush says, “I find nature best represents life’s love story. Nature shares the same purity as love- it’s purity as love- it’s ability to grow and give life.”

MAIDEN is dedicated to her man ‘c’. The epigram from Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights further hints that this book is a love story between a Princess and her Prince, “Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same.”

Most of the poems in the collection are short, first person narratives which explore the relationship between the persona and her male lover. What makes this book especially unique is the physical realm of impulse and desire which Bush explores in her persona’s sensual thoughts and lovemaking.

The first poem in the collection, which was originally published in Ben John Smith’s online magazine, HorrorSleazeTrash, characteristically sets the tone for Bush’s explicitly sexual writing. The language is clear and unambiguous and works towards a controversial ending.

Red Blood

I want to fill a man up with me
Fill him right up
With red blood
To bursting point
To breaking point
His dick
His brain
His life
I want to stop his ability to think
Turn him into a primitive
Powered only by instinct
Give him back my obsession
Turn him into my rapist

(published with the permission of the writer)

In the poem, Bush uses the simple metaphor of a balloon to convey her notion of how she will control her lover to the ‘bursting point’. How she will ‘fill him right up/ with blood’ and turn him into an instinctual being, living only for the moment.

The relationship between the couple is explored throughout the collection and each poem lays a different spin on how the persona perceives the developing romance of the flesh & mind. As a general motif, the persona revolves between wanting to be controlled and dominated to being strong and on top.

In ‘Take my Hair’, for example, the persona asks her partner to drag her into the woods to be molested against a tree. In ‘A Flower’ she is has been 'plucked' by him and is now ‘Slumped in your palm/ Ready for the bin.’ In the bawdy poem ‘Unchristian’ she wants “punishment,” 'to feel dirtier' than ever before. In ‘Baby Pink Heart’ she wears his shirt and in his ‘forcefield’, he appears 'sacred', 'a God' to her. In ‘War’ she states that ‘If you are with a real man/ You are at war’ but after he licks her throat and shoulders she realises she is a ‘kitten/ Not a soldier.’

The poem ‘My Horse’ is another poem which speaks of vulnerability and surrender in a metaphorical way:

My Horse

I’m riding a big horse tonight
He’s strong
Gorgeous- I’m in love
I don’t care where he takes me
Fast I trust it
Muscles between my legs
And hair
That big thing taking me away
And I’m so small
And female
Strong enough to climb him though
Bent over
I have surrendered to nature’s order

Alternatively, there are many poems which reveal the persona’s inner strength, her desire to be in charge. In ‘Just Me’ the speaker of the poem begins, ‘It’s just me/ That’s all I need/ Just me and the void…I submit to myself/ There is nothing else.’ Similarly, in ‘looking Down’ she metaphorically tells her dog with him in mind: ‘Sometimes I have no need for you/ I’m hard/ I’d rather starve/ Crush you from my chair.' In the powerful poem ‘Tense’ the speaker shows her vulnerability but expresses the desire to endure. In ‘Negligible’ she calls him ‘a weakling’ for not being able to push her further and in ‘Wank Me’, in a moment of defiance, she tells him ‘you can’t control me’, 'Wank me out of your head.' In the highly memorable poem ‘A Girl’s Eyes’ she plays the virgin/ whore. When they are about to have sex, she writes she will pretend it is the first time and ‘Then I’ll drive/ Climb high/ Show my vice/ Show my bite.’

In the end, 'the war' is an even one in which both partners triumph. In the poem '3 4 5 am' there is a moment of reprieve in the night as they lie bonded together against the world, 'With our fire/ Keeping the world burning/ So the bores can wake and do their thing.'

On first reading, the language and content in MAIDEN appears excessively crude, as if Bush is deliberately pushing the boundaries of decency. Some people, for instance, might find the poems ‘Daddy’, ‘His Blood’, ‘Unchristian’, and to a lesser extent, ‘The Pit’ objectionable. The tone in 'The Pit', for example, can be viewed by some as pitiful and cowering:

The Pit

Back in the pit           
A man’s belt around my neck
Me and nothing
And him
It’s all I want
And semen
To fill every crack
In my being

(published with the permission of the writer)

Playing the devil’s advocate, I gently put it to Karina Bush a week or so ago, "you make references to the soul and of love but aren’t these simply fuck poems?" She is frank and handles the question beautifully, “There is very little fucking in the book. In the book, feelings are expressed in the language of love.” 

Later in the interview, Bush adds an amusing anecdote about how some guys take her writing literally and think she is a sex worker, “Some dude recently wrote to me via my website desperately wanting to pay me for sex. He was in Amsterdam on holiday, walking around the Red Light area. He just had to knock a window and instead he was writing a poet. Bizarre. I’m curious if male poets face such a literal reading of their artistry."

The last five poems in the collection, are less sexually charged and point to a more mature direction in Karina Bush’s writing. ‘Tender Night’ continues to straddle the notion of the quest for love but does it with a brimming confidence and subtlety.

Tender Night

My lover’s
Breathing body
Comes behind me
Twice my size
Arm cross my breast
He is my maker
Skin cradled
Dressed in blankets
Made of rib
Gentle cells
In collapse
Locked and woven close
A design greater than us
He whispers
A wordless language
From an eyeless place

(published with the permission of the writer)

This is poetry from the edge. Karina Bush jiggles up a subterranean voice which speaks of love, of desire and of raw human passions. This is a unique collection of love poems which is highly accessible and carefully crafted and sequenced. Would it make Bukowski blush? Probably not- but I would recommend he read MAIDEN.

For more information about Karina Bush’s writing:

Follow her on Instagram:


Karina, when did you first start writing poetry and who were some of your early influences?

Hi George. I wrote and illustrated short stories and poetry as a kid, and won an award when I was 10 for my nature poetry. I was a precocious child. I didn't write for about 10 years after that. My early influences were Roald Dahl and as a teenager Irvine Welsh. Stuff that shocked me. I read extensively, mostly classics, I loved the use of the english language in old novels, the density and beauty of the form.

Is your poetry essentially confessional or do you write from different points of view? Can we assume, for instance, that you are the narrator of your poems? Similarly, the lover you strongly feature in the book, is he one bloke or a composite?

It's art. It isn't literal. The Maiden is a character, an archetype, a tool for me to explore the complex emotions involved in desire and falling in love. The book is a love story, every poem inspired by the same man.

Congratulations on getting your first book published by 48th Street Press. I note you have previously been published in the 48th Street Press Broadside Series, but what were the specific circumstances which lead up to the offer, acceptance and publication of MAIDEN?

48th Street Press contacted me in late 2012 after reading some of my work online. We developed a very productive working relationship. I was mentored and the input from the press was constructive in the formation of the book. I have the deepest respect for Chris as an editor and publisher.

You designed the cover for MAIDEN. It features a list of poems & phrases from the collection in pink upper case. In the centre of the illustration there appears to be a heart shaped leaf from a pot plant. Why did you choose this image?

Because Maiden is a love story. I find nature best represented that. Nature shares the same purity as love - its ability to grow and give life, it's ability to destruct and devastate. The word MAIDEN has various connotations, including “an unmarried young woman” and “being involved in the first attempt or act of its kind.” Is your title a reference to both of these meanings? Yes. And the innocence and vulnerability of giving yourself to another.

How did you arrive at your erotic, minimalistic style?

I don't think my style is erotic or minimalist. I think the natural landscape for the subject matter of desire and attraction is sexual. That doesn't make me an erotic writer.

You make references to the soul and of love but aren’t these simply fuck poems?

There is very little fucking in the book. In the book, feelings are expressed in the language of love.

The collection appears to feature poems which explicitly discuss fantasy rape (‘Red Blood’, “Take my hair’), incest/ paedophilia (‘Daddy’), notions of bestiality (‘Bitch Is Thirsty’), a filthy, unchristian romp (‘Unchristian’) and sadomasochism (‘The Pit’, ‘America’). What has been the response to your book so far? Who is your intended audience?

If you read poetry literally, I guess you could say that. If you ignore metaphor, symbolism etc. - some of the foundations of poetry. I certainly don't read art literally and I don't write for people who do. Red Blood” is a desperate poem of longing. The use of the word rapist doesn't make it a rape fantasy. “Daddy” is a poem about dependence and protection. About absorption. I think every person
who experiences love wants to be looked after by the other sometimes. The main character in ‘Dirty Dancing’ is called Baby, it isn't a movie about paedophilia. “Bitch is Thirsty” is mocking a man who is unsuccessfully running away from his feelings, not fucking a dog, nor wanting to fuck a dog. I don’t find animals sexy, not even ones with big dicks, and I promise no animals were harmed in the making of this book. “America” is an admiration of masculinity, a swoon. People will read what they want into art. That's one of the functions of art. To give the recipient a platform to explore themselves.

My intended readership is those who are emotional, intuitive and appreciate craft. The response so far has been very positive and encouraging. There is plenty of vanilla art out there, I couldn't bore myself by becoming another one those artists. My favourite art is stuff that explores the extremes of emotion and experience, and does it well.

In your poems, you often reveal a fascination for the beast, for
wordless unconscious behaviour. Why the interest?

To run wild in your imagination and with your lover to places primal and natural is a true freedom. I think the interest in the wordless is because primarily I'm exploring wordless things - emotions, heightened states, energies. And giving them a voice.

The last poems in the collection are called I., II. & III. The style and content are different from the rest of the collection. What is happening here?

I think the book becomes increasingly soft as it progresses. The final three poems are a reflection on the journey. A consolidation.

Getting back to basics- how often do you write? Do you have a daily routine? Where do your poems come from? Is your writing carefully crafted or spontaneous? Do you do much editing of your work?

The creative process is mysterious. It is both easy and painstaking. There is no formula for me. I make my own rules as I go along and I love that.

What writers which you have read more recently have impressed you?

I don’t read much. I listen to a lot of music, I'm particularly interested in folk music right now, the power and simplicity of the storytelling. I recently discovered ‘Kunt and the Gang’ who I find endlessly entertaining. I read a lot of what 48th Street Press publishes every year though. I am impressed by Ally Malinenko, her poems about her experience with cancer are excellent. I think she has a book coming out soon. I also like Ben John Smith's work, particularly his tender poems.

What are you working on at the moment?

I'm working on a book of short stories. Prostitute fiction set in Amsterdam's Red Light District. I've had a couple of stories published already in Bareback Magazine and Horror Sleaze Trash. I suspect, when published, some readers will believe I am or was a sex worker. I've already had that. Many times. Some dude recently wrote to me via my website desperately wanting to pay me for sex. He was in Amsterdam on holiday, walking around the Red Light area. He just had to knock a window and instead he was writing a poet. Bizarre. I'm curious if male poets face such a literal reading of their artistry.

Thanks Karina, for taking the time to answer my questions.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Featuring Karina Bush


You must listen
I catch this male apparition
Nude and healthy and animal-legged
Taunting for the hunting

It is down below I feel you
It is there I hear your song

You are in my sleep
I come for you in the morn
I need you to show me nature
More than just this wooded glen

It is down below I feel you
It is there I hear your song

I’m riddled with this
I’m riddled I can dance
I can be a woman
I can be a little girl
I can be an animal
I can scream louder than you can
I need you Pan
I will lick your hindquarters clean
Take me, I plead

It is down below I feel you
It has been two thousand years

You must listen
Winter will soon thin the wood
And my sleeps will grow deeper
And I will find you

His Beauty

His maleness
Can't breathe in it
It's so much
And it hasn't even broken
I'm only in the tension stage
Of male beauty
Adoring restraint
I know my only weakness
And I need to be there
When his restraint breaks
Breaks all over me
I need to see his insides
He is the most beautiful man
And I can't


I tried to speak
My mouth filled with love

I spoke flowers
Pouring out of my mouth

He kissed me
So I filled him up with them

They will each fruit over time
He will know my love

And when the final flower fruits
I will flower him again

For eternity I will perpetuate us
And we will perpetuate eternity

Karina is an Irish poet. 'Maiden' is her first published collection.

For more information about Karina Bush’s writing:
Follow her on Instagram: