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- Tales of the Unexpected (1979)
The main character, Mr. Botibol, has the same name as the protagonist from another Dahl story, “Dip in the Pool.”
Spoiler warning! Mr. Botibol is a very odd-looking and strange man. At the beginning of the story, he goes to lunch with Mr. Clements, the solicitor of a firm looking to buy out his company. Mr. Botibol accepts the bid (which was much too low) and allows Mr. Clements to get him drunk. Once he is tipsy, Mr. Botibol admits that he has never had one bit of success in his life – not even with women. When he arrives home, Botibol switches on the radio and hears a symphony by Beethoven. He gets the sudden impulse to pretend to conduct the symphony. This makes him feel so good that he does it again the next day. He decided to have a real concert hall built in his home with a gramaphone setup so that he can conduct to his heart’s content. His butler is alarmed at these changes (as well as the fact that Botibol is now drinking wine at all his meals), but Botibol tries to explain that he’s not going mad. Botibol has such a great time in his concert hall that he decides to have a grand piano installed, but one that makes no noice. Then he can pretend to play concertos as well as conduct them. While he is buying piano records, a girl strikes up a conversation with him. She loves Chopin, whose records Botibol has just bought. To his own surprise, he invites her to come listen to them. When she arrives the next day, he shows her the concert hall and explains about his secret. He talks her into “performing” with him that night, her on the piano and him conducting. They change into their fancy dress and have a lovely dinner with lots of wine. Then they went to the concert hall and gave the performance of their lives. Mr. Botibol was impressed with her fake piano-playing, and excitedly invites her to play again the next night. Suddenly she realizes that it’s late and she has to work in the morning. Mr. Botibol asks where she works. Reluctantly, she tells him that she is a piano teacher. He is shocked into silence.
- “The Art of Vengeance” by Joyce Carol Oates (The New York Review of Books)