What is this book/short story from my childhood?
September 5, 2008 1:12 PM   Subscribe

What is this book/short story from my childhood? A gambler learns to see through playing cards by holding them up to candle light. In the end he ends up throwing all of his winnings off of a balcony.

I read this as a kid around 20 years ago but i have no idea how to find it again. I'd love to revisit it since that idea has mesmerized me ever since. I believe it was in a collection of other stories, possibly by the same author. Any ideas?
posted by GaGaLoc to Media & Arts (12 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar, by Roald Dahl. I loved it too - in fact I must have read it have a dozen times. I tried the candle thing, but didn't have the patience for several years of Yogic study.
posted by leebree at 1:26 PM on September 5, 2008

Sounds like The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar by Roald Dahl.
posted by wilko at 1:26 PM on September 5, 2008

It's by Roald Dahl and is called The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar and other stories (they were also made into a tv series I believe). One interesting detail of that story is that when the indian magician visits the yogi in the jungle begging to be his disciple, he first tells him to go away, but after meditating accepts him as if he predicts that in the future by a strange series of connections it will lead to lots of good deeds.

By the way, me and my brothers at the time all completely believed it was a true story (we were younger than 10 though). The other stories are good as well, particularly the Hitchhiker.
posted by leibniz at 1:30 PM on September 5, 2008

I remember that. The author specifically claimed it was a true story in the text. It confused me too.
posted by PercussivePaul at 1:53 PM on September 5, 2008

That's a GREAT book, btw.
posted by nkknkk at 2:05 PM on September 5, 2008

I've been wondering what that story was for years! It's weird how much it stayed in my head, as if somehow it was true. I think you want to believe that someone was able to do it.
posted by Augenblick at 2:06 PM on September 5, 2008

I adore that story, and the entire collection. "The Swan" was especially poignant, and even a little traumatizing the first time I read it at nine or so.
posted by changeling at 2:32 PM on September 5, 2008

I was just thinking about The Hitchhiker this morning! I adored that book as a child but that particular tale was my favourite. Henry Sugar is a wonderful, wonderful book, well worth re-reading as an adult.

I think the only other two books I think of as frequently are A Wrinkle in Time and From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. Some books just really capture your imagination and live there forever.
posted by DarlingBri at 5:10 PM on September 5, 2008

I agree it's probably TWSOHS. Love it.
posted by Autarky at 5:23 PM on September 5, 2008

bingo, roald dahl. EXCELLENT short story. It's really stayed with me all these years.
posted by fishfucker at 7:56 PM on September 5, 2008

Oh man, that story ruled! I loved the part where the guy who taught Henry Sugar relates the story of attempting to convince the docs in the hospital that no, really, he can see with his eyes closed, and they don't believe him, and for some bizarre reason in addition to gluing his eyes shut and putting bandages around them they also put raw dough on there too. And then he bikes up the street with his bandage dough eyes.

For some reason that part has totally stuck with me. Dough? For what? That, and the fact that when Henry Sugar first starts trying to see facedown cards, the suits come to him as blobs.

I'm gonna stop now, but thanks GaGaLoc for bringing back some awesome memories!
posted by DLWM at 9:07 PM on September 5, 2008

ARGH. I need some sort of alert system for Dahl-related posts.

Yes, it's definitely "The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar." You can read a synopsis on my Dahl site here. It's actually a very "meta" story, in that the plot is related by four different narrators each reading the previous one's written account. Pretty cool.

leibniz, while many of Dahl's adult-oriented short stories were used for TV, I don't think all of these ones were. I've found documentation that the "The Hitch-hiker" and "The Boy Who Talked With Animals" were dramatized for "Tales of the Unexpected" though.

Oddly, my favorite from this book was always "The Mildenhall Treasure." If you go to the British Museum, you can see the actual treasure trove.
posted by web-goddess at 12:28 AM on September 8, 2008

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