From Wikipedia. Photograph by Carl Van Vechten
Roald Dahl died 20 years ago today, 23 November 1990.
What can I say about one of my favorite writers that hasn’t been said before?
Roald Dahl, the writer who continues to weave his way through my life. As a child, I loved his books. I wanted powers like Matilda’s. I loved the story of the BFG. My sister had a Book On Tape of it, and we listened to that story on car rides to visit my grandparents or on family vacations. In elementary school, we read James and the Giant Peach during a very long fire drill. As a young child, I read Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator first, and never forgot those Vermicious Knids.
But then I hit that barren wasteland of middle school, where it was no longer cool to love his books. They were kids’ stuff, to be regulated to a far corner, to the back of our minds, to be remembered fondly but never admitted.
High School brought a return to the awesome. My prom theme was Golden Ticket, styled after the Gene Wilder movie Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, complete with golden tickets, candy everywhere, and a (fake) chocolate waterfall. But still, I ignored the books.
Cue sophomore year of college. My roommate, the fantastic Holmes, got a copy of a collection of his adult short stories. She made me read “Genesis and Catastrophe”. I was hooked on the way my stomach felt after reading that story. I began to read more, to crave more. “Lamb to the Slaughter” introduced me to Alfred Hitchcock Presents, and the story “Beware of the Dog” brought me to 36 Hours (a really good thriller).
Through it, I read a book called The Irregulars, about Dahl’s time as a spy during WWII, which subsequently kicked off my interest in the RAF (or may have just helped to spawn it, I’m really unsure of how that came to be).
I’ve read most of his adult stories by this point. When I travel, I bring Over to You, a collection of his RAF stories, with me. It’s a slim book, perfect for sticking into a computer bag. I want to read My Uncle Oswald, a novel about his delightfully devious character of the same name.
Recently, Holmes and I have started rereading some of his children’s books. We recently finished Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. I never realized how delightful of a morality play it is. The evil children all meet their very fitting ends, all receive their punishments in accordance to their crimes. Its delightful how twisted the tale is. In rewatching the Gene Wilder movie, we realized how much it distorts the story, how it takes away from Charlie being such a deserving character. In the movie, he misbehaves as the other children do. And Grandpa Joe is such a bad influence in the movie.
Dahl’s wicked sense of humor appeals to all ages, from the child looking for a creepy bedtime story, to the adult looking for a good gut-twisting story. There’s a magic to his work, an appeal that transcends ages.
In honor of Mr Dahl, I shall be eating chocolate today (a favorite food of his, in fact, he allegedly was buried with some), and reading a portion of Over to You.
Read one of his short stories today. I promise that you won’t be disappointed.
Here’s to many more years enjoying Roald Dahl’s stories, the fantastic, the strange, the heartbreaking, the wicked.