I've got my mid-term exams going on right now, so I don't have much time to blog. That's why I thought of combining my Sunday Salon and Author Feature posts together. Today is Roald Dahl's 93rd birth anniversary, and I hope you all will join me in remembering this literary legend.
Brief Bio: Dahl was born in Wales to Norwegian parents. When he was three, his eight-year old sister died of appendicitis, and his father died of grief weeks later. He attended many boarding schools, but his experiences there were not pleasant ones. After finishing his schooling, he joined the Shell Petroleum Company and was posted to Dar-Es-Salaam in Tanzania. When World War II broke out, he joined the Royal Air Force, ending the war as Wing Commander. His first children's book was The Gremlins, about mischievous little creatures that were part of RAF folklore. The book was commissioned by Walt Disney for a film that was never made, and published in 1943. Dahl went on to create some of the best-loved children's stories of the 20th century, such as Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Matilda. He also had a successful parallel career as the writer of macabre adult short stories, usually with a dark sense of humour and a surprise ending. Dahl died in 1990 of a rare blood disease, aged 74.
For more about him, you can visit his official website www.roalddahl.com.
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
James and the Giant Peach
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
My Views: When I decided on doing Author Feature, the first author who came to my mind was Roald Dahl. I loved his books so much while growing up, and while re-reading Charlie and the Chocolate Factory sometime back, the magic started to weave itself around me again.
The reason I love Roald Dahl so much is because of his inventiveness. I remember reading Matilda and going "Whoa! What an idea!" The same with all the other books I've read. Actually, when I read Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, I pestered my dad to buy me all the chocolates that Dahl described. And all my dad's explanations about fiction and imagination cut no ice with me. That is the impact Dahl has on you; kids are drawn into his fantastic world, and wish that our own world was just as magical as the one woven by his words.
Most of Dahl's stories have a common premise: there is a hero/heroine who usually suffers a lot, a villain who antagonizes the lead character (and the reader) at every step, culminating in the hero teaching the villain a lesson he/she will never forget. But the way the characters are described makes each story unique. Whether it is Ms. Trunchbull or the BFG or Willy Wonka, each character comes alive before your eyes, and it's like seeing a movie running through the pages. It's not all hunky-dory; some characters are scary, mean or flatly unlikeable, but that's what makes his books interesting.
Dahl also subtly inserts many morals throughout his stories. Through the behaviour of the people in the tales, he leads the reader to understand what qualities he/she should develop to become as loved as their favorite characters. One major theme is reading vs television. Dahl makes the case very strongly against television, whether it be through Mike Teavee in Charlie or the Wormwood family in Matilda. But there is no preachiness; the message naturally springs out from the story. I want to share with you a verse from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory where you see this coming in effect.
So please, oh please, we beg, we pray,
Go throw your TV set away,
And in its place you can install
A lovely bookshelf on the wall.
Then fill the shelves with lots of books,
Ignoring all the dirty looks,
The screams and yells, the bites and kicks,
And children hitting you with sticks —
Fear not, because we promise you
That, in about a week or two
Of having nothing else to do,
They'll now begin to feel the need
Of having something good to read.
And once they start — oh boy, oh boy!
You watch the slowly growing joy
That fills their hearts. They'll grow so keen
They'll wonder what they'd ever seen
In that ridiculous machine,
That nauseating, foul, unclean.
Repulsive television screen!
Dahl's greatest gift is his style of writing. His descriptions are just so amazing, so creative and sometimes so utterly ridiculous that it's brilliant. His ideas are eccentric and completely original, yet so simple that you wonder how nobody could have thought of it before. Dahl also doesn't talk down to the reader; you feel like you're listening to a story your friend is telling you. That's why it transcends all boundaries of age; whether you are 9 or 90, Dahl's storytelling enchants you.
I have never experienced a dull moment while reading a Roald Dahl book; he is, and will remain, one of my all-time favorite authors. What books of his have you read? Which is your favorite? Do you agree with me when I say his writing is unparallelled?