Roald Dahl writes with some serious hyper activity. That is the best part about reading his stuff. He is fantastic and fabulous all at once and his characters jump and their eyes sparkle and that’s why, as a reader, you get carried away. Some of his plots may be a little silly (George’s Marvellous medicine) but he makes it work with his style of grabbing you by the throat and shaking you till your eyes rattle in your head. Okay that was a bad analogy. As a kid, I would gaze at the Quentin Blake illustrations on the page and imagine that I too could say things like “How absolutely dashingly gorgeous, my friend. How ripping and downright lovely, small boy.” A Roald Dahl world is an exciting world on a sugar rush, whether you’re with James and company on the peach, whether you’re wreaking merry havoc with Matilda or even if you’re in the throes of a deadly adventure a la The Witches.
Other reasons I love him? If you’ve read Boy: Tales of childhood, a pleasant anecdotal volume about his boarding school years and his giant Norwegian family, I wouldn’t have to explain. A lot of Dahl’s stories are exaggerated versions of true events. (Obviously I don’t mean the Vermicious Knids, that’s just kick ass imagination.) No, what I’m talking about are honest to goodness true events that ended up triggering off some of the most awesome children’s books since the Brothers Grimm. For instance, Cadbury used to send bars of chocolate to Dahl’s boarding school as tester. The boys used to taste the bars and write out comments on a little sheet of paper. Boy Dahl remembers writing, at 9, “Too subtle for the unsophisticated palate.” It was this routine that started a germ of an idea for Charlie and the Chocolate factory.
Dahl wasn’t one of those writers who never get out and just live through their books. At school, he played at least three different sports. While at Shell Company after school, he all but begged his boss to let him travel to exotic places like Africa and India so that he could have adventures. And he was a flying ace in World War one. But how does this have anything to do with his writing? It doesn’t, but it’s awesome anyway.
Dahl is also a delightful rhymer. If he sticks a poem into a story, you can be sure that it will be wicked, funny and amusing. (Oh knid, you are vile and vermicious. You are horrid and slimy and squishous). He writes one liners filled with all manner of 1960s styles racial stereotypes (China is so full of wings and wongs , every time you wing one, you get wong number.) He jeers at America and American presidents in his books, which is even more fun by the fact that he was actually invited to the White House by Roosevelt in 1945.
So listen up, read and re-read Dahl as an adult. He will be your golden ticket (nudge nudge) out of this humdrum, adult world. If you have kids, make them read Dahl. He’ll be fun and relevant, even when we’re sharing a Churchgate slow with robots. I cannot stress this enough. Read. Dahl.