Storyteller: The Authorized Biography of Roald Dahl
by Donald Sturrock
Simon & Schuster • $30.00 • September 14, 2010
I admit that after Trisha blogged about Storyteller, the authorized biography of Roald Dahl, I expected the book to be rather ho-hum. How dishy can an authorized biography really be?
But then a line in an Independent article about the dark private lives of children's authors caught my eye: "The creator of Willy Wonka, the Twits and Fantastic Mr Fox was often less than fantastic as a human being. He was an anti-Semite, a chronically unfaithful husband and a raging bully to business associates, teachers and friends." This can apparently be gleaned from Sturrock's book. So, I've picked it up and am enjoying the biography. (I'll confess that I haven't gotten to the parts that reveal the unappealing parts of his personality, although I have flipped to the center photo spreads to look at pictures of Dahl with his first wife, the movie star Patricia Neal. )
If Dahl's memoirs Boy and Going Solo left you eager for information, or you want to know about the man behind Matilda and The BFG--Storyteller is definitely worth a read. A teaser:
The Edwardian children's writer Edith Nesbit thought that the most important quality in a good children's writer was an ability to vividly recall their own childhood. Being able to relate to children as an adult, she believed, was largely unimportant. Roald Dahl could do both. His seductive voice, the subversive twinkle in his eye, and his sense of the comic and curious gave him an ability to mesmerize almost every child who crossed his path--yet he could also remember and reimagine his own childhood with astonishing sharpness. The detail might sometimes be unreliable, but what never failed him was an ability instinctively to recreate and understand the child's point of view. It was something of which he was very proud. He knew he could do it and that a great many others could not. Sitting in his high-backed faded green armchair by the fire at Gipsy House, a glass of whiskey in one hand, he once talked to me about it with considerable pride. "It's really quite easy," he would say. "I go down to my little hut, where it's tight and dark and warm, and within minutes I can go back to being six or seven or eight again." Or, as his alter ego, Willy Wonka, put it in an early draft of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory: "In my factory I make things to please children. I don't care about adults."
What are you reading today?