Around the time I became aware of the fact that the words in books were put there on purpose by someone or other, I became a fan of Roald Dahl; the verve of such classics as Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator, and James and the Giant Peach not only made reading fun, but made writing seem like it would be pretty fun, too. (Hey, what did I know? I was only seven.)
So here I am, thirty years later, an ink-stained wretch and embittered social outcast, and I owe it all to the man pictured above. (Okay, maybe not all, but most... Some, and that's my final offer!)
Since those days, of course, my appreciation of Dahl's works has expanded to include Matilda, The Witches, and a very different kind of book from the children's fiction for which he was best known, My Uncle Oswald. What a revelation it was to discover that the author of some of my favourite children's books also had a macabre, kinky, thoroughly adult side! How very British...
What I liked most about his books as a kid is that they seemed to understand better than most the complex relationships between adults and children in all varieties - from benevolent to malevolent - a perspective on them I never had until I began to reread his works in my 30s. Roald Dahl died on this day in 1990, but thanks to his heroes and heroines like Charlie Bucket and Matilda Wormwood his sensitivity to the many challenges in a child's world endures, hopefully to bring the same solace to future generations of children that they once brought to me.
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