“So please, oh please, we beg, we pray! Go throw your TV set away! And in its place you can install a lovely bookcase on the wall”
I learned this morning that today is Roald Dahl day, something of which I was previously unaware (although to be honest, if we can have “Talk Like A Pirate” and “Ask A Stupid Question” day, this is the very least the man deserves)
It got me thinking about the profound impact the writing of Roald Dahl had on my childhood and the intense love I have for his works. This year saw the release of Steven Spielberg’s long awaited adaptation of Dahl’s beloved The BFG. While I found myself utterly charmed in the immediate aftermath of the film, my love for it has grown the more I think about it and it was further evidence of the timelessness of his writing.
As a child I remember feeling quite hard done by that Dahl died the month before I was born. Such was my love for the man that the idea that I never got to live during his lifetime was something I considered extremely unfair. However I made do with reading and re-reading his classics with an ardent fervour and he became such an important part of my childhood that trying to dissect what it is that makes his writing so appealing feels almost impossible.
For me, and I like to think for a lot of children it, it came down to the characters. These incredible, visceral characters that could inspire and thrill and made even the skinniest and most uninteresting child (cough me cough) feel capable of the extraordinary. Dahl never took children to be idiots, capable only of handling stories of fluffy kittens, princesses and happy endings. There are extremely dark elements to his stories but he put his faith in children (and adults alike) to understand that anyone can triumph over adversity (side note – I do however think he was a little wide of the mark with The Minpins because JESUS CHRIST ROALD THAT BOOK TERRIFIED ME HOLY GOD).
While the books are obviously the most glorious representation of his genius, his work has been adapted into some fantastic films over the years. Danny DeVito’s Matilda was such a crucial film for my childhood that I am still capable of quoting 85% of the film from memory (much to the disdain of those who have the misfortune to be watching it in my presence). Spielberg’s The BFG (mentioned above) is so effective at recreating the scratchy, iconic illustrations of Quentin Blake that it truly is like watching the book come to life. And the sad passing of Gene Wilder last week really brought home his incredible performance as Willy Wonka – a performance so good people have had the good sense never to try it again (“Wait Die, I think they did?” No. They didn’t. “You sure they…?” Don’t say it. “Johnny Depp?” Shut your mouth and never speak of this again.)
Dahl means so much to so many that I’m in the unique experience of having so much to say but not being able to find the words to do those feelings justice. I recommend reading Sophie Dahl’s beautiful post in The Guardian today about her grandfather (http://bit.ly/2cnRQP2) A lovely reminder that the man we desperately wanted to know was as wonderful as we could have expected.
So from this devoted fan to the undoubtedly many others that may stumble upon this post, I wish you a very Happy Dahl Day. I hope you found my babblement scrumdiddlyumptious and not too squiff-squiddled around.