Our new blog feature continues with sewing sensation Jessica who easily chose a lifelong favorite: Roald Dahl. Though this British author is beloved world round by children for his many books starring odd children with fantastic destinies pitted against nasty grown-ups (and candy factories and bone-crushing giants), he has also written for the grown-ups themselves. In fact, though the writer's life is often one of solitude and contemplative effort, Dahl was not without an exciting (and surprising) past...
(A picture of a young Roald Dahl in uniform with that Sean Connery look-alike, Ernest Hemingway.)
Q. When did you become aware of Dahl?
Jessica: Sometimes I think I was born loving Roald Dahl. I have no distinct recollection of “discovering” him. I do remember associating him very closely with his typical illustrator Quentin Blake and being really thrown off by the books that didn’t feature his unique, scribbly watercolors. It took my mom a while to convince me that Charlie and the Chocolate Factory came from the same author as my beloved BFG. But once I got a few pages in and found the now familiar recipe (2 parts whimsy + 1 part epic comeuppance,) it was clear that the magic was not in the images but in the words and thus an impermeable bond was forged.
Q. What is your favorite work by him?
Jessica: I think James and the Giant Peach may be my favorite children’s book by him when all is said and done. The unapologetic surrealism combined with the lure of exotic travel continues to appeal to me even as an adult. It undoubtedly formed the foundation for many of my adult tastes like Shirley Jackson and Haruki Murakami. Now that I’m grown, I find it interesting that he mainly wrote short stories for grown-ups and managed full length books for kids. It’s almost like he couldn’t be bothered to go on too long if you were going to insist on his making any sense at all. His adult work features delightfully unsettling stories, often highlighting how mankind makes a better monster than anything that one could make up. It’s a weird world out there and Mr. Dahl knew that well. My favorite of these is called Skin and relates the fate of a tattooed man whose tattoo artist is revered as a master artist after his death.
Q. What else?
Jessica: Though Roald Dahl is sadly gone, the reading pleasure to be derived from his life is far from over. His biography is a truly extraordinary tale filled with terrible tragedy, great love and intrigue. September 14th will see the release of Storyteller: The Authorized Biography of Roald Dahl by Donald Sturrock. Highlights include his rocky but glamorous marriage to actress Patricia Neal, the medical tragedies and accidents that befell their family, his success as a flying ace in WW2 and, of course, his time working for British Intelligence with fellow spy and writer Ian Fleming. That’s right, I said HE WAS A SPY! A SPY! If that isn’t one of the most phenomenally stupifying thing to find out about your childhood hero, I don’t know what is. For those who can’t wait for Storyteller, The Irregulars by Jennet Connant, elaborates on his adventures in deception on our unsuspecting shores. If you’re ready to introduce your tot to Roald Dahl, or if you're ready to revisit him yourself, there’s no better time. September 13th is Roald Dahl Day! He would have been 94.
Q. Favorite quote?
Jessica: “A person is a fool to become a writer. His only compensation is absolute freedom. He has no master except his own soul, and that, I am sure, is why he does it."