Tuesday Author Discussion: Roald Dahl

The Twits is one of the first books I ever bought with my own money. I had five dollars that I’d gotten in a birthday card, I bought the book at a shopping mall, which I’m relatively sure was in Missouri, and I have no idea what attracted me to it, because the cover was brown, and I don’t even like brown.

It was, at that point in my life, the most fascinating book I’d ever read. Every idea seemed shocking and revolutionary. I was absolutely horrified by the prospect of bird-pie, and by all the cruel, perverse practical jokes that hinged on messing with people’s perceptions of the physical world. Both Twits scared me, but Mr. Twit scared me just a little bit more because he had a beard.

I have a hard time thinking of what I want to say about Roald Dahl. His books were such a large part of my childhood, and if you’d asked me when I was very young what it was that I liked about them, I wouldn’t have said that it was because they were bloodthirsty. I didn’t think of stories in terms of tone or subject; only that there were so many startling things I didn’t know about the world.

Even though I understood on a superficial level that the stories weren’t real, everything he presented seemed so utterly plausible. When you’re four, the idea of catching birds by painting an entire tree with glue doesn’t just sound logical—it sounds brilliant and efficient.

Now, the most impressive thing to me is not that he makes the impossible look commonplace, but that his stories show a remarkable capacity to think with the internal logic of a child. His books have always captivated me because he writes with the assurance and the cleverness of an adult, but the plots themselves are the fantastical narratives of children.

2 thoughts on “Tuesday Author Discussion: Roald Dahl

  1. We’re accumulating a real collection of Dahl now, thanks to you getting us started! Hands down our favorite part, the part that really got my daughter’s attention, was when Mr. Twit is made to eat worms in his spaghetti. Also, I horrified a good friend of mine by sending her son Revolting Rhymes, in which the very unfortunate and antiquated word “slut” appeared. And is it a rumor, or was Dahl a raging alcoholic?

  2. The wormy spaghetti used to horrify me! And the part when Mr. Twit ties all the balloons to Mrs. Twit in order the stretch her, and then he cuts her loose.

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