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.