Doctor Eclectic

Doctor Eclectic
Doctor Eclectic

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Roald Dahl - Another Reason to Read

I came to Roald Dahl late in my reading career.  Actually, before I read one of his books I saw the movie.  It was “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” with Gene Wilder.  To this day I cannot get on an elevator without remembering that real elevators don’t go sideways.   I then went back and read “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”, “James and the Giant Peach”, and eventually “Matilda”.

This latter was also made into a film, which I did not see, as was “James…”, which I did see, and "The Fantastic Mr. Fox", which I saw and enjoyed.  I heard on NPR that I may have a chance to see “Matilda”, not as a remake of the 1996 movie, but as a musical on stage.  That is if it is successful in London, and is considered a good investment to bring to Broadway.  The former is likely, but the latter is in doubt.

Dahl, in case you forgot, is known for the darkness of his children’s stories and unpredictable endings.   And the NPR pundits believe New York Theater has so turned to reruns and happy endings that investors are averse to risk.

It was the unpredictability and darkness that appealed to me in Dahl’s books and was one of the reasons I chose him to read to my children when they were growing up.  There were other favorite authors too, chosen for similar reasons.

Probably my most favorite author was Judith Viorst.  My younger son never tired of hearing how Anthony would get “fixed” by his younger brother.  The older always felt he deserved a book for his “Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Days”.  When the Marines took me to Okinawa for a year, I sent back tapes of some of Viorst’s books, which Mary put in Sean’s crib to remind him of his father’s voice.

We have had the opportunity to hear Ms. Viorst on two separate occasions, one with her son, Alexander.  She has become a perennial favorite, as we age at almost the same pace as she has with her books on aging, the most recent being “I’m Too Young To Be Seventy:, And Other Delusions”.  She shared with us the inspiration for her stories, all of which are hugely autobiographical.

Another favorite quirky author is Maurice Sendak, who also has seen his books successfully made into films.  Since Sendak was first a successful illustrator and did the illustrations for “Where the Wild Things Are”, he must have enjoyed seeing what the graphic artists were able to do with his concepts.  I was surprised to find out that he is still alive at age 83.

The last of the writers I am reminded of by Dahl’s recent play is Shel Silverstein, whose quirky cartoons first attracted me as a reader of “Playboy”, where he was a regular contributor for cartoons and feature stories in the 1950s and sixties.  My favorite book is “Light in the Attic” but his most famous would be “The Giving Tree”, which I reread on occasion.

I have two growing grandchildren, one just turned seven and the older will soon be thirteen.  I am tempted to ask my son if either of them have been exposed to my choice of off-beat children authors, but I am somewhat fearful of his answer.  I do know that they were read to and that they now read.  But reading is not their passion.  Their time choices run, as many of their contemporaries do, to X-Box, texting and the internet.

Maybe I can give them another reason to read.

My next post was inspired by my son Tim’s discovery of a group he had not heard of before, the Knights Templar.  Maybe I can pique some interest from you to learn the story of this group.

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