Monday, 2 June 2014

Why I Love Roald Dahl.

When I was writing 'Sweets That Eat Children!', I was aware that the work was distinctly Dahlesque in nature. I didn't deliberately set out to try and imitate the brilliant Mr Roald Dahl. It was more that I had been so wonderfully influenced by him from my childhood, that it was a natural progression to attempt to produce some deliciously disgusting prose of the kind that can still make me laugh out loud.
So just why is Roald Dahl such a wonderful storyteller? Let's take a look at his work and explore further.
My first encounter with Dahl was at the age of six, when our teacher would read to us 'Charlie and the Chocolate Factory', at the end of each school day. Oh, how I yearned for that time, when I would be transported to that beautiful world of wonder and magic. I sat enthralled, as young Charlie Bucket, pitifully poverty-stricken, found the Golden Ticket inside a bar of Wonka chocolate and entered the surreal, anarchic and exciting world of Willy Wonka's chocolate factory. Oh, what unmitigated bliss it was! The other four young Golden Ticket finders are brilliantly bizarre and dysfunctional. They all come to a sticky end (highly unpleasant but not fatal) through their own greed and selfish pursuit of their wants. Their comeuppances are yucky and gross, outrageous and cruel. Which is exactly what kids love! Roald Dahl is funny and wise, he doesn't patronise or lecture to children about how they should be good and not bad. Rather, he simply shows how vile things can happen to vile people.
I bought my own copy of 'Charlie and the Chocolate Factory' asap, quickly followed by 'Fantastic Mr Fox', 'James and the Giant Peach', 'Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator', 'The Magic Finger' and 'Danny the Champion of the World'. I read them all, again and again. Never tired of them: good triumphed over evil, Dahl weaved spells in my imagination and my childhood was a happier place because of Dahl's presence.
I loved his baddies - they are so wonderfully despicable - you love despising them. Who could forget James' two cruel aunts, Sponge and Spiker? Who didn't feel as high as a kite when they were both flattened by the rolling giant peach? And Mr Fox's adversaries - the hideously filthy and unhygienic farmers named Boggis, Bunce and Bean - kick-started my love of gross-out humour. They would pick their ears and noses, Dahl described their disgusting habits with a relish that was infectious.
And the invention in his stories, towers above that of many of his contemporaries. He pitted Mr Fox against the stupid but ruthless farmers. Jealously protecting their livestock, they obsessively pursued him with spades and Caterpillar tractors. As they dug deeper so did Mr Fox. Then they waited by his hole with their guns poised to blow him away. Mr Fox and his family and all the other underground animals are starving until the wily Mr Fox digs tunnels to the farmers hen house and cellar. He is able to procure an unending supply of good food and cider for the subterranean creatures, and they live a Utopian life of peace and harmony, whilst the dimwitted farmers sit waiting for Mr Fox to appear. Dahl knew what excited children, I used to dream of having tunnels to sweet and toy shops! And 'James and the Giant Peach' depicted a lonely mistreated boy, emerging from his tragic life to a glorious life inside a giant peach. He has new friends, enlarged creepy-crawlies and bugs, very loveable lot they are. Amazing adventures follow, the peach rolls into the Alantic, floats along until it is attacked by sharks. Using the giant Earthworm as bait, they lure over 500 seagulls, tying them to the peach with web from the Spider and Silk strings from the Silkworm. They are lifted from the sea by the mass of birds and now airbourne they endure more perils until safely arriving in New York City.
More books followed as I grew up. 'Matilda', 'The BFG', 'The Witches' and the splendid 'George and his Marvellous Medicine', memorably performed by Rik Mayall on Jackanory. More terrific characters; Dahl certainly taught me a thing or two about creating characters. And then, of course, there were his stories for adults. 'Tales of the Unexpected' were darkly humourous, macabre tales of wickedness and unspeakable acts of indecency. But Dahl made these negatives gloriously edible and fun. 'Tales of the Unexpected' was a great TV series. Many of his books have been made into fab films, most notably by Tim Burton, who has the vision and talent to bring Dahl's work majestically to the big screen. Let us too, not forget the contribution of illustrator Quentin Blake, his quirky drawings a visual reflection of the weird workings of Roald Dahl's mind.
It does not surprise me that comedian David Walliams describes Dahl as his hero and has carried on the Dahl tradition with a fabulous set of titles: 'The Boy in the Dress'; 'Mr Stink'; 'Billionaire Boy'; 'Gangsta Granny'. However, although he is doubtlessly influenced by Dahl, his work is never derivative. Walliams is one of my favourite comedians, unique and hysterically funny, he bowled me over with 'Little Britain'. The gross, highly dysfunctional, ridiculous characters were masterpieces of invention, and few comedy sketch shows have made me laugh so much.
David Walliams - you are more than a worthy successor to Roald Dahl's throne!
So if you haven't already (and I find it hard to believe) check this stuff out! Or my going into overdrive hyperbole has been a waste of time!

No comments:

Post a Comment