Happy Roald Dahl Day!

Were he alive, Dahl would be celebrating his 96th birthday today.  Events galore at www.roalddahlday.info, and here’s a lovely episode from Letters of Note for you to enjoy.

“One rainy Sunday afternoon in 1989, with encouragement and much-needed help from her father, a 7-year-old girl named Amy decided to send something to Roald Dahl. Taking inspiration from her favourite book, The BFG, and using a combination of oil, coloured water and glitter, Amy sent the author a very fitting and undeniably adorable gift: one of her dreams, contained in a bottle. ”

Go to Letters of Note to read Dahl’s reply. He wasn’t a perfect man, but his response to this child is perfect in every way.

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The London Review of Books reviewed George’s Marvellous Medicine back in 1981 in a piece titled “Sweet Porn”. The LRB blog has re-posted an except today under the title “Emmanuelle and the Chocolate Factory”. I don’t subscribe to the LRB, so I can’t read the full piece (for which I am mostly thankful), but here’s an excerpt.

For pre-pubertal Westerners, sweets fill the vacuum later to be occupied by sex. It is unnerving to watch an otherwise decent child being temporarily demoralised (in the literal sense of being morally corrupted) by a desire for sweets as an otherwise decent adult may be by sexual need. In both cases, the overwhelming lust for immediate sensual gratification destroys habitual scruples, yet is itself tainted by a guilty awareness that fulfilment may collapse into satiety, shame and physical discomfort. The whole animal being is involved. A three-year-old with a chocolate-smeared face can wear the hangdog look of a man whose wife surprises him in adultery… Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is thus, in effect, a piece of soft pornography, with Charlie in the Emmanuelle role: ‘as the rich warm creamy chocolate ran down his throat into his empty tummy, his whole body from head to toe began to tingle with pleasure, and a feeling of intense happiness spread over him.’

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Get rid of that icky feeling by visiting writer Kristen den Hartog’s lovely mother-daughter reading journal Blog of Green Gables, where she details their “mission to read all of [Dahl’s] kids’ books in a row.” Her post on the BFG is doubly interesting because the protagonist of Hartog’s last novel And Me Among Them is a girl giant.

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Over at the Huffington Post, there’s a juicy collection of his funniest quotes from his children’s books.

“I understand what you’re saying, and your comments are valuable, but I’m going to ignore your advice.”

And and and

“And Charlie, don’t forget about what happened to the man who suddenly got everything he ever wanted. He lived happily ever after.”

The End.

Random Bookish Stuff

You know how you visit IMDB intending to look up that guy in the Gap commercial because he was in Six Feet Under, or maybe it was LOTR, and it’s sort of bugging you, and then two hours of your life are gone?  Well, here’s another timesink–TV Tropes, a site exploring  “the tricks of the trade for writing fiction. ” Don’t be put off by that so-dry-it’s-flaking description, or by the dreadful layout that forces you to scroll way past a series of ads to reach the menu (in tiny font, of course).

TV Tropes identifies common tropes in television, film, and literature,  and presents them in a unified framework solely for the reader’s edification delight. An example:  if you read Calvin and Hobbes, you’re probably familiar with the noodle incident. Here it is anyway.

So, the Noodle Incident trope refers to a past incident that is often mentioned but never actually explained (the underlying assumption is that the said incident is too complicated or outrageous to elaborate upon).  The noodle incident in the Sherlock Holmes series, for instance, refers to a case featuring the giant rat of Sumatra, which Watson claims “the world is not ready to hear about”.  In Wodehouse:  “repeated references are made to the never-actually-recounted “Story of the Prawns” which relates a humiliatingly hilarious incident in the youth of stuffed shirt Sir Gregory Parsloe-Parsloe.” I only looked at the noodle incidents in literature, but there are tons of examples in all genres, all spellbinding.

Another useful trope is the Woobie,  “that character you want to give a big hug, wrap in a blanket and feed soup to when he or she suffers so very beautifully.” Examples of the Woobie on the site include Tom Robinson (To Kill a Mockingbird) and Velutha (GoST).  And to end, a tiny sample of  some (self-explanatory) tropes. There’s  “Normally I Would be Dead by Now” (where you might see  a “My Name is Inigo Montoya” sequence), “Did Not Do the Research”, “Important Haircut”, and “Forgets to Eat”.  You know you won’t sleep tonight.

Hat tip: The Morning News

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Bloggers everywhere are reviewing their favorite works featuring murder and mayhem, for The Golden Age of Detective Fiction is touring the blogosphere over the next four weeks. The Golden Age refers to the period spanning the 1920s and 30s  when detective fiction reached its high watermark; the best known writer of the era is probably Agatha Christie.

I have a insatiable craving for the cozy mystery, totally getting off on sleepy English villages filled with homicidal maniacs dabbling in untraceable alkaloids. So I’m very glad to participate in this challenge, and I’ll be reviewing the work of a writer who, in my very humble opinion,  deserves to be up there with Christie and Co.  Patricia Wentworth is the creator of Miss Silver, a retired governess turned private eye. Miss Silver is often compared to Christie’s Miss Marple, but she’s quite unique, and I’ll be elaborating on that next week, in my review of The Case of William Smith. (Btw, Miss Silver has her own noodle incident: the case of the poisoned caterpillars. Yes, TV Tropes does that to you.)

Other authors reviewed in the challenge include Allingham, Tey, Chandler, Hammett, Chesterton and Ngaio Marsh, to name a few, so do visit this challenge if you like classic mysteries. The tour schedule can be found here.