Saturday, December 17, 2011

What's so great about Roald Dahl? I'll tell you....

Truth. His witting humor isn’t without its cutting edges. I adore his ability to allow terrifying reality to blend with his absurdity.  I find nothing more entertaining than the ingenuity of Dahl’s stories, but the best part is the sharp reality his characters face. When I first read “Fantastic Mr. Fox,” I admit I was a bit horrified that Mr. Fox’s tail was literally shot off… and that was just the beginning.  I flipped back to the cover, read the dust jacket, and flipped through the cute illustrations. Still, I wasn’t prepared for the awful cruelty of the farmers and of the thieving foxes.  At the end of the story, I wasn’t sure what to be shocked by, the fact that three grown men just destroyed the animals homes, Mr. Fox who stole for a living, or the fact that the whole thing was downright, out-of-this-world HILARIOUS.

Again, in the story “George’s Marvelous Medicine,” George’s attempt to poison his grandmother turns into a hilarious pursuit of fame, but he does eventually (though indirectly) rid of his grandmother permanently. I took guilty pleasure in his clever riddance of the most annoying person in his life, if only things could always be so simple.

The contrast of Dahl’s sometimes-absurd stories to the secret desires (how did he know?) I’ve always shared is genius. He dared reveal those desires and exposed them in his ridiculous yet compelling characters and plot. Dahl’s stories are always unexpected and completely satisfying.  Dahl has a knack for complicating happy endings, and allowing disaster to leave his characters (and his readers) hanging by a single thread. He knows just when to end something so it’s still funny, but never too scary. Genius.

And honestly, where does he come up with these things?

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