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Archive for June 24th, 2011

Storyteller

Storyteller: the authorized Biography of Roald Dahl by Donald Stubrock.

Hardcover: 672 pages
Publisher: Simon & Schuster (September 14, 2010)
ISBN-10: 1416550828

From Publishers Weekly

Only a special author can enter the imaginative realm of a child to write a Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Yet this authorized biography, written by someone who knew Dahl and worked with the cooperation of the author’s adult children and both wives–one of whom was film star Patricia Neal–covers the man and his reputation thoroughly while veering from deeper psychological readings of his work. This is not to say the book is superficial. Neal observed that her husband was a modern Pied Piper to children, and an element of the conjurer runs insightfully through this solid biography. Dahl considered himself a wanderer between his native Norway, the U.K., New York, and Hollywood, and a depressed one at that. He was drawn to the high life and celebrities such as Chaplin, Dorothy Lamour, and Robert Altman, and to expensive artwork and furnishings. Well covered are Dahl’s English boarding-school years, his flying for the RAF during WWII; prickly relations with agents, editors, and publishers; the tragic lives of two of his children; and his up-and-down marriage to Neal. Yet because this biography is authorized, one comes away feeling that there is more to tell. 16 pages of b&w photos.

In the early part of the book, once his early childhood was covered, came a bit of English History with Roald’s time spent in the RAF. It seems that time would change a big part of his life.  Once he crash landed his airplane he would have back surgeries the rest of his life.

I read this book because for a long time I did not like Roald Dahl.  I couldn’t figure how a man could be married to Patricia Neal for so long, have 5 children with her, help her through a devastating stroke and then fall in love with someone else!

I’m still not sure I understand.  But I did get a bit more information about “both sides” of the story.

They were a couple with TWO egos on the line.  Patricia’s for acting and Roald’s for writing.  There’s no denying that that clashed in the marriage.  But Roald never once stopped writing.  It did take some time of his writing short stories and articles and scripts for movies before he finally drifted into writing children’s books.  But once he did there was no turning back.

I found the book much more interesting than I expected.  I’m not really sure “what” I expected, except hopefully to not dislike Mr. Dahl as much as I did. 

There were pages I felt sorry for him.

There were pages I wanted to slap him across the face.

And there was always the hidden ego.

In the end Roald would describe himself as someone with 2 steel hips, no calf muscle and 6 spinal operations to his credit.  But he never felt sorry for himself.  Instead.. he lobbied for knighthood, which was something he never did get.

The man was certainly an excellent writer of children’s books, there’s no denying that. And I will admit to having read James and the Giant Peach and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory out loud to my kids when they were young… but I never did get around to reading some of his later work, most especially “The BFG” (Big Friendly Giant) or “Witches”.  I might have to do something about that one day…

In conclusion this was a very good book and I want to thank Kelly for making it possible for me to get the book to read!! Thanks again Kelly!!  Right now it’s bargain price on Amazon for anyone who thinks they might like to read it!!

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