Saturday, 7 February 2015

don’t gobblefunk around with words

Roald Dahl, the great Welsh author of Norwegian extraction, may be best known for his timeless and imaginative children’s tales but he was also a story-teller for all audiences, writing for Playboy magazine, was a compatriot of Ian Fleming and wrote the screenplay for one James Bond movie, featured on Alfred Hitchcock Presents and later hosting his own television series in the same genre.  

Dahl came into the profession somewhat by mishap, having in his earlier career as a dogfighting ace in North Africa during World War II and sustained a traumatic bump on his head that left him temporarily blind and apparently rewired his temperaments towards writing.  Dahl was compelled to resign his commission afterwards, but that accident—and subsequent manuscript of the event he wrote—Dahl’s plane had strayed too far off course and there was not enough fuel to get him back to base, and with the sun setting, Dahl choose to try to bring the plane down while he could still see obstacles on the ground and how he survived, but the article’s publishers tweaked the title to make the circumstances sound more harrowing, stating explicitly Dahl was shot down—led to a diplomatic posting as a sort of military attaché to the ambassador in Washington, DC in the office of propaganda, meant to align American commitment to the war in Europe.  Supposedly, after all that, which is barely even the introduction, Dahl had originally hoped to be a doctor.  The talent for story-telling that was violently thrust upon Dahl was surely regarded as a blessing but not a curse, but a lot of his personal life is tinged with sadness and loss, which influenced his plot twists and sometimes rather frightful ordeals and was surely an outlet besides. 
In his family, several of his children suffered tragedies and his wife, actress Patricia Neal fell victim to a massive stroke.  Dahl helped rehabilitate her with constant physical therapy and practice—which was unconventional for the 1960s when it was thought that no one could recover from such a bad and debilitating blow, but he refused to give up on her and and his wife learnt to speak and walk—and act again.  As Neal was figuring out to put words together again, her bittersweet malapropisms became the basis of the way the Giant speaks to the curious little girl (patterned after his own daughter, who sadly died from an avoidable case of measles, prompting Dahl’s campaign for getting children vaccinated) in his whimsical story, The BFG—Big Friendly Giant.