Ode to Roald Dahl

Happy 100th birthday Roald Dahl!

I know this isn’t a normal thing that tends to cross people’s minds, but I sometimes lament that I never have the chance to meet you — and thank you.  Because your work has impacted me, at several levels.

dannychampionI discovered you, as many children do, through the classic “Roald Dahl” unit in elementary school.  I made it my personal mission to read through everything you’ve ever penned — I especially loved rereading Matilda, though I assert that Danny Champion of the World is hands-down your best hit.  So, as a wildly imaginative and prolific writer, your literature for children alone has touched me profoundly.

Luckily, that’s not where the story ends.  Once I finished your repertoire of children’s literature, I reached for your autobiographies.  As a clueless fifth-grader, I could relate to the young candy-loving Roald of the first biography.  But the second biography was beyond me.  What had Roald been doing in Africa, and why were Italians there, too?  Who were the Vichy French that Dahl spoke of with such disdain?  I forgot about these questions and the second biography until middle school.going-solo1

Skip to eighth grade.  Since elementary school, I had become a World War II-history nut, and I decided to revisit Going Solo.  To my astonishment, the bio that I had considered “boring” was actually chock full of stories from the fucking British Royal Air Force.  In my eyes, you instantly transformed from a childhood entertainer into a historic hero.

With my interest rekindled, I also discovered your short stories for adults.  Twisted, dark, and shocking, I soon appreciated another dimension of your writing and talents.  I can only hope to incorporate a similar intrigue and drama to short stories I write someday.

Thank you — I only hope that you understand how far-reaching and inspirational you are to readers around the world!

-M.L.

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