Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Contemporary Dahl

Why is Roald Dahl's children's fiction so enduring and is he still an influence for contemporary writers?

Mounds & Circles asked the best selling childrens's author of Fizzlebert Stump – The Boy Who Ran Away From The Circus (And Joined The Library) a.f. harrold for his views:

a.f. harrold. Writer. Sitting in a chair.

How much of an influence is Roald Dahl on your writing?

He’s had some influence. He sits centrally in a list of authors whose spirits impart something into the things I write, but it would be hard for me to say exactly how. At his best the writing skims along, carrying the story over the water in graceful arcs towards the final plop of The End. I aspire to that sort of skill.

What is it that endears him to children do you think?

You’d have to ask a child that. What I like, reading the books as an adult (which is how I first read at least half of them), is that there’s heart, ingenuity, comedy, love, death and Heath Robinson-ness packed in such a small space. They’re stories that fight on their own terms: the best ones are unexpected, unlikely and inspiring.

Dahl has a reputation for being a little gruesome why do you think that appeals to children and adults?

Only some of the books are gruesome, but the ones that are excite for the same reason it’s funny to see Tom whacked in the face with a frying pan. Or, in the case of the BFG’s whizzpopping, it’s funny because everyone does it, but unless you read Emile Zola it’s never mentioned in books – we’ve, even as kids I expect, learnt that this doesn’t happen between covers, and so finding it there is doubly surprising.

Do you have a favourite Dahl book and why?

My favourite is Esio Trot, one his books for younger readers. It’s a simple love story between two old people, with a seduction executed via the medium tortoise. It’s ingenious, charming, heartfelt and funny.

What are his weaknesses in your opinion?

I don’t think the later exclusive confluence with Quentin Blake does him any harm, necessarily, but some of the pre-Blake illustrations for the earlier books are tremendous. (I have a print of Jill Bennett’s BFG from Danny Champion Of The World in my hallway.) It’s a shame we lost the option of having more of those.

Jill Bennett’s beautiful BFG from Danny Champion Of The World a copy of which hangs in the harrold hallway
a.f harrold's website can be found here. There are many books and CD's for you to buy all of which would make excellent presents about this time of year (or any time of year really).

Fizzlebert Stump: The Boy Who Ran Away From the Circus (and joined the library) - which is thoroughly recommended by Mounds & Circles can be ordered here.

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