02 December 2008

A lost chapter of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory?

The sixth Golden Ticket winner, Miranda Piker, as the new second gunman? Merriam-Webster offers this definition of the word "piker": "one who does things in a small way." But I much prefer Urban Dictionary's "when someone fails to meet the expectations," because what fails more than a kid who actually wants to go to school?

Seriously, if you like Roald Dahl, read Jennet Conant's book THE IRREGULARS about Dahl in Washington D.C. during World War II schmoozing with diplomats. It's a really neat untold history that, so far as I have seen, is not getting much attention in year-end wrap-ups, but is much cheerier than the new Bob Woodward or THIS REPUBLIC OF SUFFERING.

What's your favorite Roald Dahl book? Much as I love CHARLIE... I have to go with MATILDA.

Hat tip: Fabulously Broke in the City, a personal finance blog.


Jess said...

My favorite was always The Witches. And BOY. I am totally going to read this book. Thanks for the recommendation!

Elizabeth said...

Oh man, I am not a Roald Dahl fan. CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY is one of those rare books whose film adaptations are better than the book. (THE PRINCESS BRIDE is another.) Gene Wilder at least gave the character a little depth.

JAMES AND THE GIANT PEACH just made me want to shake James silly. (The fact that we devoted, oh, three months of eighth grade drama reading the play over and over again didn't do much to win my affections, either.) (Also, when I say that the opening chapters of HARRY POTTER AND THE SORCERER'S STONE is just like JAMES..., but not as well written, you will appreciate the intensity of my contempt.)

But that said, THE WITCHES bothered me much less than CHARLIE... or JAMES... did, until the ending, which seriously creeped me out. To this day. (That doesn't make it a bad book, just a creepy book.)

And I did really like MATILDA, so perhaps Roald Dahl is not a bad author, just an author who wrote some bad books?

Ellen said...

Oh, eighth grade drama. At least you got to read a play instead of, say, "Newsies" lyrics over and over. (We are such a great ad for private school right now.)

Anyway, I agree that THE WITCHES creeped me out but I wouldn't say that made it a bad book. I guess I can see how you might not like CHARLIE... and JAMES..., and they might not stand up right now. But I'm a little puzzled as to how you could like MATILDA and not the others. After all, the same themes run through all of them, the escape of children into magical worlds when their own childhoods fail to protect them from the ravages of the world. Was it something about the execution in particular, or the characters (besides just James)?

And are there any other Dahl books you like more than MATILDA?

Elizabeth said...

It's been at least a decade since I read MATILDA, so I'm a bit hazy, but my guess is the reason I liked the book is because I liked the character, and I'm guessing I liked the character because she's smart. I don't know if "smart" is high on my list of adjectives to describe James or Charlie.

I have a serious problem where I don't like books if I don't like the protagonist. That's why I can't stand THE CATCHER IN THE RYE (because I can't stand Holden Caulfield), and why I'm no more than lukewarm for any of the HARRY POTTER books (though I must say the editing vastly improved after #1). Therefore, if for any reason I don't like James or Charlie, I'm not going to like their books either.

It's a real problem, and I'm not sure what to do about it.

I don't recall any other Dahl novels I've read besides those four (except THE GREAT GLASS ELEVATOR, but I've always viewed that and CHARLIE... as just one long book)...I did read a short story once, about someone whose father was a poacher, and he meets a pickpocket? But none of these were recent.

Ellen said...

I don't know that you need to do anything about the problem -- I think it's something that a lot of people have, or at least what drives them fictionwise. At the risk of giving out totally worthless advice, I think the right author or book would break you of that by offering up a character you don't like but are compelled somehow to follow.

Your poacher story sounds like DANNY, THE CHAMPION OF THE WORLD but that's not a short story of course. Hmm. Anyone know?

ap said...

Definitely "Matilda." Love that book. Still have my copy I got at the third grade Scholastic book fair.

I'll have to add "The Irregulars" to my growing GoodReads list, though after all the NYT Notable books I added, I don't know when I'll get to it.

Elizabeth said...

Maybe it was DANNY... and I quit after 15 pages?