Roald Dahl: A Biography

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9780156001991: Roald Dahl: A Biography

The first full-length biography of the successful and controversial author of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and James and the Giant Peach. Introduction by the Author; Index; photographs.

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From Kirkus Reviews:

In this brief and insightful biography, Treglown (Ed., TLS, 1982-90) probes the dark and volatile nature of this postmodern Pied Piper whose macabre tales bewitched millions of children and their parents, earned fortunes for his publishers, and redefined the genre of children's literature. Treglown tactfully rescues Dahl (1916-90) from his quarrelsome heirs in an unauthorized biography that is respectful of his genius and energy and truthful about his faults: his tyrannical nature, cupidity, dishonesty, and bad temper. He traces Dahl's circuitous route from RAF fighter pilot to author of children's books, then of adult stories in magazines, films such as You Only Live Twice and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, and then the immensely popular books, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and James and the Giant Peach, as well as others Treglown sensitively explicates, revealing their biographical sources. In 1953 he married actress Patricia Neal and began a stormy 30-year marriage torn by transatlantic allegiances, conflicting careers and personalities, and tragedies: their only son was brain-damaged after his pram was struck by a taxi; their daughter died from a fever; and Neal herself suffered a massive stroke at the height of her career. Dahl did his best work--The Twits, The Witches, his memoirs--when he married the more orderly Felicity and could concentrate on the ``business'' of being Dahl, a marketable writer in a profitable field facing off TV, rapacious publishers, and a new generation of politically correct parents for whom he was supposed to censor his imagination and tailor his expression. The enigma of Dahl himself, like the elusive charm of the tales, survives even this fine analysis. -- Copyright ©1994, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

From Booklist:

Roald Dahl's writings are like the girl with the curl on her forehead. When they are good, they are very good, and when they are bad they are horrid. Exactly the same seems to have been true of Dahl himself, at least as he is portrayed in this first full-length biography. A devoted father dedicated to charity causes, Dahl was also petty, jealous of other writers, and an anti-Semite. He was a bully as well, just like the ones featured so prominently in his children's books. Though there are some juicy tidbits in Treglown's account, it is not really a dishy book. In fact, for those who have read Dahl's own memoirs, Boy (1984) and Going Solo (1986), it may seem rather dull. The more you read, however, the more interesting it becomes, perhaps because Dahl became more irascible as he grew older, but also because much of the focus is on his works and even on the role of his editors, including Farrar's Stephen Roxburgh. The moral of one of Dahl's most popular books, The Witches, is that what matters is not who you are or what you look like, but that somebody loves you. Readers will continue to adore Dahl's books, but the man himself is a might harder to love. Ilene Cooper

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