Archive | February, 2013

Roald Dahl 1916 – 1990

26 Feb

roald dahl

“And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.” – Roald Dahl

Roald Dahl was a British novelist and wrote a great many popular stories in his lifetime. In my previous post I said we were going to find out if Roald Dahl preferred acid to magic mushrooms, and whether he though Willy Wonka was a danger to society or a misunderstood confectioner with a personality disorder and a velvet fetish. I now feel bad. I hadn’t known at this time that he had a bit of a sad life. I mean, not SAD sad like you want to cry until your face starts to resemble Micky Rourke’s, but sad like when you hear someone died who you already thought was dead. Like Tony Curtis.

He was born in Cardiff to Norwegian parents, so I guess that made him Welwegian or Norsh. He had three sisters, one of which died of appendicitis when he was three, and then a few weeks later his father died of pneumonia while fishing in the Antarctic. Brrr! Dahl then went onto have five children, one of which (Theo) suffered with brain damage when his baby buggy was hit by a car, and another (Olivia) died of measles when she was seven. His first wife Pat also had three strokes in a row at the age of just 39. Then a few months before Dahl died his step daughter Lorina died of a brain tumour. See, I told you it was sad, and also extremely unlucky. I’m glad we got that bit out of the way with minimal fuss and very few tears. Sniff.

Here’s the timeline fact stuff for smug gits who know everything about everything:

  • Born on 13th September 1916 in Wales
  • Welsh (ish)
  • Writer and wing commander (I wish he was my Grandpa)
  • Married twice; his first wife was actress Patricia Neal and the second was Felicity Crosland (there may have been a slight crossover i.e an affair (dirty dog)
  • He had five offspring
  • He died on the 23rd November 1990
  • He has an uber cool website which I recommend you visit at your convenience or now

On a happier note, Dahl was a flying ace. Yes, ACE. I thought that was just an endearing term for someone who’s pretty damn good, but apparently it’s a real thing. Who Knew? He did lots of flying and fighting stuff and also managed to crash a plane in the desert and hurt himself quite a bit. During the war he worked in intelligence for an organisation that was part of MI6, and also got to hang out with Ian Flemming. Some say he based the character of James Bond on Roald Dahl himself. That would be brilliant, but sadly a lie. Feel free to start a rumour though.

It has been said that Dahl was, and still is, the world favourite children’s author. I’m not going to disagree, even though I have a replica of a Golden Snitch (bought from Harry Potter World) and a half calf leather bound limited edition collector’s original of the complete Famous Five stores in their original packaging. I have also tried Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans, and I have to say that earthworms taste better than soap when followed by black pepper and sausage.  Earwax, not so much.

Anyway, Dahl wrote some amazing, and bonkersly funny books, both for children and adults. I remember reading one of his short stories about a boy who thinks his mother’s going to eat him because she had a big mouth. It was a long time ago, but the Rolling Stones’ logo still gives me the shivers. Probably his most famous works are those meant for children, but also give a lot of pleasure to adults. Here are the most popular (decided by me):

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator
Fantastic Mr Fox
Boy: Tales of Childhood
The Twits
James and the Giant Peach
Danny, the Champion of the World
George’s Marvellous Medicine
The Witches
Matilda
The BFG

To name but a few. If there’s anyone out there who thinks I’ve missed one of his greatest works then do tell. I promise not to chastise you by calling you a deluded fake bibliophile with no sense of personal space and no manners to speak of. I promise.

I regret to inform you that there is no Roald Dahl Appreciation Society for you to spend your cold, hard cash buying membership for. There is however a club, but I’m afraid you have to be under the age of 13 to join. I am going to send a stern email, so I’ll let you know how it goes.

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F. Scott Fitzgerald 1896 – 1940

6 Feb

F Scott Fitzgerald

You don’t write because you want to say something, you write because you have something to say.

F. Scott Fitzgerald

(OR as my mother used to say, if you don’t have anything nice to say then make something up and hope they can’t tell you’re lying)


Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald
was an American author and alcoholic. His wife was called Zelda (not to be mistaken for the princess conceived by Nintendo who gets kidnapped a lot and wears a cloak), and they named their only child Frances Scott Fitzgerald. If the first word that popped into your head was narcissism, then I am not alone in my judgement. Their only saving morsel was that they didn’t name her Frances Scott Junior (or JR if life without abbreviations leaves you cold and befuddled).

He wrote short stories for magazines as well as penning a few notable novels that include Tender is the Night and his most famous work The Great Gatsby, which has been made into a film 5 frickin times; 1926, 1949, 1974, 2000 and most recently in 2013. A Mr. Baz Luhrmann decided that it simply hadn’t been made enough times, and when you’ve run out of great ideas the 21st Century way is to steal someone else’s. I am not a fan of remakes because I don’t understand them. They’re copies. If I, being astoundingly multitalented, copied the Mona Lisa or Rolf Harris’ portrait of Bonnie Tyler, I would be a forger. And if I wrote a book about a tubby bear called Winnie who lives in a wood with a piglet, a donkey, a tiger and an owl, and is best friends with a boy called Chris, then you may call me a plagiarist. However, if you copy a film, giving it the Hollywood razzmatazz (I hate that word but it’s tossy enough for this occasion), then you’re a genius who deserves an Oscar and an Olympic sized swimming pool full of cash and exotic fruit whose names only the gods can pronounce.

Anyway, F was an alcoholic (which eventually killed him, quelle surprise) and his wife was bio-polar and spent her last days in a mental institution, where she died in a fire. And it is said that her spirit still haunts the car park that now stands in its place. The last bit was a lie but she did die in the fire, which is obviously tragic and not to be made light of. I understand and except my shame. F also had a mistress called Sheilah Graham who was a gossip columnist. Reap what you sow Sheilah with an h!

The facts you may need to know for a family board game and/or crossword:

  • Born 1896 in Saint Paul, Minnesota (known as the birthplace of the great F Scott Fitzgerald)
  • He wrote short stories and novels and that’s why he’s famous
  • Married Zelda Sayre in 1920 (who was also a writer)
  • He was mates with Earnest Hemingway (wasn’t everyone?)
  • He had a daughter called Frances Scott Fitzgerald (as ridiculed in above text)
  • Alcoholic
  • Died in 1940 of a heart attack (too much booze)

The Novels:

Sadly I couldn’t find an F Scott Fitzgerald fan-club, but I did stumble across The Great Gatsby Fanpop site. It’s so shocking I dare you to look. It has 204k likes on Facebook (seriously), 27% of fans have read The Great Gatsby more than 11 times (well good for you), and in the related clubs section it cites The Twilight Saga, The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants and William Shakespeare. I’m joining NOW.

Also:

Q. KEY, what kind of a name is that?

A. It’s not.

Next time we’ll find out if Roald Dahl preferred acid to magic mushrooms, and whether he though Willy Wonka was a danger to society or a misunderstood confectioner with a personality disorder and a velvet fetish.

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