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Stinker

Jenny Diski, 28 April 1994

Roald DahlA Biography 
by Jeremy Treglown.
Faber, 307 pp., £17.50, March 1994, 0 571 16573 7
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... to read an authorised biography? So take Jeremy Treglown’s apologia at the beginning of his Dahl biography with a pinch of salt. Ophelia Dahl plans to write the authorised version of her father’s life, with the approval of his second wife, Felicity, who asked friends and relatives not to co-operate with any other ...

Sweet Porn

Michael Irwin, 1 October 1981

George’s Marvellous Medicine 
by Roald Dahl and Quentin Blake.
Cape, 96 pp., £3.95, April 1981, 0 224 01901 5
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... The publisher’s note on the jacket of George’s Marvellous Medicine says that ‘Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was voted No 1 (above Winnie the Pooh, Lord of the Rings and Alice in Wonderland) in a Sunday Times survey to find the best ten children’s books.’ Even if the word ‘best’ is translated into reasonable terms (‘currently most popular’?), the claim remains impressive, and implies classic status ...

Unnatural Rebellion

Malcolm Gaskill: ‘Witches’, 2 November 2017

The Witch: A History of Fear, from Ancient Times to the Present 
by Ronald Hutton.
Yale, 360 pp., £25, August 2017, 978 0 300 22904 2
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... What strange classification can bracket such diversity, from nursery tales to the blackest crimes? Roald Dahl offers a clue in The Witches, where he suggests that real witches don’t wear pointy hats and ride broomsticks but look normal. They are insatiably vicious yet hard to detect. ‘If only there were a way of telling for sure whether a woman was a ...

Short Cuts

John Lanchester: Kraft eats Cadbury, 7 January 2010

... than three masterpieces, the Rolo, the Kit Kat and Smarties. All British inventions. According to Roald Dahl: ‘In music, the equivalent would be the golden age of Bach, Mozart and Beethoven. In painting, it was the equivalent of the Italian Renaissance and the advent of Impressionism at the end of the 19th century; in literature, Tolstoy, Balzac and ...

How many nipples had Graham Greene?

Colm Tóibín, 9 June 1994

... has remained to my mind ever since it first appeared one of the best books of our century.’ To Roald Dahl: ‘I have just finished reading Boy with immense pleasure and great horror.’ To Brian Moore: ‘I always remember our evening together at the amusing strip-tease joint which has since been closed down!’ Clearly, he enjoyed his bit of ...

Ferrets can be gods

Katherine Rundell, 10 August 2016

Gabriel-Ernest and Other Tales 
by Saki and Quentin Blake.
Alma Classics, 156 pp., £6.99, October 2015, 978 1 84749 592 1
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... universe, but also suggests a kinship between Saki and the writer most associated with Blake: Roald Dahl. Saki, photographed by E.O. Hoppé in 1913. Certainly, Dahl’s barbed energy owed a great deal to Saki. There is a brilliant but wicked little girl called Matilda in Saki’s ‘The Boar-Pig’, who ...

One for the road

Ian Hamilton, 21 March 1991

Memoirs 
by Kingsley Amis.
Hutchinson, 346 pp., £16.99, March 1991, 0 09 174533 0
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... to tell. John Wain has not been forgiven for patronising Amis early on, and both Enoch Powell and Roald Dahl might have been rendered more benignly if, when given the chance, they had evinced a surer grasp of Kingsley’s stature. When Andrew Sinclair and James Michie are sniped at for being mean, for not picking up the tab, we get the feeling that ...

Stand the baby on its head

John Bayley, 22 July 1993

The Oxford Book of Modern Fairy Tales 
edited by Alison Luire.
Oxford, 455 pp., £17.95, May 1993, 0 19 214218 6
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The Second Virago Book of Fairy Tales 
edited by Angela Carter.
Virago, 230 pp., £7.99, July 1993, 1 85381 616 7
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... benevolence. The last sentence is a master’s work. Children of course love such things; and Roald Dahl and other professionals of ‘black’ fairy stories have exploited the fact – but they lack the style which goes with a certain inner horrifyingness. T.H. White was, after all, a fairly peculiar and unhappy man, for whom writing was a ...

Landlocked

Lorna Sage: Henry Green, 25 January 2001

Romancing: The Life and Work of Henry Green 
by Jeremy Treglown.
Faber, 340 pp., £25, September 2000, 0 571 16898 1
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... Henry Green put in an incongruous cameo appearance in Jeremy Treglown’s 1994 biography of Roald Dahl. When an interviewer from the Houston Post asked the bestselling author of the low-life and hilarious ‘adult’ short-story collection Someone like You who his favourite British writer was, he answered loftily: ‘Henry Green ...

Wolfish

John Sutherland: The pushiness of young men in a hurry, 5 May 2005

Publisher 
by Tom Maschler.
Picador, 294 pp., £20, March 2005, 0 330 48420 6
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British Book Publishing as a Business since the 1960s 
by Eric de Bellaigue.
British Library, 238 pp., £19.95, January 2004, 0 7123 4836 0
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Penguin Special: The Life and Times of Allen Lane 
by Jeremy Lewis.
Viking, 484 pp., £25, May 2005, 0 670 91485 1
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... adult has reason to be grateful to Maschler. Children, too: it was his inspiration to pair up Roald Dahl and Quentin Blake. His thumbprints are everywhere on British literary culture. It is evident from letters quoted in his book that Maschler inspires loyalty and affection from his authors – not least from Blake, who has illustrated Publisher ...

Mothers

Jacqueline Rose, 18 June 2014

The Conflict: How Modern Motherhood Undermines the Status of Women 
by Elisabeth Badinter, translated by Adriana Hunter.
Picador, 224 pp., £10.99, June 2013, 978 1 250 03209 6
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Are You My Mother? 
by Alison Bechdel.
Jonathan Cape, 304 pp., £16.99, May 2012, 978 0 224 09352 1
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A Child of One’s Own: Parental Stories 
by Rachel Bowlby.
Oxford, 256 pp., £20, June 2013, 978 0 19 960794 5
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Mothering and Motherhood in Ancient Greece and Rome 
by Lauren Hackworth Petersen and Patricia Salzman-Mitchell.
Texas, 274 pp., £16.99, April 2013, 978 0 292 75434 8
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Sinners? Scroungers? Saints? Unmarried Motherhood in 20th-Century England 
by Pat Thane and Tanya Evans.
Oxford, 240 pp., £24.99, August 2013, 978 0 19 968198 3
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I Don’t Know Why She Bothers: Guilt-Free Motherhood for Thoroughly Modern Womanhood 
by Daisy Waugh.
Weidenfeld, 240 pp., £12.99, July 2013, 978 0 297 86876 7
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... Matilda the Musical​, adapted from Roald Dahl, opens with what might be described as the paradox of maternal recognition. A troupe of hideously grimacing children sing ‘My Mummy says I’m a miracle’ in such a way as to suggest that they are monsters while Matilda, who really is miraculous in that she has magic powers, fails to be recognised by her parents ...

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