Today is the birthday of curmudgeonly children’s writer Roald Dahl (September 13, 1916-November 23, 1990).
[He] was a British novelist, short story writer, poet, screenwriter, and fighter pilot. His books have sold more than 250 million copies worldwide.
Born in Wales to Norwegian parents, Dahl served in the Royal Air Force during the Second World War, in which he became a flying ace and intelligence officer, rising to the rank of acting wing commander. He rose to prominence in the 1940s with works for both children and adults and he became one of the world’s best-selling authors. He has been referred to as “one of the greatest storytellers for children of the 20th century.” His awards for contribution to literature include the 1983 World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement, and the British Book Awards’ Children’s Author of the Year in 1990. In 2008, The Times placed Dahl 16th on its list of “The 50 greatest British writers since 1945.”
Dahl’s short stories are known for their unexpected endings and his children’s books for their unsentimental, macabre, often darkly comic mood, featuring villainous adult enemies of the child characters. His books champion the kind-hearted, and feature an underlying warm sentiment. Dahl’s works for children include James and the Giant Peach, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Matilda, The Witches, Fantastic Mr Fox, The BFG, The Twits and George’s Marvellous Medicine. His adult works include Tales of the Unexpected.
One of his less well-known books was The Twits. “The idea of The Twits was triggered by Dahl’s desire to ‘do something against beards,’ because he had an acute hatred of them. The first sentence of the story is, ‘What a lot of hairy-faced men there are around nowadays!'”
Even though it was written in 1979, and published the following year, just like today hipsters with beards drank lots of beer, if Mr. Twit is any example. One chapter, “The Glass Eye,” involves a trick his wife played on him with his beer.