Friday, August 31, 2012

My hero / Roald Dahl by Michael Rosen

Roald Dahl: my hero

'He was one of the first writers who can be read and enjoyed by children to show us adults in familiar, everyday situations failing spectacularly, grotesquely and exaggeratedly in this job of nurture'

Michael Rosen

Friday 31 August 2012 22.44 BST

I was teaching an MA seminar on children's literature when a rather severe Latvian student dived into a discussion about Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by stating: "Roald Dahl – no literary merit whatsoever." Immediately, a young London primary school teacher retorted with stories of how the children in her class, many of whom wouldn't read of their own accord, loved Dahl's books, roaring with laughter and amazement as she read them out loud. The Latvian woman didn't change her expression at all, and repeated: "Roald Dahl – no literary merit whatsoever."
I'm too old to have read him as a child, so my encounters with both his life and his work have been as a parent. I'm of the view that what we call children's books are interventions in society's debate about bringing up children, and Dahl entered this debate through literature with passion and commitment. The result was that he was one of the first writers who can be read and enjoyed by children to show us adults in familiar, everyday situations failing spectacularly, grotesquely and exaggeratedly in this job of nurture.
Dahl knew what he was doing, remarking that we both love and hate our parents, even if we don't admit it to ourselves. He also knew that to engage the child in this conflict, the child had to care deeply about the fate of the children in the book. He achieved this through a series of tricks and schemes that surprise, horrify and disgust us.
Dahl's own life was in one sense privileged, but in another beset with cruelty, tragedy and pain. He responded to these challenges with astounding ingenuity and heroism, mingled with gruffness and fun. As an alternative to weeping, his books and his life offer me, for one, the example of a crazy, hyperbolic route through.


001 My hero / Oscar Wilde by Michael Holroyd
002 My hero / Harley Granville-Barker by Richard Eyre
003 My hero / Edward Goldsmith by Zac Goldsmith
004 My hero / Fridtjof Nansen by Sara Wheeler 
005 My hero / Mother Mercedes Lawler IBVM by Antonia Fraser

007 My hero / Ernest Shepard by Richard Holmes
008 My hero / JG Ballard by Will Self
009 My hero / Alan Ross by William Boyd
010 My hero / Ben the labrador by John Banville

011 My hero / Vicent van Gogh by Margaret Drabble
012 My hero / Franz Marek by Eric Hobsbawm


017 My hero / Jack Yeats by Colm Tóibín
018 My hero / Francisco Goya by Diana Athill
019 My hero / Max Stafford-Clark by Sebastian Barry
020 My hero / Arthur Holmes by Richard Fortey

036 My hero / Robert Lowell by Jonathan Raban
037 My hero / Beryl Bainbridge by Michael Holroyd
038 My hero / Charles Schulz by Jenny Colgan
039 My hero / Oliver Knussen by Adam Foulds
040 My hero / Annie Proulx by Alan Warner

041 My hero / David Lynch by Paul Murray
042 My hero / Edwin Morgan by Robert Crawford
043 My hero / Anne Lister by Emma Donoghue
044 My hero / Jane Helen Harrinson by Mary Beard
045 My hero / Edmund Burke by David Marquand
046 My hero / Shelagh Deleaney by Jeanette Winterson
047 My hero / Christopher Marlowe by Val McDermid
048 My hero / Gwen John by Anne Enright
049 My hero / Michael Mayne by Susan Hill
050 My hero / Stanley Spencer by Howard Jacobson

051 My hero / William Beveridge by Will Hutton
052 My hero / Jean McConville by Amanda Foreman
053 My hero / Alexander Pushkin by Elaine Feinstein
058 My hero / Cy Twombly by Edmund de Waal

079 My hero / Gene Wolfe by Neil Gaiman
087 My hero / Alberto Moravia by John Burnside
096 My hero / Isaac Babel by AD Miller
097 Lucian Freud by Esi Edugyan
100 Thomas Tranströmer by Robin Robertson
102 My hero / David Hockney by Susan Hill


190 My hero / Iris Murdoch by Charlotte Mendelson
194 My hero / René Descartes by James Kelman
199 My hero / Albert Camus by Geoff Dyer


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