Going Solo (Roald Dahl’s Autobiography #2) by Roald Dahl: A Book Review

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“I was already beginning to realize that the only way to conduct oneself in a situation where bombs rained down and bullets whizzed past, was to accept the dangers and all the consequences as calmly as possible. Fretting and sweating about it all was not going to help.”

I liken Roald Dahl to ‘Lola Basyang “  (literally  Grandmother Basyang) in Philippine literature, a legendary grandma who has become a symbol for someone who has many short stories to tell, and the nom de plume of  Severino Reyes, the “Father of Tagalog Plays”.

His books are interesting and engrossing to read, so I never get sick and tired of them. They even make me feel like going back to my childhood when I was totally absorbed in children stories. Of course, he can also bear a striking resemblance to Hans Christian Andersen, best remembered for his fairy tales. However, a childish-adult-like reader like me can still prefer stories which can no longer sound superannuated, old-fashioned, or ancient. I am now in a modern era when literature is no longer what you see is what you believe.

Going Solo is another one I felt that how I was listening to a story teller or, formally speaking, a raconteur. I enjoyed most of the stories, notably his African adventures, despite that I could not relate to what a war freak is blabbering about.

Going Solo is said to be the sequel to Dahl’s autobiography, Boy: Tales of Childhood. The latter one is far funnier but more heat-breaking than the former one, something a reader should be sympathetic to. The former one is more on his adventurous and breath-gasping blow-by-blow account. It tells his perilous adventures in Africa where he survived the wild animals especially leopards and mambas. The account is new to me since I have read a great deal of wild African life. However, some of his stories seem to be hyperbolic and exaggerated. His anecdotes seem to be fictitious. I don’t know if Dahl intended to twist his real stories to not lose his readers’ interest. Probably, it could be a half-fiction and half-autobiography the same with his Boy: Tales of Childhood.

When I was drawn into his flying and war experience, at that moment, I lost my interest because most of the words are technical which I did not want to grasp any longer.  Perhaps, I was not interested in stories related to military service. Had I not read it deeply, I would have put it aside aligned with the other unread books. Nevertheless, Dahl has the talent to turn stories others may find irrelevant, inappropriate into interesting ones. His telegraphs to his mother, meeting with a beautiful nurse, and encounter with the Germans and bandits caught my attention. I told you so, he is a raconteur, indeed.

Finally, what I liked most of the parts of the book is the ending. I felt how a soldier misses his family so badly. In other words, I was not left clinging. I was very satisfied with it. It may be simple but this is one of the best endings I really finished in awe. Sooooo, I want another Dahl’s books!!!!

Rating: 3/ 5 stars ( I liked it.)

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The BFG by Roald Dahl:A Book Review

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Oompa-loompa, everlasting gobstopper, snozzberry, whangdoodles, hornswogglers, snozzwangers, vermicious knids, scrumdiddlyyumptious, eggdicator: These are some of the examples of the wonderful words  in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory that Google helped me jog my memory about, my first experience in  discovering Roald Dahl’s leanings for inventing new nonsensical words. At that time, I had to turn to a stack of different dictionaries in my house , or to the internet as the last straw to grasp their meanings. I wonder if native speakers who have read it have the same cognitive trepidation.

 The BFG , short for The Best Friendly Giant , is  another one  I was boggled at.  It is definitely   more rabid than the former one in that I almost wanted to toss it up in the air. It is riddled with many, many  nonsensical  words Dahl coined himself. My student and I since   it was part of our reading class called it TGL short for The Giant Language. Thus, the biggest challenge for us was how to understand it   because we are not native speakers . Our knowledge of English   vocabulary is limited.  In this case, we just try to guess with the context  clues  hidden  not anything but near the other sentences,  or as usual  with  my  comrade in time of   nasal hemorrhage  or  with a dictionary app  installed in our android phones.  However, most of the time, we just skipped them , for in doing so was a waste of time.

For  the newbie, to understand what I have been blabbering about, try to guess the meanings of the  following words  and  sentences.

Buckswashling

“Upgoing bubbles is a catasterous disastrophe!”

“Delumptious fizzy frobscottle…”

Gruncious

Hopscotchy

Propsposterous

Rotsome

Sqiubbling

“I cannot be squibbling the whole gropefluncking dream on a titchy bit of paper.”

You will be coming to an ucky-mucky end if any of them should ever be getting his gogglers upon you.”

“How whoopsey-splunkers! How absolutely squiffling! l is all of a stutter.”

To  the  readers who have read it, you may be pleasantly  squinting at the words  until now.  For me,  my favorite words  that my student and I made fun of were “ I watch telly telly bumkin box”, and “ scrumdiddylicious” which was also spoken in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. ^^

If you are such a logophile, maniac for  patting  down  all the words  in the book, you could  serve as  an interpreter  for  TGL.

Apparently, the   nonsensical words are the mainspring of having a hard time enjoying it to bits as to what I went through in Matilda or Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Such literary device   may deaden or spice up   the excitement of the story depending on the   taste of the reader. In a metaphorical situation, I was like a stranger, lost in a lost world, fear-stricken of the thought that I would not be able to get back to where I came from because of the strange things, needless to say TGL , I had to be inured to until I was part of this “disgusterous, sickable, and rotsome” world of the giants.  But the truth is I don’t want to enter this story anymore, especially during witching hour: I am scared to have met the giants and talked to them in their language anymore; it would just put me in a nose bleeding and bone-crunching position.

Despite that the world I entered is creepily “disgusterous”, I found it amusing because of The BFG. He is such a naive but amusing character. I was like Sophia, the main character , enjoying his company because of  his funny hobbies and stories. I would hate but try eating his favorite food “snozzcumbers” which taste is beyond recognition. I would for sure enjoy his ejaculatory whizzpopper, a drink resembling a soda drink, but equivalent to farting reaction in our world.  I would not get tired of his thousand jars of dream collections. I would be fascinated by his elongated ears which have the ability to listen to sounds  a million times  far  away, and could serve as a hideout for  a small human bean  from human-bean eaters. Indeed, The BFG is not a giant everyone should be intimated by.

If I survived the world of the giants in that I was neither crunched nor gorged on , I would not just bear in mind the memories I spent with the BFG but also his sophisticated character. You might not realize that the BFG   has a literary symbol. For me, he is the anathema of the desire to change the old ways. Little did I realize that Dahl may have suggested that his story is about civilization and barbarism.Only the BFG has the willingness to be weaned on the currently revolutionary life , keeping behind the   old ways of the other giants. He exerts a lot of effort to educate himself by reading books, especially Charles Dickens’ works. Likewise, he does not want to eat human beans because of his “civilized conscience.” As a matter of fact, the story  indicates  that we can learn break our  uncivilized habits  like what happened to The BFG and other giants who have eventually been taught to lead the life civilized  people do. Now, this could be a question for a social science scholar: Is civilization a learned development?

The BFG is another book to reduce me to awe for Dahl’s mastery in storytelling although I am now at the stage of cognitive development when everything is no longer beyond a child’s understanding. Rather, I can cringe at the juvenile and puerile stories because such things can be deduced with logical explanations. However, I reckoned that we are dictated by society when we should act our age. In other words, there is no limitation to what books a reader should   read.  Thus, Roald Dahl is now my favorite children book writer. 🙂

Rating: 3/ 5 stars ( I liked it.)

 

 

Matilda by Roald Dahl: A Book Review

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I got the chance to finish Matilda by Roald Dahl on a  busy Sunday since all the Filipinos, including my family, were   preparing for the New Year’s Eve. I was just curling up with it at a bamboo chair in our living room, catatonic to the people bustling around. My absorption and enthrallment in it may have been so deafening to them, or they may have been intrigued   by  why I made different facial reactions whenever I turned the next pages. Then, it occurred to me that I had an important appointment with my best friend! But it was still past 2 O clock. Relief flooded over me and I kept at it. When it was already 4 O clock , I was on the verge of the last pages, but I was agitated.  I really had to go. She must have been waiting for me for minutes on end.  I dismissed   this guilty feeling, apathetic to whatever comeuppance I might get. Bahala na si Batman!

When I finished it, I blurted out ,“ I WANNA READ ANOTHER ROALD DAHL’s BOOKS!!!”  My younger sister and her friends who happened to have been playing in front of me gawked at me in surprise. I found myself clasping   my hands and   turning my head up. It was a childish and silly moment.

Although I have read some Roald Dahl’s books, I still was not his big fan. By golly, it has just occurred to me now that the only children book author I look up to and consider as my favorite one is Genaro Gojo Cruz, my countryman writer. Gee! I see. Anyway, I first read Charlie and the Chocolate Factory upon being fascinated by its movie adaptation. I liked the book so much because of the “psychological character” of Mr. Wonka played by award –winning Hollywood actor Johnny Depp. Thereafter, I wanted another one. However, I was disappointed when I read Charlie and the Glass Elevator because of its only-elementary-students-would-appreciate impact.  After all, I was anything but childish. Nevertheless, I still hung in there. I read and enjoyed Boy: Tales of Childhood . It’s not a fantasy, but a memoir of his childhood. The laconic  account of his miserable  but mischievous  childhood’s education  drove me nuts, reminding me of Frank McCourt’s Angela’s Ashes. However, I was not falling in love with Dahl yet. In fact, I gave one of his  short story  The   Landlady a very low rating . I was no longer  interested  in his other stories given that I had planned to have Roald-Dahl-stories marathon, except my hidden desire for  Matilda and The BFG. As you know, I could not afford such books yet.

In light of Matilda, I now consider Roald Dahl as one of my favorite   children books writers. I enjoyed it a whole a lot. First, I loved her character as a precocious child. I am pretty sure that even book worms out there would be exhilarated by her early interest in reading books, especially that she even read the adults ones which are supposed to be heavy for  a young reader whose  IQ  is still underdeveloped. Thus, I am ashamed to say that I did not have the chance to read the books at early age  such as The Secret GardenGreat ExpectationsNicholas NicklebyOliver TwistJane EyrePride and PrejudiceTess of the d’UrbervillesGone to EarthKimThe Invisible ManThe Old Man and the SeaThe Sound and the FuryThe Grapes of WrathThe Good CompanionsBrighton RockAnimal FarmMoby DickIvanhoeThe Red Pony and Peter and Wendy.

The most exciting part about the book is Matilda’s tricks. Since she is a brilliant child, I  can’t wait to know the next situation on how she will play tricks on her apathetic dad, on  how she will engage in an argument with Mrs.  Trunchball, and on how she will help Ms. Jenny to get her house and money back by scaring  the living daylights out of her. It is a whodunit scene.

The book is worth reading because it is replete with moral lessons.For instance,  Matilda embodies intellectual humility granted that she is still innocent. It is our perception that a gifted child is supposed to have la di da attitude.

One of the things I have observed since I read Roald Dahl’s books is that most of his stories’ theme is about parents’ negligence   and wrong educational system. In Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Mr. Wonka psychologically paints a picture of being an orphan, his hidden desire to get a paternal attention. In Boy: The Tales of Childhood, Dahl recollects his school life when he went through his teachers’ ill-treatment. In Matilda, Matilda’s parents are not responsible for their kids, depicted as apathetic and lazy parents. They are not even aware of Matilda’s brilliance mind. Furthermore, they don’t teach them good values. Rather, they inculcate their kids in the essence of business competition. Matilda’s father is a crooked businessman whereas her mother prefers pulchritude to intelligence.  Fortunately, despite her young age, Matilda is smart and mature enough to understand what is good or bad. Also, she is sensible and sensitive to the people around her.   On the other hand, the book   describes the rotten education system   represented by Ms. Trunchball. In this case, Roald Dahl appears to have used the same rhetoric patterns. It seems that he deeply drew  most of his stories from poverty, some kind of Charles Dickens style.

Supposedly, Matilda was part of my reading class with my Korean student.  My student was so generous to fault that she bought   me my own copy. In fact, we came to terms that I should not read it on weekends,except in our class. However, I could not hold back the temptation. (laughs) Whoa! I still have this tinge of Roald-Dahlic excitement. (laughs)

Rating: 5/ 5 stars ( I really liked it.)