Book Article

Prickly Peach

Remembering Roald Dahl -- What we'll miss about the author of ''Charlie and the Chocolate Factory''

Remembering Roald Dahl

A golden ticket that serves as a little boy's passport to a kingdom of candy. A giant peach that exacts crushing revenge on a child's wicked aunts. A glass elevator that soars into the sky and then takes off for parts unknown. When writer Roald Dahl died in Oxford, England, on Nov. 23 at 74, he left behind a bookshelf's worth of literary inventions that made him one of the Western world's most durably popular children's authors. Adults often deplored the Welsh-born ex-RAF pilot's penchant for threading violence and cruelty through such fantasies as Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and James and the Giant Peach. But kids had few such reservations: At one time, his books occupied all five top slots on a British children's best-seller list.

Off the page, his legacy was considerably less sunny. Last year, Dahl disgusted many when he denounced writer Salman Rushdie as a ''dangerous opportunist,'' and his paranoid, increasingly brazen anti-Semitic rants blighted his reputation even further. But Dahl seemed to care little what even friends and family thought of him. ''My only moral dimension,'' he claimed last March, ''is to teach children to read.'' That, at least, he did.

Originally posted Dec 07, 1990 Published in issue #43 Dec 07, 1990 Order article reprints