On Stupid Books
Blown away as by a first love after many flings, Theo, age 8, declared Roald Dahl's Charlie and The Chocolate Factory the best book he's ever read. The best.
Dahl's writing is musical and full of delight, with notes of cynicism frequently rising above the staff. I'm currently reading Matilda aloud to the kids--you must read Matilda aloud--and in it, one finds a school principal who declares that her idea of a perfect school "is one that has no children in it at all." Miss Trunchbull is a massive woman, a former Olympic hammer thrower; one gets the sense that Mr. Dahl has endured his share of overbearing women, probably dislikes children, and yet is open to the marvels and beauty of any creature who may be deserving.
After The Chocolate Factory, Theo rushed to the sequel, Charlie and The Great Glass Elevator; alas, the magic had gone. A heartbreak for Theo.
Later, while reading another book (that's what we do around here), Theo set the thing down in his lap and declared, "I don't know why publishers publish stupid books. When an author sends them one, they should write a letter that says, 'This is a stupid book.'"