I am reading a lot at the moment. Since finishing the first volume of Proust's monster, pretty much anything seems manageable. Also, I've been doing a fair amount of being detained at British Airways' pleasure, so I've managed to plough through several novels in the last few weeks. Not my usual stuff either... the sheer speed I've been consuming literature means I've been scraping the barrels (or the shelves) for books lent to me years ago that I never quite wanted to read. So I am expanding my mind, if nothing else.
Today I have been reading short stories by Roald Dahl. I read many of these when I was about eleven, but it was such a long time ago, I thought I'd refresh myself. And - writing about this pains me, as I was a massive Matilda, The BFG and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory fan growing up... but Christ, isn't Dahl relentlessly misanthropic and misogynistic? I appreciate that culturally we're living in different times, so I have to try and view them in their original cultural context, but the stories are all about dutiful wives not being dutiful enough, or women plotting the murder of their husbands. Not exactly uplifting. As far as children's literature goes, I think kids love the gruesome and Dahl got it exactly right, but I just don't remember his children's books being quite so bleak.
Still, I've only read about ten stories so far, so perhaps I'll turn the corner and discover the joy.
I was always a particular fan of Matilda. For those who've never read it, Matilda is a child genius with horrible parents and a loathsome headteacher. Unchallenged at school, Matilda's genius manifests itself into telekinesis (a bit like Carrie, I suppose, but a bit more benign). As a seven year-old, I would stare steadfastly at a piece of chalk, willing it to move. It never did. I guess this might mean I'm not a genius.
Anyone seeking further proof of this can reference last night where I played Portal on the XBox for about an hour without realising that you go in the blue door and out the red door. Every level. For an hour. I spent ages wandering round confused, thinking it was all random. A game that relies on sense of direction was not created with Laura in mind.