Friday, June 02, 2006

Kiss Kiss

Last night the Purple Coat Club discussed 'Kiss Kiss' by Roald Dahl. This is a delightful book of short stories, each with a delicious twist. Those familiar with Dahl's children's stories will recognise the dark humour which is characteristic of his writing, plenty of which is in evidence in 'Kiss Kiss'. Our favourites turned out, probably unsurprisingly, to be the ones with medical overtones: 'William and Mary' in which the brain and an eye of the controlling William are preserved after his death. His wife exacts sweet revenge by taking up all the habits he forbade while alive, flaunting her smoking while Williams seethes passively, the pupil of his eye contracting into a 'minute black pinpoint of absolute fury'. Another favourite was 'Royal Jelly' where a bee expert feeds his baby daughter royal jelly with dramatic results.

We were impressed with the level of research that had gone into making the stories accurate: 'William and Mary' demonstrated a knowledge of anatomy, 'Parson's Pleasure' of antiques, and 'Royal Jelly' of apiculture. Many of the stories satarise marriage. Dahl's life involved no small measure of medical tragedy. One of his daughters died of encephalitis aged 7 and his son suffered from hydrocephaly. His wife, actress Patricia Neal, had a series of strokes while pregnant through which Dahl nursed her, only for the marriage to crumble when she discovered he was having an affair with her best friend. More information on Dahl's life here.

A museum devoted to Roald Dahl opened last year in village of Great Missenden in Buckinghamshire. It is packed with interactives, and the 'story centre' will fire imaginations of everyone interested in reading and writing. My favourite exhibit was a crocodile posing as a bench (ala 'The Enormous Crocodile'). Dahl was also an accomplished photographer. Some of his photos from his time in the RAF are also on display. If you're a fan, you might want to visit the Roald Dahl official website which is rather innovative.

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