Storyteller: The Authorized Biography of Roald Dahl

Storyteller: The Authorized Biography of Roald Dahl

by Donald Sturrock
     
 

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THE FIRST AUTHORIZED BIOGRAPHY OF ROALD DAHL, STORYTELLER IS A MASTERFUL, WITTY AND INCISIVE LOOK AT ONE OF THE GREATEST AUTHORS AND ECCENTRIC CHARACTERS OF THE MODERN AGE.

In his lifetime Roald Dahl pushed children’s literature into uncharted territory, and today his popularity around the globe continues to grow, with millions of his books

Overview

THE FIRST AUTHORIZED BIOGRAPHY OF ROALD DAHL, STORYTELLER IS A MASTERFUL, WITTY AND INCISIVE LOOK AT ONE OF THE GREATEST AUTHORS AND ECCENTRIC CHARACTERS OF THE MODERN AGE.

In his lifetime Roald Dahl pushed children’s literature into uncharted territory, and today his popularity around the globe continues to grow, with millions of his books sold every year. But the man behind the mesmerizing stories has remained largely an enigma. A single-minded adventurer and an eternal child who gave us the iconic Willy Wonka and Matilda Wormwood, Dahl was better known during his lifetime for his blunt opinions on taboo subjects—he was called an anti-Semite, a racist and a misogynist—than for his creative genius. His wild imagination, dark humor and linguistic elegance were less than fully appreciated by critics and readers alike until after his death.

Granted unprecedented access to the Dahl estate’s extraordinary archives—personal correspondence, journals and interviews with family members and famous friends—Donald Sturrock draws on a wealth of previously unpublished materials that informed Dahl’s writing and his life. It was a life filled with incident, drama and adventure: from his harrowing experiences as an RAF fighter pilot and his work in wartime intelligence, to his many romances and turbulent marriage to the actress Patricia Neal, to the mental anguish caused by the death of his young daughter Olivia. Tracing a brilliant yet tempestuous ascent toward notoriety, Sturrock sheds new light on Dahl’s need for controversy, his abrasive manner and his fascination for the gruesome and the macabre.

A remarkable biography of one of the world’s most exceptional writers, Storyteller is an intimate portrait of an intensely private man hindered by physical pain and haunted by family tragedy, and a timely reexamination of Dahl’s long and complex literary career.

Editorial Reviews

Michael Dirda
…enriches the now-familiar outline of an eventful life with much new information, peels away the layers of myth that Dahl promulgated about himself, and makes clear the man's immense charm as well as his cold self-possession and emotional callousness. This is a major literary biography, immensely satisfying to read and worthy of its complex subject…Storyteller is so packed with intimate details, sharply intelligent commentary and surprising revelations…that it should be read immediately by anyone interested in Dahl, the ins and outs of modern publishing or the art of biography. I can't sing its praises enough.
—The Washington Post
Claire Messud
Roald Dahl's life was extraordinary in the share of pain, both physical and emotional, he was forced to endure, and in his steely determination to triumph in spite of his tragedies. Sturrock's account…is authoritative, and offers us a careful, loving outline of a difficult man.
—The New York Times
Publishers Weekly
Only a special author can enter the imaginative realm of a child to write a Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Yet this authorized biography, written by someone who knew Dahl and worked with the cooperation of the author's adult children and both wives--one of whom was film star Patricia Neal--covers the man and his reputation thoroughly while veering from deeper psychological readings of his work. This is not to say the book is superficial. Neal observed that her husband was a modern Pied Piper to children, and an element of the conjurer runs insightfully through this solid biography. Dahl considered himself a wanderer between his native Norway, the U.K., New York, and Hollywood, and a depressed one at that. He was drawn to the high life and celebrities such as Chaplin, Dorothy Lamour, and Robert Altman, and to expensive artwork and furnishings. Well covered are Dahl's English boarding-school years, his flying for the RAF during WWII; prickly relations with agents, editors, and publishers; the tragic lives of two of his children; and his up-and-down marriage to Neal. Yet because this biography is authorized, one comes away feeling that there is more to tell. 16 pages of b&w photos. (Sept. 14)
From the Publisher
“A major literary biography….Storyteller is so packed with intimate details, sharply intelligent commentary and surprising revelations…that it should be read immediately by anyone interested in Dahl, the ins and outs of modern publishing or the art of biography. I can't sing its praises enough.” —Michael Dirda, The Washington Post

"Donald Sturrock’s Storyteller … [gives] us a sprawling entertainment packed with anecdote and incident…. an engaging tale with satisfying episodes of glamour, intrigue, failure and renewal." —William Georgiades, The Wall Street Journal

"Sturrock captures the spirit of the man, his need to charm and entertain as well as his 'almost adolescent desire to annoy'.'' —Barbara Fisher, The Boston Globe

"At the end of Mr Sturrock’s satisfying and sparky tale, the reader has an overwhelming desire to rush off and read the first of Dahl’s books he can lay his hands on." —The Economist

“An exhaustive, yet exuberant portrait . . . Sturrock unravels the Dahl myth.” —Susannah Cahalan, New York Post

"A no-stone-unturned examination of the man who gave us Matilda and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory." — TimeOut New York

"A balanced and juicy treatment . . . running through Dahl's years spying for the Brits and bedding a slew of Americans as well as the tensions, setbacks, and depressive jags that gave his work its texture." —New York magazine, "The Twenty; Our most anticipated fiction and nonfiction of fall"

“Sturrock’s superb biography . . . is a hugely readable portrait that examines vividly and sympathetically the life and work of a difficult, complex author who was adored by millions of children, loathed by many adults, and was possibly a genius.” —Graham Lord, Daily Telegraph (UK)

“Diabolically readable! Donald Sturrock—a goodhearted Charlie with the keys to the factory well in hand—makes lucky ticketholders of us all, revealing from deep within this exotic, guarded, often painful life the conjuring triumphs and dark tragedies of the 20th century's most wonderfully wicked storyteller.” —David Michaelis, author of Schulz and Peanuts

“The person I met when I met Roald Dahl comes through vividly on the pages of Storyteller. Dahl told me that he was generally disappointed in what people wrote about him, but I believe he would have appreciated Donald Sturrock’s beautifully written book.” —Charlotte Chandler, author of I Know Where I'm Going

“A 600-page book with the word authorized on the cover looks to me like a rather daunting prospect, but I only had to read a few pages of Donald Sturrock’s narrative—fluent, alert, detached but enthusiastic—to realize that in fact the whole thing is irresistible. I thought I knew quite a lot about Roald Dahl, but now I know much much more. Donald Sturrock’s book lucidly describes a complicated life and relates it to the richness of Dahl’s storytelling.” —Quentin Blake, illustrator

Storyteller is a real liability if you have anything resembling a busy schedule. It hooks you from its opening sentence; that opening sentence then segues into a wonderful opening paragraph; the paragraph turns into a great first chapter and before you know it you're up to your armpits in stories about spies and foxes and movie stars and you don't want to tear yourself away. As engrossing as only the best biographies can be.” —Tom Shone, author of In the Rooms and Blockbuster: How Hollywood Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Summer

Library Journal
In this authorized biography of Dahl, Sturrock, the artistic director of the Roald Dahl Foundation, reveals a life marked by tragedy: the early deaths of Dahl's father and sister, his son's tragic accident, the death of a daughter at seven, and the debilitating stroke of his wife, Patricia Neal, at age 39. Born of Norwegian parents in Wales, Dahl (1916–90) struggled with health issues himself following a plane crash in World War II. Often difficult and querulous and given to strong opinions, he found refuge in writing novels, screenplays, and short stories thought by many to be gruesome and bizarre. Yet his children's books (e.g., Charlie and the Chocolate Factory; James and the Giant Peach) were widely popular and made into films. Sturrock, who was closely acquainted with Dahl for years, had access to unpublished correspondence and early drafts as well as Dahl's "idea books." VERDICT This carefully researched and unflinching portrait of an immensely complicated and talented writer will appeal to Dahl's fans and other serious readers of biography.—Nancy R. Ives, SUNY at Geneseo
Kirkus Reviews

Comprehensive, authoritative biography of Roald Dahl (1916–1990).

Sturrock, a filmmaker who worked with his subject on two documentaries in the 1980s and is now artistic director of the Roald Dahl Foundation, crafts an orderly narrative. He first examines incidents and figures in Dahl's ancestry that he judges significant, then retraces his subject's schooling, exploits as an RAF pilot, suave diplomatic attaché and (as a friend puts it) "one of the biggest cocksmen in Washington," and finally follows his progress from moderately successful writer of comically macabre short stories for adults to renowned creator of outrageously edgy fantasies for younger readers. Dahl's outsized personality fills these pages as it evidently filled any room he occupied. The author was opinionated, fond of arguments and celebrity friendships or affairs, prone to ferocious attacks on any publisher or editor deemed insufficiently respectful of his work and strongly dedicated to his family—a quality seen most notably in his orchestration of a relentless (successful) rehabilitation program for his wife-at-the-time Patricia Neal after her stroke. Sturrock's comments on his subject's literary works are more descriptive than analytical, but he defends Dahl against charges of racism in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and anti-Semitism elsewhere, and also catalogs most of the many errors and outright fabrications in Dahl's two volumes of memoirs.

Bearing lightly its torrents of references, this examination of the character and career of the iconoclastic writer is as perceptive as it is dishy and exciting.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781439180457
Publisher:
Simon & Schuster
Publication date:
09/14/2010
Sold by:
SIMON & SCHUSTER
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
672
Sales rank:
502,576
File size:
37 MB
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