Roald Dahl, Man of Letters


I have read Kafka’s letters and Flaubert’s letters and Jane Austen’s letters. These authors are a part of my “adult” life.

But I haven’t read the letters of authors who made the distinction between childhood and adulthood.

There is a new publication coming out that collects Roald Dahl’s letters. “Roald Dahl” is really more like “roalddahl” to me—one word, and not the first name and last name of a person. Apparently he wrote about real things, “everything from politics and illness to sex, marriage and why he started writing.” HE WROTE ABOUT SEX QUESTION MARK. Not only about giants, witches, and magically precocious girls?

I remember the place (Mrs. Robin’s second-grade classroom with looms and a hamster named Rainy Day [Something] Sunshine Maybe Hey Baby), my position on the floor (cross legged and leaning), and my best friend sitting next to me (Clare Swanson) the first time I read “scrumdiddlyumptious” and felt the resonance of language.

Elissa Bassist edits the Funny Women column. She teaches humor writing at The New School and Catapult. Follow her on Twitter, and visit for more literary, feminist, and personal criticism. More from this author →