A lost chapter is discovered from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and Penguin Modern Classics makes a rare misstep.
“Mr. Wonka: “Don’t forget what happened to the man who suddenly got everything he wanted.”
Charlie Bucket: “What happened?”
Mr. Wonka: “He lived happily ever after.”
At My Big Red Bag, we are inordinately fond of Roald Dahl- both his macabre tales for grown ups, and his strange wonderful stories for little ones. When younger we wanted to be Matilda, and with our adult eyes can’t quite get over how wonderfully subversive Twitches is. But our favourite Dahl creation has to be little Charlie Bucket and the mysterious Willy Wonka.
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is many things- a morality tale, an introduction to the world of deprivation and penury that its readers may themselves never experience, and a delightful romp full of the most bizarre and delicious sounding candy. But the one thing it is NOT, is a book for adults. Adults may enjoy reading it to their children, or even revisiting it for a dip into childhood’s memory pool. But to try and sell the book to adults is plain wrong. And that’s why this cover pains us so.
As writer Margaret Talbot puts it in the New Yorker:
The comforts that his books offer children are primal: revenge, candy, cheerful uncouthness, and the knowledge that a grownup somewhere sympathizes with them instinctively. Dahl’s young characters always have agency; their magic powers or ingenious schemes—what their adult overlords consider misbehavior—always save the day. The Modern Classics cover has not a whiff of this validation of childish imagination; instead, it seems to imply a deviant adult audience.
What adults WILL enjoy reading though, is a newly discovered ‘lost’ chapter from the book published this weekend in the Guardian, which is every bit as deviant, macabre and hilarious as you will except from Dahl. There are three new characters, a brand new Vanilla Fudge room, and some good old-fashioned ultra violence against terrible kids who deserve it.
And high up on the mountainside, one of the workers lifted up his voice, and sang:
“Eight little children – such charming little chicks. But two of them said ‘Nuts to you,’ and then there were six.”
Go ahead, read it, relive your childhood. But when it comes to selecting a Dahl for your little one, stick to the older editions!