Friday, June 15, 2007

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory


For the first time, I hate to admit, I am reading Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. My kids liked the new version with Johnny Depp (not bad, I thought), so I showed them the Gene Wilder version that I love (It's all right here, black and white, clear as crystal! You stole fizzy lifting drinks...)
So that led me back to the book. Our library actually still has the hardcover original. What amazes me so far (and we haven't even made it into the factory yet) is how toned down the movies are. The kids aren't just bad, they're horrible. Augustus Gloop is not merely fat, he's disgustingly fat. Mike Teevee is beyond obnoxious. Veruca Sault is more spoiled than we believe possible.
And most shocking of all: Charlie and his family are not merely poor, they are starving. My boys were wide-eyed as I read to them about Charlie being hungry, about the family eating cabbage and not having enough of that, about Charlie having to walk by the factory every day and smell the melted chocolate, about smelling it so hard it was like he was trying to eat the very air, he was so hungry.
And when Charlie finds the one dollar and wolfs down the candy bar, we understand something that just isn't there in the movie. Charlie wolfs it down not because he loves chocolate, or so seldom gets a candy bar. He's starving. I read Dahl's description of Charlie, finally being able to put something solid in his mouth and chew, with tears in my eyes.
That's the kind of book I would like to write. Nearly fifty years after publication, to bring a tear to the eye of a reader. An overly sentimental middle-aged fat guy, to be sure, but a tear nevertheless.
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