Roahl Dahl, by far, has been the greatest literary influence in my life since the age of 6. As a children’s writer, he introduces kids to the adult world of complex themes and sober endings rather than happy endings, leaving the imaginary and ideal in the vehicles by which his characters travel, in the physique of their grotesque beauty and the worlds in which his stories take place.
One particular book of Dahl’s has stayed with me until this very day. ‘The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar and Six More,’ is comprised of 7 stories, all of which are more fantastically original than the next. If you have kids, you have to get this book for them to read- it is definitively the surest cure for ADD and all things PlayStation. If you don’t have kids, you have to read it- it is effectively the most comprehensive explanation to many of life’s unanswered questions.
Of the 7 stories, my favorite is: ‘The Boy Who Could Talk to Animals.’
This is perhaps the one thing I wish I could do the most.
The very first animal I would talk to would be a tarantula, if not for anything but the fact that I’ve got a severe case of arachnophobia. My bet is, as most ironies in life, its character is more flaccid than its appearance.
In fact, the average tarantula probably has a Woody Allen personality.
Me: Hey, tarantula.
Tarantula (eyes ping-pong anxiously left to right, right to left): Uh… you talking to me?
Me: Yeah, I just want to know, are you going to bite me? And if so why? Did I do something to bother you?
Tarantula (neurotic tone, waving around its front legs around the air in stupor): Bite you? Why? Why do people think I want to bite them? Hollywood really screwed us over… I mean one movie, and like over night, we’ve become the ‘El Qaeda’ of the animal kingdom…
Me: Yeah, but to be fair you guys are pretty scary…
Tarantula (pacing around with its to front legs clasped behind its back): Tarantulas can’t roar like lions, so God gave us ugly… its how we exercise self-preservation… take away our furry coat, awkwardly shaped body and small head with all these legs protruding out, 4 of which I still haven’t figured out how to use, and you humans would squash us like ants!
Me: Well, you are a lot bigger than ants…
Tarantula (stops pacing and buries his forehead in his right front leg): It’s our innately big cephalothorax- of course, having a Jewish mother, I’ve inherited quite a wide one… I mean, it isn’t enough my mother breastfed me til I was 15 days old- which wouldn’t be so twisted if tarantulas were actually breastfed. She had to give with her cephalothorax too. Seriously, I’m the only guy I know who has the birthing cephalothorax to lay 2 dozen eggs. Some days I wake up and have to remind myself I’m not a chicken.
Me: But you guys crawl so fast! And you approach us even when we run away!
Tarantula: No, no… half the time we just are asking for directions! I mean, come on, Lady! Our vision’s like zero! I mean I’ve hit more tarantula ass crawling around a jungle than I’ve hit in my marital web!
Me: So you really don’t want to bite me?
Tarantula: Bite you? I don’t even chew my food… We use our fangs just to inject this gooey stuff that liquifies the insides of insects… then all we do is suck the insides in through this straw stuck onto our mouths… I mean, seriously, when we’ve been created with 8 legs, you’d think God would have given us teeth instead of another pseudo-limb.
Me: I think I like you.
Tarantula: Oh, don’t ruin it… I liked you, and now you like me, which means something’s seriously wrong with you, and so if I like you, something’s even more seriously wrong with me…
Me: But I thought you wanted humans to not be scared of you and like you???
Tarantula: Of course I want you to like me, we all want to be liked… but who really wants anyone to actually follow through in liking us??