Former leading New Zealand publisher and bookseller, and widely experienced judge of both the Commonwealth Writers Prize and the Montana New Zealand Book Awards, talks about what he is currently reading, what impresses him and what doesn't, along with chat about the international English language book scene, and links to sites of interest to booklovers.
Sunday, September 18, 2011
Let's hang on to Roald Dahl's writing hut
Half a million spent on saving a great writer's habitat would be money well spent.
Roald Dahl's writing hut, in need of £500,000Photo: PA
By Philip Hensher, The Telegraph, 17 Sept 2011
So that’s where the magic happens – the Vermicious Knids, Aunt Sponge and Aunt Spiker, and the dreadful end of Veruca Salt. It’s a small brick outhouse, lined with nicotine-stained polystyrene tiles, a workroom guarded by a preliminary vestibule. There is a hideous old armchair with a hole cut in the back and a writing board laid across the arms. There are pictures of schooldays and children, and objects with a definite medical flavour – a hipbone on the desk, an artificial hip as a handle for a drawer, and on the wall a small cerebral valve, which it turns out the inhabitant helped invent. His last Marlboro sits in the ashtray, and the wastepaper bin is unemptied, though he died 21 years ago.
You will probably have identified this as Roald Dahl’s writing hut, which last week came to our attention when his granddaughter Sophie Dahl talked about it on the Today programme. She said that the family hoped to preserve the shed for the nation in the Roald Dahl museum in Great Missenden, and that £500,000 was needed to fund the preservation and removal.
A certain amount of outrage followed, along the lines of “Why can’t she pay for it herself?” The museum was quick to point out that the money was coming from “organisations which support museums, literacy and creative education, as well as companies involved in the publishing and other licensing of Roald Dahl’s work”. It’s highly regrettable that funding by such bodies nowadays seems to be preferable to voluntary contributions by admirers. If I thought that the Roald Dahl Hut Preservation Movement would welcome it, I would very happily send them 20 quid. Some of Radio 4’s listeners might not want to contribute to this splendid cause, but it seems very odd to turn away those who would like to help out directly. Full story at The Telegraph