When Life Intimidates Art

So I’ve been thinking about a character  for a book, one who’d be witty, subversive, and risqué. His tendencies would be exaggeration, irony, self-righteousness, and self-dramatization. And he’d also like certainty and clear, strong opinions as apposed to febrile, half-hearted, sitting-on-a-fence niceties. He’d be a tall man, too, with a humourous and combative glint in his eyes. And he’d love a bit of consternation, revel in it, in fact, as he provoked his subjects, looking forward to the sparring, to a verbal punch that he hoped would be met with a returning jab.

But, as in all memorable characters, he would need to have contradictions to his personality. He would be a wild fantasist but also a rational thinker; a conceited bragger who was also a solitary man who bred rabbits. A man who loved simple pleasure — like his family, gardening, reading, listening to music, making model aeroplanes — but was also fascinated with luxury trips abroad, expensive clothes, shoes, and haute cuisine. His tastes would be decadent, too, everything from paintings, books, furniture, cars, and music would be refined and subtle and, yet, he could also enjoy a night out at the bingo hall or a drink with the lads or a day fishing or a night watching Fawlty Towers and reading a magazine.

And before I knew it, I was describing Roald Dahl. And now I know I’m going to have to read Storyteller: The Authorized Biography of Roald Dahl by Donald Sturrock to hear how my character ends.

“Things may not be immediately discernible in what a man writes, and in this sometimes he is fortunate; but eventually they are quite clear and by these and the degree of alchemy that he possesses he will endure or be forgotten.” Hemingway


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