I just finish blowing through two short memoirs written by Roald Dahl called Boy and Going Solo, both of which are compilations of stories from his childhood and early adult life. In Boy, most of the stories revolve around his adventures while attending an English boarding school, and you can see the early experiences with a candy shop and with horrible headmasters that influenced his highly imaginative children’s books like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Matilda. Going Solo picks up where Boy left off with Roald going to work for the Shell Company in East Africa and then joining the RAF during World War II and his experiences flying fighter planes.
What I loved most about these books is they weren’t like an autobiography or a memoir in the traditional sense. They were just stories of interesting things that happened to him in his life along with some funny anecdotes and remarks about how these experiences shaped his later adult life. He even writes at the beginning of each book about how autobiographies are boring, but stories aren’t, and that is why he decided to publish only the pieces of his memories that were the most engaging.
And they were engaging – they very much transported me to another time. I felt what it was like to be a boy waiting for a beating in the headmasters office for an offense that I didn’t commit, what it was like to live in colonial Dar es Salaam in the ‘30s, and the gut-wrenching fear that comes with fighting in a war against impossible odds, waking up each morning doubting whether you’ll live to see another day after this one.
Roald Dahl was a highly interesting person, but more importantly he was a very engaging writer and a phenomenal story-teller. What would have been an account of episodes from a semi-average man’s life from that time period was skillfully told in a wonderfully entertaining way under his expert hand.
Reading all his funny and interesting stories made me think about how little I record the memorable things that have happened to me. I feel like I’ve lived a very unconventional life thus far (entirely by choice, of course) and I wish I had written down all of the crazy things that I’ve done and seen, particularly while living abroad in college and from navigating the world of reality television over the last 4 years. Don’t get me wrong – I don’t’ think I’m super interesting or some kind of wonder in terms of what I have done, but I do think I have some funny anecdotes that someday my children and grandchildren and so on would like to hear about.
It isn’t journaling, it is more like telling stories from your life and crafting them as you would a story of fiction. It is definitely something I want to try.
So, I’ve bought a new journal – just what I need, right? Another journal yelling at me for a contribution from my bedside table! – and I’m going to use it just to write down funny memories and bizarre things that have happened to me in my life thus far. My plan is just to try to write 1 or 2 stories down a month, when I have a moment, so that someday they can be read and enjoyed by my kids, and their kids, and their kids. Even if they aren’t seen by anyone ever, it will give me a nice feeling of happiness recalling and reliving them, not to mention great writing practice.
I love getting lost in stories written by others from another time. Who is to say someone down the line wouldn’t want to read mine? Or yours?