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November 02, 2014

This author’s a chameleon!

Text by Nittal Chandarana

They frightened us or wowed us with their stories, and they wrote tales for impressionable young minds too! Find the world-famous authors who have been able to write for all ages

At that point, Mary Maloney simply walked up behind him and without any pause she swung the big frozen leg of lamb high in the air and brought it down as hard as she could on the back of his head…I’ve killed him, she told herself.

Dark. Morbid. Written by Roald Dahl. Surprised? So were we. The same author who gave us Willy Wonka, Matilda and mousemaker recipes has written quite a bit of poignant literature for adults. This excerpt is taken from his short story, Lamb to the Slaughter. There are quite a few others that are much the same but we remember being utterly bewildered when we discovered that our favourite author also writes stories for adults. We enjoy them now, of course, but felt deeply robbed of our childhood as we clutched the satanic novel in our 12-year-old hands. And then we realised. He wasn’t the only culprit. There were others that had committed similar crimes.

Like Rowling, for instance. She started off safe with the Harry Potter series that successfully enchanted children and adults alike. Well actually, it wasn’t safe at all. To take on the fantasy genre and do a good job of it is a Herculean task. And then, to be compared to the likes of Tolkein! Rowling has not only written The Casual Vacancy for adults and Cuckoo’s Calling and The Silkworm under the pen name of Robert Galbraith but also given us Tales of Beedle the Bard for little kids. Versatile and proud.

There’s our very own RK Narayan who gave us Swami and his colourful friends graduating to Malgudi Days. The transition is effortless. No wonder he was once known as the greatest author in the world. There’s also Salman Rushdie to add to the list. Now, who would have thought the man with the banned book could write something for children? We were bowled over by his short story, The Free Radio, that was so mature and striking. And then we came to know Haroun and the Sea of Stories is his creation.

We’d also like to take this opportunity to announce to the world that we read Vikram Seth’s magnum opus, A Suitable Boy. Read the whole 1488 pages of it all and are waiting for A Suitable Girl and then discover that the man who wrote about politics, homosexuality and potential suitors has written Beastly Tales from Here and There for children. It takes particular malice to convert saintly fables into mean poetry but that’s exactly what he has done. He tells it like it is, verse by verse. One more thing to burst your bubble. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is considered a book for adults. Yes. Mark Haddon won the Whitbread Award for it in the Novels category; not the Children’s Books variation.

Just how they write for both audiences so seamlessly, we wonder. Is there a switch that goes off and on at will or a particular part of their brain that works exclusively to churn out narratives for the reader of their choice? Good writing is difficult to come by and such talent – utter genius. And then there are those like Gaiman who just do everything. We leave you to ponder over you next reading list while we go bury our heads in sand.

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