Steve Jobs recently gave us his cutting-edge insight: "Nobody reads anymore." Well, Steve, someone beat you to that conclusion back in 1964. In Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, during the Oompa-Loompas' farewell song to Mike Teavee, Dahl makes his hatred of television quite clear:
IT ROTS THE SENSE IN THE HEAD! IT KILLS IMAGINATION DEAD! IT CLOGS AND CLUTTERS UP THE MIND! IT MAKES A CHILD SO DULL AND BLIND HE CAN NO LONGER UNDERSTAND A FANTASY, A FAIRYLAND! HIS BRAIN BECOMES AS SOFT AS CHEESE! HIS POWERS OF THINKING RUST AND FREEZE! HE CANNOT THINK -- HE ONLY SEES!
He advocates that parents not use the TV as a babysitter. When they protest, he offers this:
'What used the darling ones to do? 'How used they keep themselves contented Before this monster was invented?' Have you forgotten? Don't you know? We'll say it very loud and slow: THEY ... USED ... TO ... READ!
It's funny to think that maybe our brains didn't rot as fast as he predicted, and that books still aren't quite dead. And wouldn't he have a cow now if he saw how the Internet, cell phones, text messaging, and video games have dragged children even farther from reading?
It's important to note that we are reading this book to our four-year-old a chapter at a time, and she is loving it. But she would have no interest in it had she not first been entranced by the two movie versions of it, which she has watched no fewer than 200 times each. Yes, yes, I have used TV as a babysitter. But I think that as a result, she has become amazingly imaginative, and extremely insightful about the various aspects of storytelling and moviemaking. And we can also use Veruca Salt as an example of how not to act.