The Uncommon Reader: A Novella

The Uncommon Reader: A Novella

Alan Bennett

Fiction / Writing / Books About Books

From one of England's most celebrated writers, the author of the award-winningThe History Boys, a funny and superbly observed novella about the Queen of England and the subversive power of readingWhen her corgis stray into a mobile library parked near Buckingham Palace, the Queen feels duty-bound to borrow a book. Discovering the joy of reading widely (from J. R. Ackerley, Jean Genet, and Ivy Compton-Burnett to the classics) and intelligently, she finds that her view of the world changes dramatically. Abetted in her newfound obsession by Norman, a young man from the royal kitchens, the Queen comes to question the prescribed order of the world and loses patience with the routines of her role as monarch. Her new passion for reading initially alarms the palace staff and soon leads to surprising and very funny consequences for the country at large.
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The Laying on of Hands: Stories

The Laying on of Hands: Stories

Alan Bennett

Fiction / Writing / Books About Books

Amazon.com ReviewWith his actor's ear for dialogue, his dead-on pacing, and his talent for social comedy, British playwright Alan Bennett (The Madness of King George) is hardly lacking in literary gifts. The three stories in The Laying On of Hands, two of which have been filmed by the BBC, are funny in different ways. The title piece is a slow-to-ripen satire set at the Anglican funeral service of a handsome young masseur, whose clients turn out to include cabinet ministers, soap opera stars, and the presiding clergyman. The second story, "Miss Fozzard Finds Her Feet," describes the odd relationship a pure-minded middle-aged woman develops with her charming chiropodist (podiatrist). And the final story, "Father! Father! Burning Bright," follows a mousy schoolteacher named Midgley through the self-searching and nurse-hunting days preceding his father's death in Intensive Care. The range and subtle coloration of Bennett's humor will appeal, especially, to readers of Robertson Davies and Muriel Spark. --Regina MarlerFrom Publishers WeeklyBennett hits the mark in the title novella of this brief collection, which also features a second, shorter novella as well as a single short story. The funeral of a masseur who serviced British celebrities in a variety of ways becomes the setting for a cheeky comedy of manners in the title yarn, as a young gay priest fails his first big test when he lets the final testimonials turn into an outrageous debate over whether the masseur died of AIDS or contracted an obscure disease while traveling in South America. The punch line falls flat in the second effort, "Miss Fozzard Finds Her Feet," when a woman finds a mutual outlet for her unusual sexual fetish in her ongoing appointments with her podiatrist. The final novella, "Father! Father! Burning Bright," gets off to a murky start as a married, middle-aged schoolteacher struggles to sort through his mixed emotions when a stroke leaves his father at death's door, but the ending, involving the teacher's strange attraction to his father's comely nurse, closes the narrative with a nice satiric twist. Bennett's multileveled approach makes the title story work, as he slowly layers his conceit with observations on the celebrity scene in Britain and the priest's recollections of his romantic interaction with the deceased. Unfortunately, the quality of craft drops significantly in the other two efforts, with the second novella in particular focusing more on manners than comedy.Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
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The Madness of George III

The Madness of George III

Alan Bennett

Fiction / Writing / Books About Books

George III's behaviour has often been odd, but now he is deranged, with rumours circulating that he has even addressed an oak tree as the King of Prussia. Doctors are brought in, the government wavers and the Prince Regent manoeuvres himself into power. Alan Bennett's play explores the court of a mad king, and the fearful treatments he was forced to undergo. It is about the nature of kingship itself, showing how by subtle degrees the ruler's delirium erodes his authority and status.
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Lady in the Van

Lady in the Van

Alan Bennett

Fiction / Writing / Books About Books

Life imitates art in The Lady in the Van, the story of the itinerant Miss Shepherd, who lived in a van in Alan Bennett's driveway from the early1970s until her death in 1989. It is doubtful that Bennett could have made up the eccentric Miss Shepherd if he tried, but his poignant, funny but unsentimental account of their strange relationship is akin to his best fictional screen writing.Bennett concedes that "One seldom was able to do her a good turn without some thoughts of strangulation", but as the plastic bags build up, the years pass by and Miss Shepherd moves into Bennett's driveway, a relationship is established which defines a certain moment in late 20th-century London life which has probably gone forever. The dissenting, liberal, middle-class world of Bennett and his peers comes into hilarious but also telling collision with the world of Miss Shepherd: "there was a gap between our social position and our social obligations. It was in this gap that Miss Shepherd (in her van) was able to live". Bennett recounts Miss Shepherd's bizarre escapades in his inimitable style, from her letter to the Argentinean Embassy at the height of the Falklands War, to her attempts to stand for Parliament and wangle an electric wheelchair out of the Social Services. Beautifully observed, The Lady in the Van is as notable for Bennett's attempts to uncover the enigmatic history of Miss Shepherd, as it is for its amusing account of her eccentric escapades. --Jerry Brotton
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Four Stories

Four Stories

Alan Bennett

Fiction / Writing / Books About Books

The Laying on of Hands, the painfully observant account of a memorial service for a masseur to the famous. The Clothes They Stood Up In, the comic tale of an elderly couple's trials after their flat is stripped completely bare. Father! Father! Burning Bright, the savage satire on the family of a dying man who rules over them from his hospital bed. The Lady in the Van, the true story of the eccentric old woman who is invited to live in a homeowner's front garden. She stays there, in her van, for fifteen years. The home is Alan Bennett's. It became a West End hit, starring Maggie Smith.Like everything Bennett does, these stories are playful, witty and painfully observant of ordinary people's foibles. They all have brilliant twists, are immensely entertaining and highly moral. And all are modern classics.
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The Habit of Art: A Play

The Habit of Art: A Play

Alan Bennett

Fiction / Writing / Books About Books

Benjamin Britten, sailing uncomfortably close to the wind with his new opera, Death in Venice, seeks advice from his former collaborator and friend, W. H. Auden. During this imagined meeting, their first in twenty-five years, they are observed and interrupted by, among others, their future biographer and a young man from the local bus station. Alan Bennett’s new play is as much about the theater as it is about poetry or music. It looks at the unsettling desires of two difficult men, and at the ethics of biography. It reflects on growing old, on creativity and inspiration, and on persisting when all passion’s spent: ultimately, on the habit of art.**
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The History Boys

The History Boys

Alan Bennett

Fiction / Writing / Books About Books

An unruly bunch of bright, funny sixth-form boys in pursuit of sex, sport and a place at university. A maverick English teacher at odds with the young and shrewd supply teacher. A headmaster obsessed with results; a history teacher who thinks he's a fool. In Alan Bennett's new play, staff room rivalry and the anarchy of adolescence provoke insistent questions about history and how you teach it; about education and its purpose. The History Boys premièred at the National in May 2004. 'Nothing could diminish the incendiary achievement of this subtle, deep-wrought and immensely funny play about the value and meaning of education .. In short, a superb, life-enhancing play.' Guardian
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The Lady in the Van

The Lady in the Van

Alan Bennett

Fiction / Writing / Books About Books

Now a major motion picture starring Maggie Smith, Alan Bennett's famous and heartwarming story "The Lady in the Van," and more of Bennett's classic short-form workAlan Bennett has long been one of the world's most revered humorists. From his acclaimed story collection Smut to his hilarious and sharply observed The Uncommon Reader, Bennett has consistently remained one of literature's most acute observers of Britain and life's many absurdities.In this new collection, drawn from his wide-ranging career, you'll read some of Bennett's finest work, including the title story, the basis for a new feature film starring Maggie Smith. The book also includes the rollicking comic masterpiece "The Laying on of Hands" and the bittersweet "Father! Father! Burning Bright," Bennett's classic tale of the tense relationship between a man and his dying father.
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The Clothes They Stood Up In

The Clothes They Stood Up In

Alan Bennett

Fiction / Writing / Books About Books

The Ransomes had been burgled. "Robbed," Mrs. Ransome said. "Burgled," Mr. Ransome corrected. Premises were burgled; persons were robbed. Mr. Ransome was a solicitor by profession and thought words mattered. Though "burgled" was the wrong word too. Burglars select; they pick; they remove one item and ignore others. There is a limit to what burglars can take: they seldom take easy chairs, for example, and even more seldom settees. These burglars did. They took everything.This swift-moving comic fable will surprise you with its concealed depths. When the sedate Ransomes return from the opera to find their Notting Hill flat stripped absolutely bare--down to the toilet paper off the roll (a hard-to-find shade of forget-me-not blue)--they face a dilemma: Who are they without the things they've spent a lifetime accumulating? Suddenly the world is full of unlimited and frightening possibility. But just as they begin adjusting to this giddy freedom, a newfound interest in sex, and...
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Alan Bennett: Plays, Volume 2

Alan Bennett: Plays, Volume 2

Alan Bennett

Fiction / Writing / Books About Books

This second volume of plays by Alan Bennett includes his two Kafka plays, one an hilarious comedy, the other a profound and searching drama. Also included is An Englishman Abroad and A Question of Attribution. The fascination of these two plays lies in the way they question our accepted notions of treachery and, in different ways, make a sympathetic case for Guy Burgess and Anthony Blunt.
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