Friday, March 16, 2012

Alan Bennett

The author in 1977
I see Alan Bennett has a new book out, so I thought now would be a good time to discuss my deep veneration for this British playwright, screenwriter, actor and author, whom I discovered only recently, with the publication of The Uncommon Reader in 2007. Well, I first became acquainted with his work watching The Madness of King George in the 1990s, even though I didn't know it (he adapted the screenplay from his play.  The History Boys was another film based on a play he wrote).

Alan Bennett is something of a national treasure in England.  He was one of the men behind Beyond the Fringe, a British comedy stage revue that was part of the 1960 Edinburgh International Festival. The revue was written and performed by Bennett along with comedy powerhouses Peter Cook, Jonathan Miller, & Dudley Moore. In the U.K. he is famous for scripting such television programs as Talking Heads, a series of dramatic monologues broadcast in the '80s  & '90s that featured the talents of Maggie Smith, Julie Walters, Eileen Atkins, & Penelope Wilton.  Patricia Routledge (of Keeping Up Appearances) was in one called "A Lady of Letters" - "Irene Ruddock is a working class single woman living near Bradford who is not afraid to speak, or rather write, her mind: she writes letters to her MP, the police, the chemist – everyone she can, to remedy the social ills she sees around her. After one too many accusations of misconduct from Irene's pen, she is sent to prison – where, for the first time in her life, ironically, she truly feels free and happy."  Bennett's sharp humor can be merciless!

We don't have a huge amount of Alan Bennett in the library catalog, but do check out The Uncommon Reader [ "A royal fable celebrating the transformative properties (and a few of the unsettling consequences) of reading as an obsession. In a country of commoners, the uncommon reader is the Queen"-Kirkus Reviews].  Alan Bennett also reads the audiobook, & he is an excellent reader.  Writing Home & Untold Stories are both collections of his essays & memoirs.

Alan Bennett's new book is called Smut, described as a "charming, sneaky little work of fiction, two novellas concerning two middle-aged, middle-class British matrons" [Publisher's Weekly Reviews].  The book is called titled Smut: Two Unseemly Stories in the U.K.

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