March 14, 2007

Book of the week: The Uncommon Reader

Filed under: Uncategorized — ubikcan @ 2:17 pm

Actually a short story by Alan Bennett in the latest issue of the LRB (unfortunately not online).

The story is about the Queen’s new found hobby of reading and some of the consequences it leads to. Her adviser Norman, or amenuensis as she soon learns to call him, is a young man who works in her kitchens. Since his tastes run to gay literature the Queen soon finds herself reading Genet and Proust, not to mention Virginia Woolf and Dickens, and she doesn’t seem to mind very much.

She does find however, that literature is disturbing because she no longer goes through life quite as smoothly as before. Tasks to which she devoted herself previously now seem to be draining:

It’s true that at the prospect of opening yet another swimming-baths her heart didn’t exactly leap up, but even so, she had never actually resented having to do it.

The Queen also plays with the idea of having her annual address to the nation at Christmas feature a sort of filmic presentation. She could appear, she says to the Prime Minister in long-shot, and then the camera could approach her to show her curled up with a good book. The PM of course is dubious (scene reminiscent of the recent movie The Queen here).

Here’s Bennett describing a summer at Balmoral:

It was a foul summer, cold, wet and unproductive, the guns grumbling every evening at their paltry bag. But for the Queen (and for Norman) it was an idyll. Seldom can there have been more of a contrast between the world of the book and the place in which it was read, the pair of them engrossed in the sufferings of Swann, the petty vulgarities of Mme Verdurin and the absurdities of Baron de Charlus while in the wet butts on the hills the guns cracked out their empty tattoo and the occasional dead and sodden stag was borne past the window.



  1. […] Original post by ubikcan […]

    Pingback by book » Book of the week: The Uncommon Reader — April 1, 2007 @ 11:44 am

  2. Just finished reading the FSG galley proofs for this on vacation last week. I found myself constantly reading passages out loud. So much so that my host picked it up and would not give it back until he finished it. I would like to give dozens to friends, and I don’t think I would want to know the person who is not charmed and amused and moved by this book!

    Comment by MaryR — July 17, 2007 @ 5:05 pm

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