Friday, January 25, 2008

Trite, trivial and oh so sycophantic

....apart from quite amusing, very short and quite expensive (11 quid). That's Alan Bennett's 'The Uncommon Reader'. I'm now a bit embarrassed to have used it as a Christmas present for a rather high-brow reader.

Alan Bennett is of course a National Treasure, who has written wonderful plays for TV, with his 'Talking Heads' and that play about Anthony Blunt and the Queen. I gather that recently he may have been suffering from writer's block. Maybe that's why this book is so short?

It's a long short story, maybe a novella, about how the Queen (of England) gets the reading habit. It's quite funny in the inimitable Alan Bennett style, very ironic, taking the mick out of prime ministers and anyone else around HM. Not so much out of her, though, taking a more sympathetic, and apparently understanding approach. As she increases the range of her reading she finds that people around her don't read (this is the UK), and it makes for difficult conversations. Also often when she tries to find someone with whom she can discuss her reading protocol interferes. The book says less about what she might be reading beyond the title and a snap quote or two.

Nice, light hospital reading, when you are in a queue waiting for your consultant, but not for an overnight stay. Given that it is a hardback there's too much weight to take it on a flight; what with airport waiting time it would not even keep you occupied for a hop across the channel. Shame - it could have been much more elaborate...