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Smut: Stories Paperback – Deckle Edge, January 3, 2012


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 152 pages
  • Publisher: Picador; Original edition (January 3, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1250003164
  • ISBN-13: 978-1250003164
  • Product Dimensions: 7.5 x 4.7 x 0.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (46 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #779,768 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"Artfully entertaining…On one particular subject Bennett is incomparably brilliant: role-playing, which is the meat of both stories." —Simon Schama, Financial Times (London)

"Bennett’s humor consistently resides in the logic of the parenthetical aside, the comedy of the false appearances or misperceptions being challenged or disabused.…Mrs. Donaldson is not as unconventional as she thought herself, and no one around Mr. Forbes is where—or who—they pretend to be." —The Guardian (London)

"Tender and comic…This is Bennett’s world, where repression is never far from the sexual act….Good, old-fashioned British humor with the lightest of subversive twists."—The Independent (London)

About the Author

Alan Bennett has been one of England’s leading dramatists since the success of Beyond the Fringe. The History Boys won six Tony Awards; his most recent play is The Habit of Art.


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More About the Author

Alan Bennett is a renowned playwright and essayist, a succession of whose plays have been staged at the Royal National Theatre and whose screenplay for The Madness of King George was nominated for an Academy Award. He made his first stage appearance with Beyond the Fringe and his latest play was The Lady in the Van with Maggie Smith. Episodes from his award-winning Talking Heads series have been shown on PBS. His first novel, The Clothes They Stood Up In, was published in 2000. He lives in London.

Customer Reviews

I now will gladly read more of him.
R. M. Peterson
The story, 100 pages long, is more like a novella and, disappointingly, stops just as Mrs Donaldson is about to take on a new lease of life.
David Gee
The two stories are, indeed, "smutty" and while I am broadminded, they simply did not appeal to me.
Late Night Reader

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By John Marquette on September 13, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Alan Bennett has made a career of making the observation of transgressive behavior feel like looking through a keyhole into another room at people we know we shouldn't be watching. In "Smut: Two Unseemly Stories", he teases the characters into life slowly, deliberately, and in a way making them irresistible. How do they tick? What motivates them? He provides just enough to want us to know more at every page. At the end of the two stories (and I liked the first far more than the second), we see how people make compromises with their lives simply to get on with them.

In "The Greening of Mrs. Donaldson", we peep at a middle-class lady whose changed circumstances perplex her, yet she goes on with keeping calm and carrying on. In the same way, it's not the title character in "The Shielding of Mrs. Forbes" to whom we pay the most attention. Yet we leave the story wondering whether she's more a victim or the ultimate victor.

Bennett revels in relative morality. Nobody is entirely "right" or "wrong". They are, however, all able to adapt to changing circumstance, making them human, believable, and not necessarily likable. While I might forget Mrs. Forbes, who does what she has to do, Mrs. Donaldson's greening - blooming? - I won't soon forget.

It was worth the postal surcharge to get this title from the UK rather than wait until January 2012 for a US release.
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15 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Sam Quixote TOP 1000 REVIEWER on May 17, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Alan Bennett's latest book explores sexuality in suburbia with a 55 year old widower who becomes a peeping tom landlady in lieu of rent to her exhibitionist lodgers, and a secretly gay banker who gets blackmailed by one of his lovers.

The title "Smut" and the word "unseemly" both give the wrong idea about the stories - they might have seemed transgressive in years past but watching people have sex and being gay aren't really taboo any more. The quaint terminology employed by Bennett is reflective of the style in which he writes, that is in quietly articulate prose that neither offends nor exhilarates. The storytelling and writing is never less than masterful but for all that the stories themselves are never shocking and have a charm to them that's quite disarming.

The way Bennett drops information onto the reader - character A is sleeping with character B who is pregnant with character C's child - or an elderly woman being propositioned by a younger man, is very matter-of-fact and casual, which is how Bennett manages to keep the reader on their toes - blink and you'll miss the revelation!

While the book and it's subject of modern day sex may sell itself as racy, it's actually quite light and unchallenging. It's a good read and I enjoyed it but it's unlikely to make a deep impression on anyone. A "nice" book about sex - only Alan Bennett could've done it!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Terry Weyna on February 26, 2012
Format: Paperback
It came as something of a surprise to find that Alan Bennett, author of the gentle and genteel The Uncommon Reader (briefly reviewed here) had written a book entitled Smut: Stories. How could this writer go from his bonbon of a book about the Queen of England's imagined reading habits to a book that borders on pornography? It seems out of character.

But when one reads the two stories that make up this slim volume, one realizes that "gentle" and "genteel" are adjectives that apply to this book as well as to its predecessor. Bennett is having his fun with his readers, teasing them with mildly dirty situations that he is able to describe without a single profanity. It's a charming book; one imagines the delight with which Bennett wrote it.

"The Greening of Mrs. Donaldson" is about the sexual reawakening of a widow through fairly perverse means. It seems Mrs. Donaldson needs to bring in some income after the death of her husband left her less well off than either of them had anticipated. Her first method for doing so has the salutary effect of getting her out of the house as well: she works as a mock patient for a nearby medical school, helping young students figure out how to properly approach and diagnose patients. Dr. Ballantyne, who runs the program, takes a shine to Mrs. Donaldson, who proves to be an excellent actress. Mrs. Donaldson's daughter Gwen, however, objects to this money-making scheme, as well as her mother's decision to let a room to a couple of medical students, though apparently without offering to supplement her mother's income. Gwen would be all the more dismayed if she knew that the young lodgers, having come up short on the rent, offer to let Mrs. Donaldson watch them having sex instead. Mrs. Donaldson feels it only polite to accept the offer.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Charles S. Houser VINE VOICE on January 12, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Anyone who has seen and enjoyed Bennett's TALKING HEADS single-character plays will likely enjoy the two stories that comprise SMUT. Leave it to Sophocles and Aeschylus to expose the tragic flaws of the world's elite, if you want to ponder the little things that undo the world's other ninety-nine percent then turn to ever observant and impish Alan Bennett. As he did in the Talking Heads plays BED AMONG THE LENTILS and MISS FROZZARD FINDS HER FEET, Bennett shows in these two new stories how the middle class drive for respectability and secrecy is responsible for that class's social imprisonment and isolation. Often in Bennett it seems that compromise, and the middle class instinct to seek out an accecptable one, is the only way out of any predicament.

Bennett's protagonists often find themselves trapped in unbalanced, oppressive relationships. In THE GREENING OF MRS DONALDSON, the first story in SMUT, the widower Mrs Donaldson's tormentor is her adult daughter who frowns on her mother's participation in medical students' training by enacting various ailments, and even more adamantly objects to her mother's taking in of lodgers. That both experiences lead Mrs Donaldson to belatedly discover her sexuality, and more importantly her autonomy, is a secret she must keep from her narrow-minded daughter and her "respectable" friends.

I found the second story, THE SHIELDING OF MRS FORBES, even more delightful. Graham Forbes is a handsome, vain homosexual and the apple of his mother's eye. His decision to marry the plain (physically unattractive) Betty prompts a cascade of catty remarks from Forbes mere. (I can see her being played in the movie by Jessica Walter of ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT.
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