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Untold Stories Paperback – March 20, 2007
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From Publishers Weekly
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
“Surprising, funny, and deeply affecting . . . [Alan Bennett] is a prose stylist of disarming grace and sly humor.” ―The New York Times Book Review
“Untold Stories is intelligent, educated, engaging, humane, self-aware, cantankerous, and irresistibly funny. You want it to go on forever.” ―The Sunday Times (London)
“Painfully intimate, stoically comic . . . Bennett's deadpan, self-deprecating humor translates perfectly.” ―David Gates, O, The Oprah Magazine
“A great achievement and a book of lasting value.” ―The Guardian (U.K.)
“A masterpiece of reminiscence. There is probably no other distinguished English man of letters more instantly likable than Bennett.” ―Michael Dirda, The Washington Post Book World
“It is a glaring example of modern English frivolity that [Bennett] is not simply regarded--with awe and terror--as one of the greatest living English writers. . . . If you want to understand the cultural wars in England now, and if you want to come to grips with a great writer and a challenging mind, then Bennett is your man.” ―The Nation
“While he plays the old crank who is put upon by the world as it is, Bennett reveals an eye for detail and a feel for the complexity of human interactions.” ―Publishers Weekly
“[Bennett] is a fine storyteller. . . . His memories of fellow actors Peter Cook and Dudly Moore are wry, witty, and honest.” ―Library Journal
Top Customer Reviews
Many of the references to the British theatrical and television scene will be mysterious to Americans. A short test follows on which you may allocate yourself scores as a potential reader:
Lived in Britain before 1970 (6 points)
From Yorkshire (3 points)
Gay (1 points)
Interested in one of the following:
Good writing (3 points)
Beyond the Fringe , Monty Python, and the 1960's English satirists (3 points)
Treatment of depression.(1 point)
Treatment of cancer (1 point)
London theater (3 points)
Painting (1 point)
Old English churches (3 points)
Dealing with the homeless (3 points).
Anyone with a score of 9 or more should read it.
He is opinionated, with left-wing but often reactionary views. His account of the social changes in Britain over the last fifty years is perceptive and informative. (Some of the ground in the Beyond the Fringe etc reminiscences is covered by Humphrey Carpenter's "Great Silly Grin.") He's very humble and self effacing (but manages, in the nicest most modest way, to drop in stuff about his Oxford scholarship and first class degree, and being offered a knighthood, and how the Prince of Wales liked his play). At the end I felt quite brash and materialistic and arrogant.
First some description perhaps:
This is a somewhat random collection of writings from one of the premier British playwrights of our time. They vary from reasonably serious such as the introductory story on his father and mother, and the concluding story on his surviving cancer.
Other stories deal with some of the plays he's written. The story of 'The Lady in the Van' is particularly appealing. You see, Mrs. Shepherd drove her van into his garden in 1974 and asked if she could park it there for a while.
'A while' turned out to be fifteen years. And she lived in the van. In 1999 he wrote a play about her that starred Maggie Smith. And the section describing the play is a cross between the story of Mrs. Shepherd (he finds a Mr. Shepherd very hard to imagine) and the writing of the play.
Some dialog from a draft version of the play:
'Mr. Bennett. Will you look under the van?'
'One of these explosive devices. There was another bomb last night and I think I may be next on the list.'
'I can't see anything because of all your plastic bags.'
'Yes and the explosive's plastic so it wouldn't show, possibly. Are there any wires? The wireless tells you to look for wires. Nothing that looks like a timing device?'
'There's an old biscuit tin.'
Rolling on the floor laughing? No. A delight to read? Absolutely.
Alan Bennett's parents struggled not to be common. There was a notion that Alan and his brother and his parents were a peculiar family and that they were set apart. When Alan saw his father in leisurewear he barely recognized him, his father having always worn a suit. The father's dream was of a smallholding.
Bennett notes that aunties are agents of subversion. They drink a bit and use scent. They attend late showings at the cinema. The aunties engaged in splashy behavior. Alan Bennett's burden of his youth was that he took a long time growing up.
It is asserted that diaries lengthen the days. AB has published excerpts of his in the LONDON REVIEW OF BOOKS. The diarist describes the filming of DANCE TO THE MUSIC OF TIME. The photographs of family and friends in the book are great. Bennett compares Isaiah Berlin to George Steiner.
Bennett declined an honorary degree from Oxford because he felt the university should not have established a Rupert Murdoch Chair in Language and Communication, believing Murdoch to be a bully. Bennett writes about writing THE WOMAN IN THE VAN, Miss Shepherd, whose van was parked in his garden for fifteen years. In his play he used composite characters to represent neighbors and social workers.
The pieces in the book on art appreciation, urban renewal, Philip Larkin, and Denton Welch are of interest as opportunities for Alan Bennett's dry wit to be displayed. Larkin was a poet of England at a certain time.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Bennett was born in 1934, thus missing the Second World War's swathes of death. He took a First in History at Oxford in 1957, the extra couple of years at the Joint Services School... Read morePublished 29 days ago by Rerevisionist
Within the context of autobiography and diary, many others have described trauma, even mental illness in the history of their family and yet in Bennett's case there is such... Read morePublished 16 months ago by Andrew Hardacre
I really had my hopes up for this book and it was more Bennett complaining than anything else. I read the entire thing and it's on it's way to the Goodwill. Read morePublished on February 22, 2014 by T. Miller
A master of the short story, which is no small accomplishment. In this collection, we've got Philip Larkin, the madwoman in the Van, and a lot of other things sort of sandwiched in... Read morePublished on August 31, 2013 by Alain
I like Bennett's writing because he turns what often is the simple and mundane into things one can identify with. Read morePublished on August 2, 2013 by davidreads
I sent this book to our American friends who were thrilled to receive it. They particularly like Alan Bennett so it was the perfect Christmas gift.Published on January 12, 2013 by longreach
A cancer scare can certainly make a person take stock of their life. With what must have been a ticking clock sounding in his head, the incredibly talented Alan Bennett bares... Read morePublished on August 25, 2012 by J. Mullally
Untold Stories by Alan Bennett is something of a pot pourri. It starts with an autobiographical exploration of social and family origins, and then moves on to include occasional... Read morePublished on January 3, 2012 by Philip Spires