Hey everyone - I'm not sure what happened to Kenneth but with time marching on I figured I'd post on his behalf
The uncommon reader
A masterpiece of comic brevity. Observer Led by her yapping corgis to the Westminster travelling library outside Buckingham Palace, the Queen finds herself taking out a novel by Ivy Compton-Burnett. Duff read though it proves to be, the following week she withdraws a second, more enjoyable choice of book. This awakens in Her Majesty a passion for reading so great that her public duties begin to suffer. And so, as she devours work by everyone from Hardy to Brookner to Proust to Beckett, her equerries conspire to bring the Queen's literary odyssey to a close. A gloriously entertaining comic narrative, but it is also much more: a deadly serious manifesto for the potential of reading to change lives.
A marvellous little book, small enough to put in a jacket pocket and so delightful that you'll want to keep taking it out again ... Part of the pleasure here is the unexpected mis-match between respectability and unseemly behaviour, but there's much more to it than that. These novellas are good enough to re-read and enjoy even when the events are no longer unexpected, and the reason is Bennett's sweet, easy prose. There is no sense of effort at all here. It's like watching an expert dancer dance, or an expert ice-skater skate. He just knows how to do it, and that's that
The clothes they stood up in
The Clothes They Stood Up In, the staid Ransomes return from the opera to find their Regent's Park flat stripped bare--right down to the toilet-paper roll. Free of all their earthly belongings, the couple faces a perplexing question: Who are they without the things they've spent a lifetime accumulating? Suddenly a world of unlimited, frightening possibility opens up before them.
The lady in the van
In "The Lady in the Van," which "The Village Voice called "one of the finest bursts of comic writing the twentieth century has produced," Bennett recounts the strange life of Miss Shepherd, a London eccentric who parked her van (overstuffed with decades' worth of old clothes, oozing batteries, and kitchen utensils still in their original packaging) in the author's driveway for more than fifteen years. A mesmerizing portrait of an outsider with an acquisitive taste and an indomitable spirit, this biographical essay is drawn with equal parts fascination and compassion.
They're all by Alan Bennett, of course, as that was the proposed theme. So please PM me two choices by end of day Friday 27 January and I'll post the winner over the weekend.