Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The Uncommon Reader

Alan Bennett's novella, The Uncommon Reader is an interesting look at what might happen if a person who did not read suddenly became a reader. In this story, the reader happens to be Queen Elizabeth and she begins reading one day when her corgis wander onto a bookmobile parked behind the castle kitchen. Out of politeness she borrows a book by Ivy Compton-Burnett. Then she reads it. Slowly she becomes a reader. Her desire to read begins to worry those around her as she becomes more interested in reading than in her duties as queen. She also notices the change reading makes in her life:

"Still, though reading absorbed her, what the Queen had not expected was the degree to which it drained her of enthusiasm for anything else. 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. However tedious her obligations had been - visiting this, conferring that - boredom had never come into it. This was her duty and when she opened her engagement book every morning it had never been without interest or expectation.

No more. Now she surveyed the unrelenting progression of tours, travels and undertakings stretching years into the future only with dread. There was scarcely a day she could call her own and never two. Suddenly it had all become a drag. "Ma'am is tired,' said her maid, hearing her groan at her desk. 'It's time ma'am put her feet up occasionally.'

But it wasn't that. It was reading, and love it though she did, there were times when she wished she had never opened a book and entered into other lives. It had spoiled her. Or spoiled her for this, anyway."

As I read this I was reminded of Peter Thorpe's book, Why Literature Is Bad for You. Mr. Bennett has charmingly displayed the extremes to which a reader of books might possibly go.

There's a neat little surprise ending, too.



Blogger Good Yarns said...

That one sounds like a charmer.

I've got one of those log-cabin blankets hibernating at my house. Now that I finally have a place to wear the wool (as you already noted), I am ready to keep knittin the warm stuff.

4:47 PM  
Blogger hopeinbrazil said...

Thanks for a lovely review. I'll add this book to my list.

8:22 AM  
Blogger Anne said...

Just put this one on my wish list. Sounds good!

And War Eagle, anyway!

2:00 AM  

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