Together in Spirit

An online reading group ('TIS a reading group!) to bring together friends, and friends of friends, who aren't able to be in a conventional reading group due to constraints of time or geography.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

The uncommon writer

I think this works on every level:
As a story, using the Queen as a vehicle for Bennett’s views on reading is unique and well crafted. There is lots to ponder on ( such as the difference between reading and writing) and, with nothing else to do, one could read everything HM read (most of which I haven’t. Anyone for Proust?) It is perfectly a novella but a lesser person would have tried to extend the idea into a novel and that wouldn’t have worked.

At the level of the idea or paragraph we have such Bennettesque gems as “…she had handicaps as a reader of Jane Austen that were peculiarly her own. The essence of Jane Austen lies in minute social distinctions, distinctions which the Queen’s unique position made it difficult for her to grasp. There was such a chasm between the monarch and even her grandest subject that the social differences beyond that were somewhat telescoped. So the social distinctions of which Jane Austen made so much seemed of even less consequence to the Queen that they did to the ordinary reader, thus making the novels much harder going.” p 75. As soon as he says it, it makes sense, but who else would think to say it?

At the level of the phrase we have “Start off in the middle. Chronology is a great deterrent” p 97 or “ Surprised to find himself discussing his own subject, the professor was momentarily at a loss.” P 106. The joy of reading Bennett rather than viewing his plays is that you don’t miss any of these – sometimes in films such as the History Boys they come so thick and fast that One is exhausted and terrified of missing something.

As in A Question of Attribution, the Queen is portrayed with affection, acuity and dignity and One longs to know if she has read this. Why does she surround herself with such poisonous individuals (does she?) and why are they all gay? Not a job for a real man?

Talking Heads are, I think, the best TV dramas I have ever watched, and although this is good, it doesn’t come close. Maybe because there is no element of tragedy? Why didn’t he write it as a play?