Monday, October 09, 2006

Untold Stories

About a week ago I borrowed Untold Stories by Alan Bennett from the library. Its an abridged audio CD of his anthology of unpublished writings and diaries from 1997 onwards. I was listening to some this morning although I wish I hadn't. Bennett's words spoken in his own warm and comforting voice are unbearably moving and refreshingly honest. I wish I had his ability to write with apparently no self-consciousness and with such brave directness. The particular piece I listened to this morning dealt with his mother's descent into depression and his father's death. It was beautifully told, moving and warm at the same time. He has a magnificent ability with words, able to sum up in a few carefully chosen sentences, what it would take a lesser man to say in a lifetime. Bennett is one of those people that I admire for his intuitive understanding of the human condition and all its failings and manages to write about that in a way that is simultaneously funny and imbued with deep pathos.

Lunchtime I ordered the book from Amazon along with a couple of others - both on American Presidents - Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon.

I am still reading Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land, finding the authors clumsy dialogue as hard-going as some of his heavy-handed points about contemporary (at the time of writing) society. Its hardly earth-shattering, more a laborious journey which will hopefully arrive at some climax or revelation that will make it all seem worth while.

Last night I watched A History of Violence. About the most shocking thing about this film was how inured I was to the violence it portrayed. Even a few years ago, this would have been a film that I would have been unable to watch with its seemingly senseless and unnecessary violence and gruesome deaths. I am not even sure I got what the message of the film was, if there was one. Maybe it was to show that violence is something that runs through all our lives, that it is as unavoidable as death. I don't know. It didn't mean a lot to me. I felt rather hollow and strangely soiled by the end of it. Disappointing.

Going back to where I started Alan Bennett's The History Boys opens this weekend. This I know is a film that will not disappoint and hopefully I can make time on the weekend to get along to the flicks to see this.


jamie said...

i was frequently exposed to the works of alan bennett years ago by an ex-girlfriend who would study his work and then recite it back over and over and over... and over...
i seem to recall the dialogue delivered by thora hird,something about a cracker?,to be one of her favourites...

Joe said...

My Mum did the Cream Cracker Under the Settee monologue as a performance for the local drama group a few years ago. They're also currently rehearsing 'The Lady in the Van', so we're brushing up on the same Alan Bennett book that Mark is reading at the moment.
To be honest I've never been a great fan of his, although he does write very well.