G. Bruce Boyer
New York-based journalist and writer for Vogue, The New Yorker, Town & Country, among others
- Alan Bennett, The Uncommon Reader
Reading has been one of the great joys of my life for as long as I can remember. In fact, among my memories of advice given me by my mother was the injunction to read. “If you learn to love reading,” she told me when I was just three or four, “you’ll never be alone.” Of course, she was right. I loved novels when I was young and devoured them like cookies, but now I read mostly autobiography and biography, memoirs and diaries, and occasionally collected letters.
But there is one novel I’ve returned to every year since its publication in 2007: Alan Bennett’s The Uncommon Reader.
Strictly speaking, it’s not a novel at all, but a novella of a mere 120 pp. in the edition I’ve got. I’ve read most of Bennett’s work, the plays, the autobiographical writings, and his other short fiction, but I keep coming back annually to this slim volume. It’s an absolute model of sly humour couched in prose as graceful as a silk scarf. Bennett must surely be a national treasure in the UK and one of world’s great comic writers, and this particular novella is a small, charming gem which reveals psychological truths in the most hilarious way. In short, it’s a classic.