Kinga's Reviews > The Uncommon Reader

The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett
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's review
Jan 21, 2012

really liked it
Read in January, 2012

What’s better for a book lover than a book about books? It’s like when Xzbit in Pimp My Ride puts a car inside of your car because he knows you love cars.
And Alan Bennett puts books in your book. He also puts the Queen there, so you know you are in for a treat.

Imagine that the Queen, old as she is, suddenly discovers the joy of reading. She engages a certain Nelson to help her acquire books and guide her through the world of literature. That does sound like a dream job, doesn’t it? To become someone’s personal literary adviser. The Queen is a perfect student, too. Her thirst for books in unquenchable. She doesn’t want to talk about anything else but books and tortures her subjects constantly asking their opinions on this author or another. Don’t I know what it’s like! My friends often shout desperately: ’can we talk about something other than books!?’ To which I say: ‘Sure, fine. What did you have for breakfast then?’. It's only here, on goodreads, that I feel I am understood.

Bennett beautifully describes the progress we make as readers, how every book sets a bar higher and we are able to take on more complex and ambitious books. That, of course, will never happen if you just read paranormal romance for the rest of your days.

Bennett also proposes a thesis that reading must eventually lead to writing. He believes in supremacy of writing over reading, believes it to be somewhat nobler than reading. I am not sure I agree with this. It takes a whole lot of self-control, modesty (and obviously being a better person than I am) to be satisfied with reading only and not have that grandiose need to write.

It was also quite brave of Bennett to take on the Queen as his heroine. And to make her into a human being as well! I applaud you, sir.

To be honest with you, if there was a good thing about growing up in a communist country it was that absolute certainty that people are equal. And then I came to UK. I find this whole business of Royal Family and aristocracy extremely funny/sad. In my work I deal with quite a lot of Lords and Ladies and such and was trained in addressing them correctly. I thought it was very cute and funny until I realized that my employers are actually for real. Until I saw the CEO assuming a very submissive tone when speaking to the Earl of ThisorThat. It made me want to scream – it is 21st century! These people are not ACTUALLY better than us! Their blood is really red, not blue! Are you all crazy?
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message 1: by Manny (last edited Jan 21, 2012 05:57AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Manny Lovely review!

In my work I deal with quite a lot of Lords and Ladies and such and was trained in addressing them correctly.

I am sure you have had it recommended to you before, but, just in case you haven't, you might want to check out The Python Book of Etiquette. It contains many useful topics, including the following:
How to address an Earl without farting.
How to pour wine without farting.
How to cope with a stiffy at the Royal Garden Party.
How to address a Bishop without farting.
I am convinced that they stole this joke from Chaucer, but I have never been able to prove it.

Kinga Thanks!

Funny you should mention wine. It's a wine company I am working for. And we are so posh, we bring our own wine to Wine Trade Awards so we don't have to drink the piss they are serving there.

Manny What a wonderful job! You must have considered turning your experiences into a novel?

message 4: by Kullagulla (new)

Kullagulla I loved this book as well.

Every book lover will recognize themselves.

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