Manda's Reviews > Untold Stories

Untold Stories by Alan Bennett
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's review
Nov 30, 09

bookshelves: read-in-2006
Read in January, 2006

I was shocked. I must be naive, but I did not realise that people wrote diaries simply in order to publish them, but that is what AB seems to do. Every year, apparently. Casting my mind back I do not think I have ever read anyone’s published diaries before. I don’t think that I would have bought this book if I had known that there were diaries in it, because diaries to me are personal, and reading them feels like snooping, even though the writer of the diaries has published them. I don't like feeling like a snoop, but I was part way through the book when the diaries made their appearance, and the urge to keep reading an interesting book once I have started is obviously stronger than my reluctance to pry, so I read on.

And I learned an amazing thing – the diaries had obviously been written with the idea that they would be read. Now maybe this isn’t so new an idea per se, but it is a very new idea to me. When I write my diary, my aim in it is to record. I don’t consider that the diary may be read, although on reflection I do sometimes re-read parts, if only to find out when such-and-such a thing happened. At first I thought what am amazing conceit it is, to write a diary - personal thoughts, as if they would be worthy of reading, publishing, but then I thought again. Why not write a diary in as interesting way as possible, so that it is possible to re-read it, and not only to remember what I was doing at a particular time, but the way I was living, and the flavour of the times, as well.

I do find AB's assertion that he is shy rather barmy, given how much and how fully he writes about himself.

As regards the book - it is wasted on me. It would be far more suitable for someone who has long been a fan of Mr Bennett and who wants to know all the nook and crannies of information about him. Although I kind of knew about Alan Bennett, in vague terms, the book is both too much information about specifics, and not enough about general things. I enjoyed bits of his book, but found other bits oddly disconcerting.

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