Writing Home

Read Alan Bennett’s Writing Home over my holiday – probably, in terms of pages, more than I have read for the entire year previously – and of course it is superb. It’s actually my second reading, the first not really counting because I was about 17, and while I enjoyed it then, it was much, much better coming at it ten years later.

This time I didn’t read it sequentially, rather I dipped in and out choosing the bits I thought most interesting first. I was usually right in my judgment, especially in leaving the bits about growing up in Leeds until last. I liked the diaries much more than I was expecting too – I think I found them long and dull as a youth – and the sections about Miss Shepherd are superb, of course.

Some thoughts:

  • He mentions Kafka and Auden a lot. Larkin too – those three keep cropping up. I’ve read the latter, and will pick it up again (Bennett’s review of Andrew Motion’s Life excellent and a useful companion piece to Amis’ from The War Against Cliche), maybe I should give the others a go.
  • Sometimes you can be too self-deprecating. I felt the need to beat the book and scream “You’re a success Bennett!” If he is moaning about how terribly he is doing, where the hell does that leave us?
  • It made me want to hunt out his other work. I’m reading Talking Heads now and will look at getting his other plays, both stage and screen, from the library or something. Has anyone seen and have thoughts on his television stuff, pre-Talking Heads? Stuff about spies and Kafka. I don’t remember any of it. I guess I was too young.
  • C is reading Untold Stories at the moment, and I’ll grab it as soon as she has finished.
  • Writing Home is a good title for a blog. I’ll take it.

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