Saturday, March 14, 2009

The Uncommon Reader

The Uncommon Reader


Alan Bennett

As part of another challenge, the Martel Harper "What is Stephen Harper Reading" challenge I read "the Uncommon Reader" By Alan Bennett. It is a novella of 128 pages about the queen discovering reading and how her life and those around her are affected.

Front Flap: "When her corgis stray into a mobile library parked near Buckingham Palace, the Queen feels duty-bound to borrow a book. Discovering the joy of reading widely (from J.R. Ackerley, Jean Genet, and Ivy Compton-Burnett to the classics) and intelligently, she finds that her view of the world changes dramatically. Abetted in her new found obsession by Norman, a young man from the royal kitchens, the Queen comes to question the prescribed order of the world and loses patience with the routines of her role as monarch. Her new passion for reading intially alarms the palace staff and soon leads to surprising and very funny consequences for the country at large."

It is quite comically as the palace staff scrambles to figure out what is going on with the queen and their distrust of Norman when the Queen promotes him from the kitchen to her personal page. The Queen soon comes to find her routine boring and takes every opportunity to read, including 'having a cold' so she can stay in bed and read. The receiving lines now become a challenge for her equerries (personal attendants) who proffer suggested subjects to attendees to talk about with the Queen. Once she deviates from standard questions to asking "what have you been reading lately" the equerries scramble to try and find books to suggest to folks.

"Unsurprisingly, the audiences got longer and more ragged, with a growing number of her loving subjects going away regretting that they had not performed well and feeling, too, that the monarch had somehow bowled them a googly" pg 41

The Uncommon Reader is an short enjoyable read and I discovered several authors I had never heard of before, plus new phrases and words to look up in the dictionary, which I rarely have to do.

Such as Amanuenis - a person employed to write what another dictates or copy what another has written. More easily said 'a secretary'. The Queen declared herself an Opsimath - a person who becomes a student or learner late in life. The Queen was told to be less Solipsistic - less self absorbed.

In philosophy, Solipsistic also means "the theory that only the self exists, or can be proved to exist." Think about that one for a minute.

Now I'm not only a bibliphile, but an opsimath. :)

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