Sunday 14 October 2007


Had a lovely time at home, soaking in the countryside, and am now back in my usual blogging spot of Oxford - specifically the desk of the back bedroom in Regent Street. While down in Somerset (or Zumm as I affectionately label it) I was able to offer my lovely Aunt Jacq. a cup of tea, for she also lives in Zumm, and she reciprocated with much more exciting gifts...

No, not my birthday of anything - she just saw them and thought of me. It pays to make your opinions known, doesn't it?! Well, you all know I love Virginia Woolf - and I'd ummmed and ahhhed over the Alan Bennett for a while, glad the choice was made for me.

Haven't used the mug yet, but a car journey too and from Bristol to see The Carbon Copy (the whole Clan together for a few hours at least!) allowed me to read The Uncommon Reader, and greatly did I enjoy it. Haven't read any Alan B before, though did see The History Boys film, and have vague recollections of Talking Heads being on in the car in my younger days. It was great fun - I'm sure everyone knows the plot by now. The Queen bumps into the local library van, and, out of politeness, borrows an Ivy Compton-Burnett. Love her or loathe her (ICB, that is), you have to acknowledge she's not a great one with which to start the long path of literacy:

'She's not a popular author, ma'am'.

'Why, I wonder? I made her a dame'.

Mr Hutchings refrained from saying that this wasn't necessarily the road to the public's heart.

As she pursues more and more books, with the help of kitchen boy Norman who becomes her constant aide, her royal duties start to suffer... This book, as well as being witty and just the right combination of absurd and plausible, also offers some genuine insights into the realm of reading, without being too truism-y. 'I think of literature,' she wrote, 'as a vast country to the far borders of which I am journeying but cannot possibly reach'. Ever felt like that?!!

And just a final word about the sketch. Not a great one today, I'm afraid, so if you need a clue just think 'Bohemian Rhapsody'.


  1. I'm wondering how long I can resist buying the Alan Bennett. I'm resisting because I plan to put it on my Christmas list, but I'm not sure if I can wait that long!

    And as to Virginia Woolf, I'm just reading my first title by her - To the Lighthouse. I've no idea why I've never read anything by her before...

  2. I loved the Alan Bennett, I also love your drawing of dear long lamented Freddie....Cornflower will be pleased to see it I'm sure.
    Beware John Banfield's 'The Sea'. A normally generous friend of mine suggested it was a book to slit your throat with, and though I didn't do that, I didn't enjoy it at all. Like you, I did love the cover - isn't there a moral in there somewhere?

  3. _The Uncommon Reader_!! I am sooo envious of your aunt for introducing you to that book. I have wanted to mention it for the last week but didn't want to just insert it anywhere - and was awaiting an opportunity to comment on it.

    Bill & I have had a great time reading this book together - usually, he reads it aloud - while we both cackle along. I love the list of authors she goes through.

    Regardless of ICB, no matter your feelings about the royal family, I think the queen comes off quite nicely in this book. I thought AB was really quite gentle with it all.

  4. I recognised Freddie straightaway! I loved The Uncommon Reader and made it my BAFAB prize last week, so it's now on its way to Her Majesty's Dominion of Canada (probably just as well it's not NZ!).

  5. I've been hesitating about whether to buy the Uncommon Reader, and I think your description and the quotation you picked has finally pushed me into it. Thanks!

  6. I just love those Penguin mugs - I look at them and lust after them online. Sigh.


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