It's Raining Books Sale
 
 

Recently Viewed clear list


Original Essays | September 17, 2014

Merritt Tierce: IMG Has My Husband Read It?



My first novel, Love Me Back, was published on September 16. Writing the book took seven years, and along the way three chapters were published in... Continue »
  1. $16.77 Sale Hardcover add to wish list

    Love Me Back

    Merritt Tierce 9780385538077

spacer
Qualifying orders ship free.
$6.95
Used Hardcover
Ships in 1 to 3 days
Add to Wishlist
Qty Store Section
1 Burnside Literature- A to Z

More copies of this ISBN

The Uncommon Reader

by

The Uncommon Reader Cover

ISBN13: 9780374280963
ISBN10: 0374280967
Condition: Standard
Dustjacket: Standard
All Product Details

Only 1 left in stock at $6.95!

 

 

Excerpt

At Windsor it was the evening of the state banquet and as the president of France took his place beside Her Majesty, the royal family formed up behind and the procession slowly moved off and through into the Waterloo Chamber.

‘Now that I have you to myself, said the Queen, smiling to left and right as they glided through the glittering throng, ‘Ive been longing to ask you about the writer Jean Genet.

‘Ah, said the president. ‘Oui.

The ‘Marseillaise and the national anthem made for a pause in the proceedings, but when they had taken their seats Her Majesty turned to the president and resumed.

‘Homosexual and jailbird, was he nevertheless as bad as he was painted? Or, more to the point, and she took up her soup spoon, ‘was he as good?

Unbriefed on the subject of the glabrous

playwright and novelist, the president looked wildly about for his minister of culture. But she was being addressed by the Archbishop of Can-terbury.

‘Jean Genet, said the Queen again, helpfully. ‘Vous le connaissez?

‘Bien sûr, said the president.

‘Il mintéresse, said the Queen.

‘Vraiment? The president put down his spoon. It was going to be a long evening.

It was the dogs fault. They were snobs and ordinarily, having been in the garden, would have gone up the front steps, where a footman generally opened them the door.

Today, though, for some reason they careered along the terrace, barking their heads off, and scampered down the steps again and round the end along the side of the house, where she could hear them yapping at something in one of the yards.

It was the City of Westminster travelling library, a large removal-like van parked next to the bins outside one of the kitchen doors. This wasnt a part of the palace she saw much of, and she had certainly never seen the library parked there before, nor presumably had the dogs, hence the din, so having failed in her attempt to calm them down she went up the little steps of the van in order to apologise.

The driver was sitting with his back to her, sticking a label on a book, the only seeming borrower a thin ginger-haired boy in white overalls crouched in the aisle reading. Neither of them took any notice of the new arrival, so she coughed and said, ‘Im sorry about this awful racket, where-upon the driver got up so suddenly he banged his head on the Reference section and the boy in the aisle scrambled to his feet and upset Photography & Fashion.

She put her head out of the door. ‘Shut up this minute, you silly creatures, which, as had been the moves intention, gave the driver/librarian time to compose himself and the boy to pick up the books.

‘One has never seen you here before, Mr . . .

‘Hutchings, Your Majesty. Every Wednesday, maam.

‘Really? I never knew that. Have you come far?

‘Only from Westminster, maam.

‘And you are . . . ?

‘Norman, maam. Seakins.

‘And where do you work?

‘In the kitchens, maam.

‘Oh. Do you have much time for reading?

‘Not really, maam.

‘Im the same. Though now that one is here I suppose one ought to borrow a book.

Mr Hutchings smiled helpfully.

‘Is there anything you would recommend?

‘What does Your Majesty like?

The Queen hesitated, because to tell the truth she wasnt sure. Shed never taken much interest in reading. She read, of course, as one did, but liking books was something she left to other people. It was a hobby and it was in the nature of her job that she didnt have hobbies. Jogging, growing roses, chess or rock climbing, cake decoration, model aeroplanes. No. Hobbies involved preferences and preferences had to be avoided; pref-

erences excluded people. One had no preferences. Her job was to take an interest, not to be interested herself. And besides, reading wasnt doing. She was a doer. So she gazed round the book-lined van and played for time. ‘Is one allowed to borrow a book? One doesnt have a ticket?

‘No problem, said Mr Hutchings.

‘One is a pensioner, said the Queen, not that she was sure that made any difference.

‘Maam can borrow up to six books.

‘Six? Heavens!

Meanwhile the ginger-haired young man had made his choice and given his book to the librarian to stamp. Still playing for time, the Queen picked it up.

‘What have you chosen, Mr Seakins? expecting it to be, well, she wasnt sure what she expected, but it wasnt what it was. ‘Oh. Cecil Beaton. Did you know him?

‘No, maam.

‘No, of course not. Youd be too young. He always used to be round here, snapping away. And a bit of a tartar. Stand here, stand there. Snap, snap. And theres a book about him now?

‘Several, maam.

‘Really? I suppose everyone gets written about sooner or later.

She riffled through it. ‘Theres probably a picture of me in it somewhere. Oh yes. That one.

Of course, he wasnt just a photographer. He designed, too. Oklahoma!, things like that.

‘I think it was My Fair Lady, maam.

‘Oh, was it? said the Queen, unused to being contradicted. ‘Where did you say you worked? She put the book back in the boys big red hands.

‘In the kitchens, maam.

She had still not solved her problem, knowing that if she left without a book it would seem to Mr Hutchings that the library was somehow lacking. Then on a shelf of rather worn-looking

volumes she saw a name she remembered. ‘Ivy Compton-Burnett! I can read that. She took the book out and gave it to Mr Hutchings to stamp.

‘What a treat! she hugged it unconvincingly before opening it. ‘Oh. The last time it was taken out was in 1989.

‘Shes not a popular author, maam.

‘Why, I wonder? I made her a dame.

Mr Hutchings refrained from saying that this wasnt necessarily the road to the publics heart.

The Queen looked at the photograph on the back of the jacket. ‘Yes. I remember that hair, a roll like a pie-crust that went right round her head. She smiled and Mr Hutchings knew that the visit was over. ‘Goodbye.

He inclined his head as they had told him at the library to do should this eventuality ever arise, and the Queen went off in the direction of the garden with the dogs madly barking again, while Norman, bearing his Cecil Beaton, skirted a chef lounging outside by the bins having a cigarette and went back to the kitchens.

Shutting up the van and driving away, Mr Hutchings reflected that a novel by Ivy Compton-Burnett would take some reading. He had never got very far with her himself and thought, rightly, that borrowing the book had just been a polite gesture. Still, it was one that he appreciated and

as more than a courtesy. The council was always threatening to cut back on the library, and the patronage of so distinguished a borrower (or customer, as the council preferred to call it) would do him no harm.

‘We have a travelling library, the Queen said to her husband that evening. ‘Comes every Wednesday.

‘Jolly good. Wonders never cease.

‘You remember Oklahoma!?

‘Yes. We saw it when we were engaged. Extraordinary to think of it, the dashing blond boy he had been.

‘Was that Cecil Beaton?

‘No idea. Never liked the fellow. Green shoes.

‘Smelled delicious.

‘Whats that?

‘A book. I borrowed it.

‘Dead, I suppose.

‘Who?

‘The Beaton fellow.

‘Oh yes. Everybodys dead.

‘Good show, though.

And he went off to bed glumly singing ‘Oh, what a beautiful morning as the Queen opened her book.

 
 
Excerpted from The Uncommon Reader by Forelake Ltd. Copyright © 2007 by Forelake Ltd. Published in September 2007 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux, LLC. All rights reserved.
 

What Our Readers Are Saying

Add a comment for a chance to win!
Average customer rating based on 5 comments:

orchella, January 30, 2013 (view all comments by orchella)
This clever short novel relates a humorous fictional account of the effects of a bookmobile's stop at Buckingham Palace. Norman, a young servant, turns Queen Elizabeth on to reading, which changes her life. She becomes obsessed and takes a book everywhere, attempting to engage foreign diplomats in discussions of Genet and Proust. This is a joy to read, with the Queen and her subjects referring to her in the third person, and Prince Philip dull and superficial. Although satire of the highest order, it's gentle and amusing.
Was this comment helpful? | Yes | No
(1 of 2 readers found this comment helpful)
vmcougar, January 25, 2011 (view all comments by vmcougar)
I was so delighted with this small book! Does the Queen read? If so, what does she read and when? What a delightful idea for a book.
Mr. Bennett did a wonderful job taking 'one' into the Queen's world. I think this a great book for anyone. All the scenes were wonderfully described, but the one that I loved the best was the dogs response to the Queen's reading - I could just see them grabbing a book and shaking it and then dragging it off to finish the destruction.
Was this comment helpful? | Yes | No
(2 of 4 readers found this comment helpful)
Miss Marples, March 19, 2008 (view all comments by Miss Marples)
thanks Alan - spent some lovelly realaxing hours enjoying this very pleasant novella - wish the Queen could come for a cuppa in my conservatory- she'd be most welcome!
Was this comment helpful? | Yes | No
(4 of 10 readers found this comment helpful)
View all 5 comments

Product Details

ISBN:
9780374280963
Subtitle:
A Novella
Author:
Bennett, Alan
Publisher:
Picador
Subject:
General
Subject:
General Fiction
Subject:
Reading
Subject:
Kings, queens, rulers, etc.
Subject:
Queens
Subject:
Books and reading
Subject:
Great britain
Subject:
Humorous fiction
Subject:
Literary
Subject:
Humorous
Subject:
Literature-A to Z
Copyright:
Edition Description:
Trade Cloth
Publication Date:
20080930
Binding:
Electronic book text in proprietary or open standard format
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Pages:
128
Dimensions:
7.18 x 4.66 x 0.4 in

Other books you might like

  1. The Road
    Used Mass Market $4.50
  2. Snow Flower and the Secret Fan
    Used Trade Paper $2.95
  3. The Uncommon Reader: A Novella
    Used Trade Paper $5.50
  4. Someday This Pain Will Be Useful to You Used Trade Paper $6.50
  5. The Incredible Book Eating Boy
    New Mixed Media Product $14.50
  6. The Subtle Knife: His Dark...
    Used Mass Market $3.50

Related Subjects

Fiction and Poetry » Literature » A to Z

The Uncommon Reader Used Hardcover
0 stars - 0 reviews
$6.95 In Stock
Product details 128 pages Farrar Straus Giroux - English 9780374280963 Reviews:
"Synopsis" by , From the author of The History Boys and The Clothes They Stood Up In

A deliciously funny novella that celebrates the pleasure of reading. When the Queen in pursuit of her wandering corgis stumbles upon a mobile library she feels duty bound to borrow a book. Aided by Norman, a young man from the palace kitchen who frequents the library, Bennett describes the Queen's transformation as she discovers the liberating pleasures of the written word. With the poignant and mischievous wit of The History Boys, England's best loved author revels in the power of literature to change even the most uncommon reader's life. Alan Bennett is a renowned playwright and essayist whose screenplay for The Madness of King George was nominated for an Academy Award. He lives in London, England. An Economist Book of the Year The Uncommon Reader is a novella that celebrates the pleasure of reading. When the Queen in pursuit of her wandering corgis stumbles upon a mobile library, she feels duty bound to borrow a book. Aided by Norman, a young man from the palace kitchen who frequents the library, Bennett describes the Queen's transformation as she discovers the liberating pleasures of the written word. With the poignant and mischievous wit of The History Boys, one of England's best loved authors shows that literature can change even the most uncommon reader's life.

In The Uncommon Reader Mr. Bennett poses a delicious and very funny what-if: What if Queen Elizabeth at the age of 70-something were suddenly to become a voracious reader? What if she were to become an avid fan of Proust and Balzac, Turgenev and Trollope and Hardy? And what if reading were to lead her, in turn, to becoming a writer? Mr. Bennett's musings on these matters have produced a delightful little book that unfolds into a witty meditation on the subversive pleasures of reading . . . In recounting this story of a ruler who becomes a reader, a monarch who'd rather write than reign, Mr. Bennett has written a captivating fairy tale. It's a tale that's as charming as the old Gregory Peck-Audrey Hepburn movie Roman Holiday, and as keenly observed as Stephen Frears's award-winning movie The Queen--a tale that showcases its author's customary elan and keen but humane wit.--Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times

The Uncommon Reader, his new novella, is a kind of palace fairy tale for grown-ups. Once again he tells a story about an eccentric old lady, a character type he seems to enjoy . . . This time, his odd, isolated heroine is the queen of England. The story of her budding love affair with literature blends the comic and the poignant so smoothly it can only be by Bennett.--Jeremy McCarter, The New York Times Book Review

Bennett's absorption with royalty in works like A Question of Attribution and The Madness of King George III has sometimes seemed more cosy than critical, as if he were anxious to join the very establishment he purports to mock. Subtler than either of these in its playfulness, The Uncommon Reader improves delightfully on an otherwise depressing reality, while slily arraigning the ambiguous British romance with the monarchy and its current avatar.--Jonathan Keates, The Times Literary Supplement

The delights of Alan Bennett's The Uncommon Reader begin with its title, a gentle but deft on words, and flow forth in easeful perfection for the 120 pages that follow. (The infallible Mr. Bennett is the Brit responsible for such wonderful imports as Beyond the Fringe, Talking Heads and The History Boys.) The Uncommon Reader is quite lovely in ambition: a little cameo that, if you look closely, is about a very public woman walking up, late in life, to the fact that she has seen everything but the world.--Stephen Metcalf, The New York Observer

Clever and entertaining . . . In its witty, economical satire, The Uncommon Reader recalls the late work of Muriel Spark . . . The Uncommon Reader is a celebration of both reading and its counterpart, independent thinking.--Maud Newton, Los Angeles Times

In this charming novella Alan Bennett imagines what might occur if the sovereign of England, Queen Elizabeth herself, were suddenly to develop a ravenous passion for books. What might in less capable hands result in a labored exercise or an embarrassing instance of literary lese-majeste here becomes a delicious light comedy, as well as a meditation on the power of print . . . You can finish The Uncommon Reader in an hour or two, but it is charming enough and wise enough that you will almost certainly want to keep it around for rereading--unless you decide to share it with friends. Either way, this little book offers what English readers would call very good value for money.--Michael Dirda, The Washington Post

Toward the end of The Uncommon Reader, Alan Bennett's vivid imagining of what things might be like if Queen Elizabeth suddenly discovered a passion for reading . . . The conceit offered here by Mr. Bennett, the beloved British author and dramatist is that a woman of power can find and love the power in books. It is a simple equation and one that yields deep rewards. In what is a surprising and surprisingly touching novella, Mr. Bennett shows us why books matter to the queen, his 'uncommon' reader and why they matter so much to the rest of us . . . By the time the book reaches its hilarious and stunning conclusion, which I won't reveal here, a reader leaves wishing for more.--Carol Herman, The Washington Times

What one wouldn't give to be a fly within Buckingham Palace walls. Only then could one witness the royal reaction to The Uncommon Reader, Alan Bennett's deliciously funny fantasia about Queen Elizabeth.--Kerry Fried, Newsday

Alan Bennett, the celebrated English author of the play, The History Boys, explores the British analog to this conundrum in his breezy new novella, The Uncommon Reader. The conceit: Queen Elizabeth beco

"Synopsis" by ,
From the author of The History Boys and The Clothes They Stood Up In

 

 A deliciously funny novella that celebrates the pleasure of reading. When the Queen in pursuit of her wandering corgis stumbles upon a mobile library  she feels duty bound to borrow a book. Aided by Norman, a young man from the palace kitchen who frequents the library, Bennett describes the Queens transformation as she discovers the liberating pleasures of the written word. With the poignant and mischievous wit of The History Boys, Englands best loved author revels in the power of literature to change even the most uncommon readers life.

Alan Bennett is a renowned playwright and essayist whose screenplay for The Madness of King George was nominated for an Academy Award. He lives in London, England.
An Economist Book of the Year
 
The Uncommon Reader is a novella that celebrates the pleasure of reading. When the Queen in pursuit of her wandering corgis stumbles upon a mobile library, she feels duty bound to borrow a book. Aided by Norman, a young man from the palace kitchen who frequents the library, Bennett describes the Queens transformation as she discovers the liberating pleasures of the written word. With the poignant and mischievous wit of The History Boys, one of Englands best loved authors shows that literature can change even the most uncommon readers life.

"In The Uncommon Reader Mr. Bennett poses a delicious and very funny what-if: What if Queen Elizabeth at the age of 70-something were suddenly to become a voracious reader? What if she were to become an avid fan of Proust and Balzac, Turgenev and Trollope and Hardy? And what if reading were to lead her, in turn, to becoming a writer? Mr. Bennett's musings on these matters have produced a delightful little book that unfolds into a witty meditation on the subversive pleasures of reading . . . In recounting this story of a ruler who becomes a reader, a monarch who'd rather write than reign, Mr. Bennett has written a captivating fairy tale. It's a tale that's as charming as the old Gregory Peck-Audrey Hepburn movie Roman Holiday, and as keenly observed as Stephen Frears's award-winning movie The Queen—a tale that showcases its author's customary élan and keen but humane wit."—Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times

The Uncommon Reader, his new novella, is a kind of palace fairy tale for grown-ups. Once again he tells a story about an eccentric old lady, a character type he seems to enjoy . . . This time, his odd, isolated heroine is the queen of England. The story of her budding love affair with literature blends the comic and the poignant so smoothly it can only be by Bennett.”—Jeremy McCarter, The New York Times Book Review

“Bennetts absorption with royalty in works like A Question of Attribution and The Madness of King George III has sometimes seemed more cosy than critical, as if he were anxious to join the very establishment he purports to mock. Subtler than either of these in its playfulness, The Uncommon Reader improves delightfully on an otherwise depressing reality, while slily arraigning the ambiguous British romance with the monarchy and its current avatar.”—Jonathan Keates, The Times Literary Supplement

“The delights of Alan Bennetts The Uncommon Reader begin with its title, a gentle but deft on words, and flow forth in easeful perfection for the 120 pages that follow. (The infallible Mr. Bennett is the Brit responsible for such wonderful imports as Beyond the Fringe, Talking Heads and The History Boys.) The Uncommon Reader is quite lovely in ambition: a little cameo that, if you look closely, is about a very public woman walking up, late in life, to the fact that she has seen everything but the world.”—Stephen Metcalf, The New York Observer

“Clever and entertaining . . . In its witty, economical satire, The Uncommon Reader recalls the late work of Muriel Spark . . . The Uncommon Reader is a celebration of both reading and its counterpart, independent thinking.”—Maud Newton, Los Angeles Times

“In this charming novella Alan Bennett imagines what might occur if the sovereign of England, Queen Elizabeth herself, were suddenly to develop a ravenous passion for books. What might in less capable hands result in a labored exercise or an embarrassing instance of literary lese-majeste here becomes a delicious light comedy, as well as a meditation on the power of print . . . You can finish The Uncommon Reader in an hour or two, but it is charming enough and wise enough that you will almost certainly want to keep it around for rereading—unless you decide to share it with friends. Either way, this little book offers what English readers would call very good value for money.”—Michael Dirda, The Washington Post

“Toward the end of The Uncommon Reader, Alan Bennetts vivid imagining of what things might be like if Queen Elizabeth suddenly discovered a passion for reading . . . The conceit offered here by Mr. Bennett, the beloved British author and dramatist is that a woman of power can find and love the power in books. It is a simple equation and one that yields deep rewards. In what is a surprising and surprisingly touching novella, Mr. Bennett shows us why books matter to the queen, his ‘uncommon reader and why they matter so much to the rest of us . . . By the time the book reaches its hilarious and stunning conclusion, which I wont reveal here, a reader leaves wishing for more.”—Carol Herman, The Washington Times

“What one wouldnt give to be a fly within Buckingham Palace walls. Only then could one witness the royal reaction to The Uncommon Reader, Alan Bennetts deliciously funny fantasia about Queen Elizabeth.”—Kerry Fried, Newsday

“Alan Bennett, the celebrated English author of the play, The History Boys, explores the British analog to this conundrum in his breezy new novella, The Uncommon Reader. The conceit: Queen Elizabeth becomes a bookworm.”—Michael Schulman, The New York Sun

“The reader in Alan Bennetts hilariously and pointed novella, The Uncommon Reader, is a modern-day queen of England who happens upon a mobile library outside Buckingham Palace . . . The Uncommon Reader is a political and literary satire. But its also a lovely lesson in the redemptive and subversive power of reading and how one book can lead to another and another and another . . . The Uncommon Reader is an appreciation of reading not out of obligation, but purely for pleasure, without being preachy and pretentious . . . The Uncommon Reader is a lot of fun to read.”—Bob Minzesheimer, USA Today

"Bennett had the bright idea of giving the queen a life, and the genius of The Uncommon Reader is to propose tat the only new life a lady approaching eighty might plausibly have is a reading life . . . George Eliot argued that reading novels exercises and strengthens the muscle of human sympathy, and that caring about people in books makes us more caring about them in life: thus do novel-readers learn what Dorothea Brooke more painfully learns in Middlemarch, that even the desiccated Mr. Casaubon has 'an equivalent centre of self.' In his deadpan offhand way, Alan Bennett echoes George Eliot's point . . . With charm and intelligence, The Uncommon Reader engages the uses—and the decline—of reading . . . Throughout The Uncommon Reader, wit compensates for the inevitable and inconceivable, and comedy trumps tragedy, debility, even banality. Like George Eliot's masterpiece, Alan Bennett's novella about reading serves as an advertisement for itself, as well as a lovely book about aging—tender, forgiving, and even humorous in the face of death."—Rachel M. Brownstein, Commonweal 

“British screenwriter, playwright, and novelist Bennett, author of the Tony Award-winning play The History Boys, has written a wry and unusual story about the subversive potential of reading. Bennett posits a theoretical situation in which Queen Elizabeth II becomes an avid reader, and the new ideas she thus encounters change the way she thinks and reigns. Coming upon a traveling library near Buckingham Palace, Elizabeth, who almost never reads, decides to take a look. Mostly out of politeness, she begins to borrow from the library via a kitchen page. As she begins to view reading as her ‘duty, a way ‘to find out what people are like, she is exposed to increasingly sophisticated books and ideas that criticize society. As Elizabeth loses interest in the chain of ship launches and groundbreakings that make up her reign, her staff becomes resentful, and the story ends in an unexpected way.”—Christina Bauer, Library Journal

“A royal fable celebrating the transformative properties (and a few of the unsettling consequences) of reading as an obsession. In a country of commoners, the uncommon reader is the Queen. She has never been a reader, because reading isn't something that ‘one (as she invariably refers to herself) does. Yet an unlikely incident involving her dogs and a mobile library making its weekly appearance outside Buckingham Palace moves her to borrow a book. And then another. And another, until reading has become her life's focus . . . There are some funny bits: her questioning of the president of France about Jean Genet (of whom he hasn't a clue) and the disdain she develops for the ‘perpetually irritating Henry James. She also enjoys a lovely visit with one of her literary subjects, Alice Munro. Perhaps the keenest insight here concerns her difficulty with Jane Austen, whose novels pivot so frequently on class distinctions that the Queen herself has never experienced. Those who love reading will recognize the process of the Queen's enrapturing, how one book inevitably leads to another, and so many others, and that the richness of the reading life will always be offset by the recognition that time grows shorter as the list of books grows longer.”—Kirkus Reviews

"Briskly original and subversively funny, this novella from popular British writer Bennett sends Queen Elizabeth II into a mobile library van in pursuit of her runaway corgis and into the reflective, observant life of an avid reader. Guided by Norman, a former kitchen boy and enthusiast of gay authors, the queen gradually loses interest in her endless succession of official duties and learns the pleasure of such a common activity. With the dawn of her sensibility . . . mistaken for the onset of senility, plots are hatched by the prime minister and the queen's staff to dispatch Norman and discourage the queen's preoccupation with books. Ultimately, it is her own growing self-awareness that leads her away from reading and toward writing, with astonishing results. Bennett has fun with the proper behavior and protocol at the palace, and the few instances of mild coarseness seem almost scandalous. There are lessons packed in here, but Bennett doesn't wallop readers with them."—Publishers Weekly

spacer
spacer
  • back to top
Follow us on...




Powell's City of Books is an independent bookstore in Portland, Oregon, that fills a whole city block with more than a million new, used, and out of print books. Shop those shelves — plus literally millions more books, DVDs, and gifts — here at Powells.com.