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Archive for the ‘Humor’ Category

uncommon.jpgI’ve just finished The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett. It took forever to get my hands on it — Multnomah County owns 12 copies but there were many people waiting. It took only a couple of hours to read, but what a pleasure. The premise is that the Queen, in wrangling her incorrigible corgis, discovers that the local library’s book mobile makes a regular stop by the kitchens at Windsor Palace. Stepping in to apologize for the ruckus, she thinks it only polite to borrow a book.

“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.’

‘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. ”

queen.jpgAnd so begins a love affair with books that will change forever her sense of duty and her relations with the politicians, servants and celebrities that people her life.

Bennett is a charming writer and there were many laugh out loud moments. And through it all he confirms what all librarians know: if only people would read, they would be better, smarter, more sensitive and wiser, though not necessarily more content. The Queen begins by turning her focus inward, but more and more finds her perception of things going on around her is sharpened by her reading. This leads to a stunning denouement, about which I will say no more.

Bennett is also the author of The Clothes they Stood Up In and of the screenplay The History Boys, a movie I can heartily recommend.

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lapham.jpgSometimes it gets to be all a bit too much – I just started reading The Archivist’s Story, which takes place in Russia in the nightmarish years after the revolution. So far it promises to be a good read, but not – let’s face it – summer candy. This reminded me of a book that was a pleasure to read. Lapham Rising by Roger Rosenblatt is the story of a curmudgeonly recluse who lives on a small island – so far so good. But here’s the conflict – an ostentatious mulit-millionaire purchases the land directly across from Harry’s house and sets about building an atrocious mcMansion. Every day Harry awakes to a cacophony of bulldozers, hammers and the like. To make matters worse, his talking dog Hector is of no comfort. While Harry leans toward liberalism (as long as it doesn’t require him to talk to anyone) Hector is a scolding evangalist and would certainly be a Republican if he could vote. Thwarted on all sides, Harry launches a ‘Mousetrap'(tm)-like plan to bring the millionaire to his knees and show his dog a thing or to about living by one’s principles. This was a laugh-out-loud book for me, which is a rarity. There’s nothing better than a ‘stickin’ it to the man’ story even if the man just thinks he’s been bitten by a mosquito.

Readers might be familiar with Rosenblatt from his New Yorker writings and commentaries on PBS.

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