Untold Stories

Front Cover
Macmillan, 2005 - Biography & Autobiography - 658 pages
9 Reviews

“[Bennett] does what only the best writers can do—make us look at ourselves in a way we’ve never done before.”        —Michael Palin

 

Untold Storiesbrings together some of the finest and funniest writing by one of England’s best-known literary figures. Alan Bennett’s first major collection sinceWriting Homecontains previously unpublished work—including the title piece, a poignant memoir of his family and of growing up in Leeds—along with his much celebrated diary for the years 1996 to 2004, and numerous other exceptional essays, reviews, and comic pieces. In this highly anticipated compendium, the Today Book Club author ofThe Clothes They Stood Up Inreveals a great many untold secrets and stories with his inimitable humor and wry honesty—his family’s unspoken history, his memories of Peter Cook and Dudley Moore, and his response to the success of his most recent play,The History Boys.

Since the success ofBeyond the Fringein the 1960s, Bennett has delighted audiences worldwide with writing that is, in his words, “no less serious because it is funny.”The History Boysopened to great acclaim at the Royal National Theatre in 2004, winning numerous awards, and is scheduled to open in New York City in April 2006.

 

Alan Bennetthas been one of England's leading dramatists since the success ofBeyond the Fringein the 1960s. His television seriesTalking Headshas become a modern-day classic, as have many of his works for the stage, includingForty Years On,The Lady in the Van,A Question of Attribution, TheMadness of George III(together with the Academy Award-nominated screenplayThe Madness of King George), and an adaptation of Kenneth Grahame'sThe Wind in the Willows. His most recent play,The History Boys, won a Tony award and Evening Standardand Critics Circle awards for best play, the Laurence Olivier Award for best new play and the South Bank Award in England. AKirkus ReviewsBest Book of the Year   Untold Storiesbrings together some of the finest and funniest writing by one of England's best-known literary figures. Alan Bennett's first major collection sinceWriting Homecontains previously unpublished work—including the title piece, a poignant memoir of his family and of growing up in Leeds—along with his much celebrated diary for the years 1996 to 2004, and numerous other exceptional essays, reviews, and comic pieces. In this highly anticipated compendium, theTodayBook Club author ofThe Clothes They Stood Up Inreveals a great many untold secrets and stories with his inimitable humor and wry honesty—his family's unspoken history, his memories of Peter Cook and Dudley Moore, and his response to the success of his most recent play,The History Boys.   Since the success ofBeyond the Fringein the 1960s, Bennett has delighted audiences worldwide with writing that is, in his words, "no less serious because it is funny." InUntold Stories, Bennett describes his mother's fight with depression, his own illness and being savagely mugged in Italy with his partner, Rupert Thomas. As theDaily Telegraphdeclared, "This thick book is so full of good things they could sell it for twice the price . . . 'All masterpieces are eloquent,' [Bennett] writes in one of his art-historical pieces. 'Not all of them are articulate.'Untold Storiesis both." "[Alan Bennett's] 1994 book,Writing Home, a collection of diary entries, prefaces to his plays and odd bits of literary journalism, was a surprise best seller in Britain, and now he has followed it up withUntold Stories, an even larger and more varied grab bag. It, too, contains prefaces and diary entries, and also book reviews and introductions, what appear to be some memorial-service tributes, some lectures and essays about art (a particular passion of Bennett's) and three surprising, funny and deeply affecting memoirs: about his family, about getting beaten up in Italy and about his very close call with colon cancer in 1997."—Charles McGrath,The New York Times Book Review   "Bennett has taken the vulgarity—not to mince words—out of confessional writing by his humor, compassion (for those who deserve it), and self-deprecation . . . the quietly penetrating decency of this big book is a genuine balm."—Katherine A. Powers,Boston Globe  

"Alan Bennett is undoubtedly one of the most popular writers of recognized literary merit in England . . . He is, in short, a national treasure, and the popularity of his occasional writings . . . is both a symptom and confirmation of that status . . . Again and again in this book he demonstrates that almost anything that happens to a person can be interesting, moving and entertaining if you write about it well enough."—David Lodge,TheNew YorkReview of Books

 

"It's tempting to seeUntold Storiesas a comedy in which the hero, after much hardship, finds lasting love and—fingers crossed—health. But that would underplay the sheer (which is not always to say pure) pleasure of so many entries. Whether he's sharing some of his favorite paintings with schoolchildren . . . or taking us through his student rooms (and dreams) at Oxford, Alan Bennett may not be 'a joiner' but he is brilliantly engaged—and engaging.”—Kerry Fried,Newsday

  "[This collection] is told with such honesty that it is heartbreaking and deeply moving . . . Bennett's experience is a reminder that the people we care for, though they may never have made much of a stir in the world, have nevertheless—for us—a value beyond price . . . This piece should be required for all health-care workers, as it is a vivid reminder of what it actually feels like to be a patient and at the mercy of large impersonal forces including the health-care system itself and the fates."—Keith Monroe,Winston-SalemJournal Book Review   "I have never read a book of this length where I have turned the last page with such regret. It is intelligent, educated, engaging, humane, self-aware, cantankerous and irresistibly funny. You want it to go on for ever."—John Carey,The Sunday Times(London)   "A great achievement and a book of lasting value . . . This is art of no mean order, though subtly concealed . . . It is full of humour, without pomposity or self-dramatisation. Bennett has always been conscious, like Thoreau, that most people lead lives of quiet desperation, but he also sees that they are funny, and he has a matchless talent for making them interesting."—Jane Stevenson,The Observer(London)   "Extraordinary . . . Bennett writes: 'I have never found it easy to belong.' AfterUntold Stories, I have no hesitation in saying he belongs to all of us. And we're all grateful."—Cal McCrystal,The Independent
 

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LibraryThing Review

User Review  - LynleyS - LibraryThing

I probably would've given this five stars had I been English, but many of the people mentioned and politics discussed were unfamiliar to me, which hindered my understanding a little. Alan Bennett is a genius. I've thought this before, and still think so after reading this book. Read full review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - GeorgeBowling - LibraryThing

This is a lovely book that kept me entertained on my commuter journeys for going on a month. It is a sprawling unweildly collection of Bennett's musings on life, Leeds, family, philosophy, art ... Read full review

Contents

The Ginnel
174
The Lady in the Van
367
The National Theatre
383
Hymn
409
Cheeky Chappies
416
The Last of the Sun
423
Thora Hird
436
Going to the Pictures
453
Spoiled for Choice
477
A Common Assault
557
Arise Sir
578
An Average Rock Bun
596
Acknowledgements
629
Copyright

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About the author (2005)

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.

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