Keeping On Keeping On: Diaries 2005-2014 by Alan Bennett
|Keeping On Keeping On: Diaries 2005-2014 by Alan Bennett|
|Reviewer: Sue Magee|
|Summary: An abridged version of the diaries as broadcast on BBC Radio 4's Book of the Week. An absolute pleasure to listen to and highly recommended.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 2h16m||Date: November 2016|
|Publisher: BBC Physical Audio|
Alan Bennett's prose collections have been something to look forward to for years. They're a collection of excerpts from his diaries plus prose pieces of various lengths. I read Writing Home soon after publication - it was a Christmas present and I enjoyed it greatly, but it wasn't until I was deep into Untold Stories that I realised the extent to which Bennett had been less than frank in Writing Home. Bennett wrote Untold Stories in the knowledge that he had cancer and had only an even chance of survival: he assumed that his executors would make the decision as to what should be published. What was published - and by Bennett - was more open than the earlier work. Keeping On Keeping On follows and extends that trend.
I haven't read the unabridged diaries (Christmas hasn't arrived yet, you see) but I was lucky enough to be given this two CD recording of the diaries as broadcast on BBC Radio 4's Book of the Week and what a treat they've proved to be. On each CD you get five pieces of approximately 13½ minutes each, read by Bennett himself. Taken in order they're chronological excerpts from the diaries. Bennett says that he's not a dedicated diarist, writing when he has something to say rather than setting time aside each day. He's reached the stage in life when many days are much the same.
What he does have to say though is always thought provoking and there's a perfect mix of the laugh-out-loud funny (being asked when if won an award in the USA if he thought it would kick start his career), the poignant (the death of his agent - and rather too many more of his friends) and comments on what amounts to the idiocy of political life. I loved the story of his being told about the office sweepstake where people had the names of celebrities and took the accumulated pot on the death of their celebrity - a story told by a friend of the person who had Bennett's name. He mused on the fact that his death could bring delight to one household in the UK.
A two and a quarter hour recording of a book which is 736 pages in length is obviously going to lack the depth of the larger work, but this is Alan Bennett and the chances that it's just a cherry picking of the best bits are small. I've listened to the recording a couple of times, once whilst doing some work in the kitchen and needing company and once whilst just watching the birds in the garden - for the pleasure of both. I'd like to thank the publishers for sending the recording to The Bookbag.
Do read Untold Stories. If Bennet appeals then you might also like Living on Paper: Letters from Iris Murdoch, 1934-1995 by Iris Murdoch, Avril Horner and Anne Rowe. Best of all might be Michael Palin's diaries.
You could get a free audio download of Keeping On Keeping On: Diaries 2005-2014 by Alan Bennett with a 30-day Audible free trial at Amazon.co.uk.
You can read more book reviews or buy Keeping On Keeping On: Diaries 2005-2014 by Alan Bennett at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy Keeping On Keeping On: Diaries 2005-2014 by Alan Bennett at Amazon.com.
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