Sunday, July 19, 2009

Uncommon Reader

by Alan Bennett

This book was touted as a celebration of reading and irresistible to avid readers but I was disappointed. While it was cute and amusing and I appreciated the depiction of the Queen discovering the joys of reading and then refining her tastes as all readers do, the ending really spoiled it for me. ***Spoiler Alert*** I was annoyed that the Queen eventually abandons reading and decides that she must write instead.
Had she been asked if reading had enriched her life she would have had to say yes, undoubtedly, though adding with equal certainty that it had at the same time drained her of life of all purpose. Once she had been a self- assured single-minded woman knowing where her duty lay and intent on doing if for as long as she was able. Now all too often she was in two minds. Reading was not doing, that had always been the trouble. p. 100
[S]he did not want simply to be a reader. A reader was next door to being a spectator, whereas when she was writing she was doing, and doing was her duty. p. 102
As an avid reader I believe that there is value in reading and that reading is an end to itself, not simply a means to become a writer. If this were truly a celebration of reading then the Queen would not have given up reading in favor of writing. I was also annoyed that reading had such a pronounced detrimental influence on her performance as Queen. While I generally enjoy antidotes about the crazy things that people do who get a little too carried away by books or reading, the antidotes in this story did not strike me as humorous. Instead of identifying with the strong impulse to read that I believe all avid readers share, it merely made me sad that reading had turned into such a negative that she was unable to perform her duties, especially when she actually abdicated the throne to become a writer. I did enjoy the beginning of the book, especially the way that reading opened her eyes to to the world at large and made her more aware of the people around her. While I had high hopes for this little story, I was disappointed.

1 comment:

Carl V. said...

I certainly don't see reading as being next door to being a spectator. To me reading is an intimate and engaging activity and to truly enjoy it a person has to go on the journey that the story takes them on. Add to that the fact that so many books, fiction and non-fiction alike provide inspiration. I can see why you were disappointed with the ending. It feels like a slap in the face to readers.