Boulder City Magazine® December 2010/January 2011 Issue
by Fran Haraway
The Uncommon Reader
by Alan Bennett
Here is a little gem of a novel which offers this proposal: What if Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II develops a love of reading, and what if, like many of us, her desire to read becomes much stronger than her desire to carry out necessary responsibilities? Would the empire collapse? Well, almost.
Boulder City Magazine®
|Queen Elizabeth accidentally comes upon a mobile lending library, and, to be polite, borrows a book. When she returns it, she finds that the only other patron of the library is also a member of her staff; he works in the kitchens. The young man, Norman Seakins, becomes her amanuensis, and she becomes, in her own word, an “opsimath” (one who begins learning late in life).
The Queen soon finds that although she now has many avenues of discussion to pursue, the heads of state, members of the Privy Council, and other formidably titled men with whom she must converse have no means of responding because they are not readers.
Still, she becomes more and more enchanted with her new pastime which means that she pays less attention to her wardrobe than before, and she is a minute or two late for appointments because she could not put her book down. Horrors!
Early on, Queen Elizabeth comprehends that the appeal of reading is that, “Books did not care who was reading them or whether one read them or not. All readers were equal, herself included.”
Thus, when she tries to engage an equerry in conversation, the servant’s response was that, “ . . . she was beginning to show her age. Thus it was that the dawn of sensibility was mistaken for the onset of senility.”
The Queen takes the next step and decides that she must become a writer - an idea which terrifies most of her advisors, who don’t want their actions recorded. But as The Queen says, “At eighty, things do not occur; they recur.”
She also has another idea which she offers in the last few lines of the book, and it’s a corker!
If you are interested in this book or would like to learn more, contact me at info@bouldercity magazine.com.
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