Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Reading Silently, Laughing Out Loud

I love Alan Bennett's writing -- he was a member of the British comedy group called Beyond the Fringe, and has written plays, memoirs, essays ... lots of stuff. As soon as I read the paragraph below in his Untold Stories -- a collage of diary, memoir, and essay -- I phoned my brother to read it to him. We couldn't stop laughing. Every time we tried to go to another subject we failed because we just broke out anew in another round of helpless laughter.

The funeral is at a featureless crematorium in Lytham St. Annes. Afterwards we go for a lunch to a roadhouse on the outskirts. I sit next to my grandmother's niece, Cousin Florence, who keeps a boarding house in Blackpool. A down-to-earth woman, she eats a large meal of lukewarm lasagna, then puts down her fork and says, "Well, that's the first time I've dined off brown plates." Grief is not much in evidence, though with Cousin Florence it is hardly to be expected. Her husband's name was Frank, and six months before we had had a two-page letter filling us in on all her news. Halfway down the second page came the sentence: "Frank died last week, haven't we been having some weather?" Seldom can a comma have borne such a burden.

Elsewhere in Untold Stories he reports a friend saying, at the time the Idiot-in-Chief Bush was gearing up to take Baghdad: "The world has turned upside down. The best golfer in the world is black; the best rapper in the world is white; and now there is a war and ... guess what? ... Germany doesn't want to be in it."

1 comment:

  1. George,

    Once again you have introduced me to a new friend. I have read most of Untold Stories and have Writing Home waiting in the wings. I just finished a 14 show run of a Children's Theatre production I was working in at university and was glad to come across this articulate theatre icon, just at the right time.