Thursday, May 8, 2008

Across the Pond -- Some Short Reads

A little book I came across made my day this week. "The Uncommon Reader" by Alan Bennett is about the Queen of England. Not a former queen in a different century, but about the current queen. This is a work of fiction, but it was an absolutely charming bit of fiction. The Queen is out on the grounds with her corgies one day when they run away and over to a mobile library that parks there on occasion. To be polite, she borrows a book while making the patrons there extremely uncomfortable with her very presence. She's used to people being paralyzed with fear, so she takes in all in stride, but is impressed by the composure of a young man there who works in the kitchens of the palace. She borrows the book, finds it dry and when she returns it later, decides to make that her last book choice from the library. But this same young man convinces her otherwise and she picks something more worthwhile. She then discovers the pleasure of reading for fun. The Queen is one who does her duty first and foremost with sacrificing all personal indulgences. But reading has her hooked. She makes that young man be her personal assistant with his sole job being to provide her with books and to read them along with her. Her entire staff is baffled by her sudden change in habits and mannerisms and the Queen herself discovers how reading has changed who she is. At eighty years old, she figures it's better late than never.

I loved this book because of the person the Queen evolves into from reading. I can completely relate to getting so caught up in a book that very little otherwise gets done. I can relate to hunting down people to talk with about a recent read. But I cannot relate to being a monarch. Queen Elizabeth finds that reading makes her more sensitive to the people who surround her, but also isolates her. She keeps trying to bring up reading and books to everyone she encounters, including the President of France and various other world leaders, but she's usually met with puzzled looks. She has no use for fantasy (pity) and when she comes across someone who excited says they are reading Harry Potter, her reply is "Oh yes, well, one is saving that for a rainy day." One of the best parts is when she's reading while in a parade and when she gets out of the carriage, she sticks the book under the cushion. When her personal security finds it, they assume it's a bomb and tell her that they exploded it. Her wrath from this just goes to show how it can help to be Queen when somebody ticks you off.

A totally charming book. A short read, but worth an afternoon. On a completely different note, I got an audiobook by Stephen Colbert to listen to as I did housework. Stephen Colbert of The Colbert Report (both with a silent "t") wrote "I am America (and so can you!)" with the sole purpose of offending every living person on the planet. It's satire, of course, but with how blind some people can be to what satire is, you have to wonder how many people he ticks off on regular basis. It's actually sounds like a fun job to have. I usually tick people off without any monetary benefit, so getting paid to do it has more appeal. Those of you who already watch The Colbert Report appreciate his humor, but it's new to me and I thought it was really well done. Not something I'd want to listen to every day, but a little bit of fun. It was an audiobook, so there were sections I skipped for the sake of smaller bystanders. He covers sports, politics, education, dating, and gender, but the best parts are when he gets "regular" Americans to do the "Stephen Speaks For Me" segments. Hilarious.

One book charming, one book slightly warped. I can whole-heartedly recommend the first for all readers, but Colbert is more of an acquired taste. Pick your continent and go for it.

No comments:

Post a Comment