Thursday, April 26, 2007

The Clothes They Stood Up In

I'm adding playwright Alan Bennett's little novel The Clothes They Stood Up In to the B-list. It's about an English couple who come home from the opera to find their apartment burgled and all their furniture and possessions missing. In many ways it's a perfect model for a novel: What do the characters want? They want their stuff back! I find myself going back to it over and over again -- or at least wishing I could go back to it, because even though Bennett is in the beginning of the alphabet, that book must be packed. I can't find it.

Bennett doesn't write much fiction at all -- this might be his only novel, and it's really a novella -- but I wish he'd write more. I first became interested in him after I'd read an interview in which he talked about having writer's block.

The Clothes They Stood Up In is published in America in the same volume as The Lady In the Van, a diary Bennett kept of the fifteen years an eccentric old woman lived in a van in his driveway. Really! It starts like this:

'I ran into a snake this afternoon,' Miss Shepherd said. 'It was coming up Parkway. It was long, grey snake -- a boa constrictor possibly. It looked poisonous. It was keeping close to the wall and seemed to know its way. I've a feeling it was heading for the van.' I was relieved that on this occasion she didn't demand that I ring the police, as she regularly did if anything out of the ordinary occurred. Perhaps this was too out of the ordinary (though it turned out that the pet shop in Parkway had been broken into the previous night, so she may have seen a snake). She brought her mug over and I made her a drink, which she took back to the van. 'I thought I'd better tell you,' she said, 'just to be on the safe side. I've had some close shaves with snakes.'



zoe said...

Have you seen "Talking Heads" his monologue series? They are absolutely brilliant. His characters are really funny and sad often in the same line. Superb.

Murzban F. Shroff said...

Strange, how literature broaches new horizons. There is a small Alan Bennett fan club taking shape in India. In the last month four persons have recommended I read his work.

rmellis said...

I haven't seen "Talking Heads," but I will definitely try to track it down.

I think Alan Bennett is wonderful, and maybe I should start fan club here. He doesn't seem to have a huge following here in the states...