by Alan Bennett
Bennett, the redoubtable, marvelously funny Leeds-born Renaissance man, began his professional theatrical career as one quarter of the talent behind the ’60s satirical revue Beyond the Fringe. (Dudley Moore, Peter Cook and Jonathan Miller were his confreres.) Since then Bennett has written plays (Habeas Corpus, An Englishman Abroad, The Madness of George III, which he adapted for the screen), movies (A Private Function) and directed at the Royal National Theatre. He has also written incisive literary criticism, essays and tributes that, gathered together in Writing Home, fuse into an engaging autobiography.
In a collection so diverse, it’s hard to highlight the best pieces. Is it Bennett’s amusing recollections of his childhood during World War II? An account of the 15 years he gave over his garden to a fierce, feisty woman whose home was a van? Or maybe it’s diary entries like “October 1: I mend a puncture on my bike. I get pleasure out of being able to do simple, practical jobs—replacing a fuse, changing a wheel, jump-starting a car—because they are not generally associated with a temperament like mine. I tend to put sexual intercourse in this category too.” (Random House, $25)