Smut: Book summary and reviews of Smut by Alan Bennett

Smut

Stories

by Alan Bennett

Smut
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  • Published in USA  Jan 2012
    160 pages
    Genre: Short Stories & Essays

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Book Summary

One of England's finest and most loved writers explores the uncomfortable and tragicomic gap between people's public appearance and their private desires in two tender and surprising stories.

In "The Greening of Mrs. Donaldson," a recently bereaved widow finds interesting ways to supplement her income by performing as a patient for medical students, and renting out her spare room. Quiet, middle-class, and middle-aged, Mrs. Donaldson will soon discover that she rather enjoys role-play at the hospital, and the irregular and startling entertainment provided by her tenants.

In "The Shielding of Mrs. Forbes," a disappointed middle-aged mother dotes on her only son, Graham, who believes he must shield her from the truth. As Graham's double life becomes increasingly complicated, we realize how little he understands, not only of his own desires but also those of his mother.

A master storyteller dissects a very English form of secrecy with two stories of the unexpected in otherwise apparently ordinary lives.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Starred Review. Bennett (The History Boys) finds abundant droll humor in his characters without patronizing them (quite the opposite; he's endearingly sympathetic), and captures the intimacy of a natural storyteller talking directly to the rapt reader." - Publishers Weekly

"Artfully entertaining… On one particular subject Bennett is incomparably brilliant: role-playing, which is the meat of both stories." - Financial Times (UK)

"Bennett's humor consistently resides in the logic of the parenthetical aside, the comedy of the false appearances or misperceptions being challenged or disabused... Mrs. Donaldson is not as unconventional as she thought herself, and no one around Mr. Forbes is where - or who - they pretend to be." - The Guardian (UK)

"Tender and comic… This is Bennett's world, where repression is never far from the sexual act... Good, old-fashioned British humor with the lightest of subversive twists." - The Independent (UK)

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Reader Reviews

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Cloggie Downunder

very entertaining
“Smut: two unseemly stories” is, as the title suggests, an omnibus of two short stories by English author and actor, Alan Bennett. The first story is The Greening of Mrs Donaldson. Mrs Donaldson, recently widowed, finds herself a little short on cash and decides to take a student couple as lodgers. When they find themselves unable to pay the rent, they come to a novel arrangement with their landlady. Mrs Donaldson’s other source of income is working as a Simulated Patient in medical student training; she becomes so talented at this that the consequences are almost grave. Bennett provides the reader with plenty of laugh out loud moments; the dialogue is oftimes dryly witty and occasionally hilarious. Full of understated British humour.
The second story is The Shielding of Mrs Forbes. When Graham Forbes decides to marry Betty Greene, Muriel Forbes’s objections are manifold: name, age, looks, religion and something else she hasn’t mentioned. Edwards Forbes has no such objections, wondering only if his fastidious son has “done it” with Betty yet. As more of their private lives is revealed (and I found that somewhat reminiscent of Maupin’s Tales of the City), we learn that everyone is intent on shielding Mrs Forbes to safeguard her innocence. According to Alan Bennett, there is a lot more promiscuity in staid British households than you or I were ever aware. Very entertaining.
These two stories are at least as funny as his earlier work, The Uncommon Reader, if in a completely different vein. I really enjoyed them.

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Author Information

Alan Bennett Author Biography

Author and actor Alan Bennett was born in Armley in Leeds, Yorkshire in 1934. He attended Leeds Modern School and learned Russian at the Join Services School for Linguists during his National Service, during which he attended Cambridge University. He applied for a scholarship at Oxford University from which he graduated with a first-class degree in History

After some time teaching and studying at Oxford, in 1960 Bennett, along with Dudley Moore, Jonathan Miller, and Peter Cook, achieved instant fame by appearing at the Edinburgh Festival in the satirical revue Beyond the Fringe. His first stage play, Forty Years On, was produced in 1968. Many television, stage and radio plays followed, along with screenplays, short stories, novellas, a large body of non-fictional prose and ...

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