Home » Reading » The cataclysms of Alan Bennetts better untold ‘Untold Stories.’

The cataclysms of Alan Bennetts better untold ‘Untold Stories.’

Alan Bennett ‘Untold Stories.’

I want to get this out of the way before I forget.

For some reason, first my mother, when in my early thirties thought I’d get something from Alan Bennett and started to send me things like ‘Beyond the Fringe,’ and more usefully as I collect screenplays and scripts, ‘Talking Heads’.

Then my mother in law, so often so right about what interests me gets me ‘Untold Stories’ on the basis that she knows I keep a diary (though I hope she never reads it).

I find something I like I can lift quotes from every other page.

‘A writer only feels he or she is a writer at the point of performance, the moment of writing. Do anything else, even related activities like research or background reading, and the claim seems fraudulent. A writer is only a writer when writing. The rest is marking time.’


‘For a long time, years even, it seemed to me I had nothing to put into what I wrote; and nor had I. I did not yet appreciate that you do not put yourself into what you write; you find yourself there.’

Why I ditched my Henry Miller and Anais Nin collections I don’t know. With Allan Bennett I can barely fill a page of A4 from a book that is some 700 pages long (and about 500 pages too long).

I like this description of his mother’s mental collapse. My grandmother went through the same. Sad. But relevant for a story I’ve been battling with for a couple of years.

‘Embarking on one story, she switches almost instantly to another and then another and while her sentences still retain grammatical from they have no sequence or sense.’

Alan Bennett, ‘Untold Stories.’ 2005.

This could be a critic commenting on my first draft of ‘Enter@Random,’ but as this has yet to find a publisher, I’m yet to have anyone comment on it.

‘Bobbing about in a ceaseless flood of unmeaning.’

Alan Bennett, ‘Untold Stories.’ 2005.

He continues, this however is the premise of my latent novel. The person who is in this state of mind is lost. That is how he perceives his existence.

By now, pointed in this direction by someone here in Diaryland, I have read ‘Slaughterhouse 5.’ Kurt Vonnegut. A favourite of my brother’s in the early 70s I think. Anyway, this guy leaps about, almost at random, from one moment in his life to another.

The problem, of course, is how to make this a relevant plot event, rather than a crude device to offer up anecdote and memoir in anything but the logical, chronological order that is generally required.

Hit the ‘Enter@Random,’ (I’ll put in the html code when I’m feeling less on the verge of spewing into the keyboard) link in this diary and see what happens. Keep doing it and see if it ever makes sense, if a twenty random hits give you any picture at all of the person who wrote these entries.

Alan Bennett continue with describing his late mother’s demise, from mental collapse into physical collapse.

‘Until the decay of the body catches up with the decay of the mind.’

Alan Bennett, ‘Untold Stories.’ 2005.

More often, the story that gets told, is when it goes the other way round. When a cancer sufferer describes their physical decay and can get this inner conversation down ‘til the day the frame that holds their body dissolves in the sheets of the bed they are in.


I don’t know if this is me, or Alan Bennett.

There was a time when I couldn’t nor would I read any book, fiction or non-fiction without a notebook to hand; I’d mark and annotate as I went along. These days this only happens IF the book deserves a second reading, or if something in the first chapter suggests I should keep a pen handy.

Only from the pen of Alan Bennett could so much, that is so dull, end up in publication. If critics and the public don’t see this then they are guilty of cheering the naked Alan Bennett as he walks up to collect a book award. He reveals himself to be dull to the core. He reveals why personal diaries should never be published, unless highly meretricious or scandalous or as annotations to some brilliant piece of enterprise, be it a novel, film, piece of theatre, architecture, party political campaigning, war mongering something or other.

‘Speech comes out of babbles and no one refers to it.’

Alan Bennett, ‘Untold Stories.’ 2005.

Like this twaddle.

Or any twaddle from any of us twaddlers online. How often doesn’t anyone even care to point out that we are bonkers, boring, can’t write, don’t read, don’t travel, don’t do much with our lives and in so doing reveal f*ck all about the people we are.

On writing a piece of character led fiction

A simple device to write a good story, I am told, as with nothing published to prove otherwise, I would not know – is to take an ordinary character and shove them through extraordinary circumstances. The reverse works too, taking an extraordinary character and parachuting them into the dull and forcing change – such as I witnessed yesterday watching Bagdad Café for the first time – a giveaway DVD on the Guardian weeks ago. I watched it in bed, not feeling great, on my iBook. It got my attention from the start, got me laughing and crying – and a little mad at how one of the leads ruins this ensemble piece.

See how even a little can act as a catalyst to so much more.

Maybe I’m being unfair. ‘Untold Stories.’ 2005 would hardly be worth publishing as a pamphlet, though I’d still argue that this is all it deserves. I doubt anyone reading this now or in the future will go near the book.

Let me send you my copy.

‘School – when sex seems an extension of organised games. The boys who are good at one are likely to be good at the other.’

Alan Bennett, ‘Untold Stories.’ 2005.


Ooooh. I could go on about this for a few days. (I will, keep reminding me).

(An aside. Ill but sober. Tanked up with coffee. Able to write between bouts of coughing. Do I feel I may be running out of time????Naaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah)

GOT HERE 9.03 Saturday. Will return.

Other quotes from Alan Bennett, sans notes.

‘A writer has to use whatever is to hand in the way of experience; he or she is in the business of making mountains out of molehills.’

I’m in the business of making mountains into molehills, or cow pats, or guinea-pig droppings, with extra sugar added.


‘The random trigonometry points of life’

Which relates back to ‘Enter@Random’ and how to make it work.

On Honours

The happiest temperament to have is one that accepts whatever distinction is offered, and accepts it graciously and without fuss or a lot of soul-searching. This is the nearest one gets to genuine modesty.

On Cancer

The regimen followed by Michael Gearin-Tosh, diagnosed with a multiple myeloma, surviving ten years + on a crack diet.

(My father, diagnosed with cancer, did nothing, chose to have no medical assistance, told non of his blood relatives …)

On Doctors

Because we want someone else to take charge of our life.

On writers and writing

The only piece I read over before taking the book to the Red Cross shop beneath my office or giving it to my mother.

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