Monday, December 5, 2016

Her Royal Readership

Below you'll find a short biography about Alan Bennett from Cyclopedia of World Authors. For those who prefer to read a review of our book, click The New York Times' book review.

Alan Bennett, one of England’s most popular and critically acclaimed playwrights, was born in Leeds, England, to Walter Bennett, a butcher, and Lilian Mary (Peel) Bennett. He became interested in the arts as a child, attending concerts by the Yorkshire Symphony Orchestra. His military service included a brief stint in the infantry followed by assignment to the Joint Services Language Course to learn Russian, first at Coulsdon, and then at Cambridge University. After serving in the army, Bennett read history at Exeter College, Oxford, taking his B.A. degree in 1957. He continued at Oxford, engaging in graduate studies in history and serving as a temporary junior lecturer in history (1960-1962) but left without completing his doctoral dissertation. 
Bennett’s stage career began in 1960 when, having performed comedy routines at Oxford, he joined with three other university men to present a revue of comic and satiric skits, songs, and monologues at Edinburgh’s Lyceum Theatre in Scotland. Invited to participate in the Edinburgh Festival that year, the four performed their revue, titled Beyond the Fringe. The revue moved to London’s Fortune Theatre in 1961 and to New York’s John Golden Theater the following year. Bennett’s partners went on to successful careers: Peter Cook as a nightclub entertainer, Jonathan Miller as a physician, and Dudley Moore as a pianist and actor. Bennett proved successful in a variety of roles in the theater as well as films and television, including actor, director, and, most important, playwright.
After coauthoring Fortune and Golden in the early 1960’s, Bennett saw his first solo play, Forty Years On, produced in 1968. A satiric yet also affectionate look at the passing of an age, Forty Years On includes a play within a play as a comic revue commemorates the retirement of a veteran headmaster at a boys’ boarding school. The play received a London Evening Standard drama award in 1968, as had Beyond the Fringe in 1961.
The 1970’s saw Bennett establishing himself as a major figure in both stage drama and television in England. Getting On earned Bennett another Evening Standard award (1971), and The Old Country was named best new play for 1977 by Plays & Players. In addition, ten of his teleplays appeared on either the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC-TV) or London Weekend Television (LWT).
During the 1980’s Bennett added screenwriting to his accomplishments, with A Private Function and Prick Up Your Ears. The former is an examination of British social classes; the latter is a biography of playwright Joe Orton and has been noted by critics for its skillful use of irony, an ingredient in much of Bennett’s work. On the stage, Kafka’s Dick was named best new play of 1986 by Plays & Players. The play features an insurance salesman obsessed with author Franz Kafka. The Insurance Man, produced the following year, also is concerned with Kafka, an author whose seemingly contradictory desires for obscurity and fame appeared to resonate with Bennett’s own motivations.
Bennett’s many teleplays during the 1980’s included An Englishman Abroad, an account of English spy Guy Burgess seven years after he defected to Russia, which earned the British Academy of Film and Television Arts writers award (1983) and the Royal Television Society Award (1984), and Talking Heads, a series of six monologues by lower-middle-class individuals from northern England expressing the alienation and loneliness of their lives, which won the Hawthornden Prize (1989).
Despite having left his doctoral studies unfinished, Bennett was named an honorary fellow of Exeter College in 1987 and within a few years expanded his fame by drawing on his knowledge of history, the discipline in which he had once aspired to an academic career. In the 1990’s Bennett became famous with American audiences, primarily because of the popular and critical success of the film The Madness of King George, based on his play The Madness of George III. The film received four Academy Award nominations, including one for Bennett’s screenplay. The author appeared in a minor role in the film, continuing an acting career that has seen him perform in many of his own works.
In addition to his dramatic writing, Bennett published Writing Home, a collection of essays, prefaces, character sketches, and diary entries, in 1994. This somewhat fragmented memoir became a best-seller in England. He also turned increasingly to fiction, publishing his first novel, The Clothes They Stood Up In, and a collection of stories, The Laying On of Hands.
By the end of the twentieth century, Alan Bennett was widely acknowledged as one of the most important British playwrights, with some critics calling him the foremost British author writing for the stage. He has been especially praised for his rich dialogue, complex use of irony (usually aligned with sympathy for his subjects), verbal wit, facility at finding the precisely correct word, and humor.
Essay by: Edward J. Rielly

Thursday, November 3, 2016

If You Liked Susan Meissner, Try These Author Read-Alikes From Our Ebsco Database

Read-alikes for Meissner, Susan

Find more read-alikes in NoveList.

Meissner, Susan
1.  Thornton, Margaret, 1934-
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Reason:  These authors' works are Engaging and Character-driven, and they share: the genres 'Christian fiction' and 'Historical fiction' and the subjects 'England' and 'Men/women relations'.
2.  Shaffer, Mary Ann
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Reason:  These authors' works are Moving and Intricately plotted, and they share: the genre 'Historical fiction' and the subject 'England'.
3.  Nguyen, Viet Thanh, 1971-
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Reason:  These authors' works are Moving and Character-driven, and they share: the genre 'Historical fiction' and the subject 'Identity (Psychology)'.
4.  Tan, Amy
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Reason:  These authors' works are Atmospheric, Moving, and Character-driven, and they share: the genre 'Historical fiction' and the subject 'Identity (Psychology)'.
5.  Adichie, Chimamanda Ngozi, 1977-
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Reason:  These authors' works are Moving and Character-driven, and they share: the genre 'Historical fiction' and the subjects 'England' and 'Men/women relations'.
6.  Moyes, Jojo, 1969-
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Reason:  These authors' works are Moving, Engaging, and Character-driven, and they share: the genre 'Historical fiction' and the subjects 'England' and 'Men/women relations'.
7.  Waters, Sarah, 1966-
Thumbs Up Thumbs Down
Reason:  These authors' works are Atmospheric, Character-driven, and Intricately plotted, and they share: the genre 'Historical fiction' and the subject 'England'.
8.  Rubino, Jane
Thumbs Up Thumbs Down
Reason:  These authors' works are Atmospheric, Engaging, and Character-driven, and they share: the genre 'Historical fiction' and the subjects 'England' and 'Men/women relations'.
9.  Mantel, Hilary, 1952-
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Reason:  These authors' works are Atmospheric, Moving, and Character-driven, and they share: the genre 'Historical fiction' and the subject 'England'.

Friday, September 30, 2016

Witty and Wilde

"Demolishing the complacency of Victorian social, moral, and artistic assumptions with the weapons of wit, Wilde delighted in turning stuffy platitudes upside down and then turning to the audience for applause. It was a brilliant performance that ensured that during his life, Wilde would be both greatly admired and maliciously mocked."

"Oscar Fingal O’Flahertie Wills Wilde was born in Dublin, Ireland, in 1854, the second son of Sir William Wilde, a prominent surgeon, and Jane Wilde (née Elgee), a poet and Irish nationalist. He was raised in an affluent, successful, and intellectually stimulating home. From an early age, Oscar and his brother Willie were allowed to sit at the foot of the adults’ dinner table and listen to the conversations of the Wildes and their guests, many of whom were prominent in Irish social and literary circles...He excelled in Latin and Greek and won a scholarship to Trinity College, Dublin, which he entered in October, 1871...and won a scholarship worth ninety-five pounds per year at Magdalen College, Oxford, which he entered in October, 1874." 

"It was at Oxford that Wilde encountered two men who were to influence his thought. The first was art critic and writer John Ruskin, who was at the time a professor of fine arts. Ruskin believed that art should have a moral component, and as Wilde worked with him on a road-building project, Wilde found the idea that art might promote the improvement of society to be an attractive one. Wilde was also exposed to a contrary, and more important, influence in the form of Walter Pater, fellow of Brasenose College. According to Pater, what mattered in life and art were not moral or social concerns, but the intense appreciation of sensual beauty, especially that produced by works of art."

"In 1888, Wilde entered the seven-year period of his greatest success, during which he published almost all the work — as novelist, short story writer, dramatist, and social and literary critic — on which his reputation rests..." Among these works are The Importance of Being Earnest, Lady Windermere's Fan, An Ideal Husband, and The Picture of Dorian Gray. The Canterville Ghost first appeared in The Court and Society Review in 1887.

Wilde's affair with the son of the Marquis of Queensbury set the stage for the author's notorious court case and downfall. He was found guilty of "gross indecency" and sentenced to several years of very harsh imprisonment. Upon release in 1897, he moved to France, penniless and without family, where he died in 1900.

Quoted text is from "Oscar Wilde" By: Aubrey, Bryan, Dictionary of World Biography: The 19th Century, Literary Reference Center database.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

BYOB -- Bring Your Own Book

Here's your chance to recommend a few books you've enjoyed reading. Bring them in to pass around as you discuss what you liked about them. We're going to get some great ideas from this meeting!

Monday, June 27, 2016

Chomp! The Dinner

Satirist, actor, and novelist, Herman Koch has set off shockwaves among international readers who view the characters and core dilemma of The Dinner through different cultural lenses. To get his take on this, refer to this interview with the author.

Koch, who has a teenage son of his own, was born in the Netherlands in 1953 and has made a career of satire, comedy and writing. The Dinner is his first international success, having been translated into more than 20 languages. An English film adaptation of The Dinner starring Marissa Tomei and Richard Gere is currently in the works, and Koch has subsequently published another book in a similar vein, Summer House with Swimming Pool.

Friday, June 3, 2016

We're In Love With Red-Tails In Love

Unlike a New York City resident's experience, it's commonplace for us to see hawks in flight above our homes and farmlands. We can also visit a wonderful local resource,

The Raptor Trust in Millington, NJ, to see hawks and other raptors up close. The Trust is a wildlife refuge and infirmary for raptors and other injured birds, and it plays a prominent role in our book, Red-Tails in Love, as does its founder, the late Len Soucy. In addition to sheltering several red-tailed hawks, The Raptor Trust houses other raptors mentioned in the book, including three tiny saw-whet owls. There are a number of other owl varieties in residence as well as two bald eagles (seen in the last photo) and two huge common ravens with an impressive repertoire of bird calls. For more information about The Raptor Trust, refer to

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Sorry, We Can't Talk About Something More PLEASANT; This is a Book Discussion!

She favored sick jokes as a kid, Charles Addams' cartoons as a teen, and fear of death as a subject to be laughed at in her professional career. As cartoonist and book illustrator Roz Chast notes, "I love the end-of-the-world sign guys and tombstone gags. Anything to do with death is funny."

Except, of course, when it's personal and painful, as in her memoir ''Can't We Talk About Something More PLEASANT?" Even then, our author found that cartooning provided her the perfect means to express her frustrations and fears about dealing with the decline of her elderly parents. What we learn about her childhood, career, and relationship with her parents in this memoir is given further authentication in this interesting excerpt from "I Only Read It for the Cartoons: The New Yorker's Most Brilliant Twisted Artists" by Richard Gehr. Enjoy it!

Friday, April 1, 2016

Which One Were You?

If you hated Serial, Season One, here's validation of your opinion.

If you were engrossed by it, here's validation of your opinion.

Friday, March 4, 2016

Serial, Season One

Here is the podcast link to Serial, Season One: Listen to each episode on your computer by clicking on the episode titles or download the entire series. Each episode is at least 35 minutes long, so pace yourself! While you're on this website, look around at the "Related Material."

For those who wish to read rather than listen, Serial does not provide transcripts, but various followers have transcribed the episodes. I'm providing these transcripts below (without any guarantee of their accuracy.)

Episode 1

Episode 2

Episode 3

Episode 4

Episode 5

Episode 6

Episode 7

Episode 8

Episode 9

Episode 10

Episode 11

Episode 12

Two Stories

Born in Leeds, Yorkshire, in 1934, Alan Bennett graduated with honors from Oxford in 1957 and lectured there before embarking on a writing career. His plays include The Madness of George III and The History Boys, both of which were adapted to film. He is the author of numerous commentaries, novellas, and short stories, including The Lady in the Van, currently adapted to film and starring Maggie Smith. According to Guy Woodward writing for the British Council Literature in 2009,  

"Alan Bennett’s diffident, often shy public persona has arguably been crucial to his sustained and ever growing success, but any perceived aura of cosiness belies a sharpness of intellect and wit that has proved adept at dissecting the mores of the English and their institutions across a variety of genres." 
Here's an enjoyable interview with Bennett regarding Mrs. S. and the new film about her.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Two Years at Sea in a Dry Land

Our author, Qanta Ahmed, is a board certified sleep disorders specialist at Winthrop University Hospital in Mineola, New York, as well as associate professor of Medicine at the State University of New York (Stony Brook). Further, Dr. Ahmed is a fellow of the American College of Physicians, fellow of the American College of Chest Physicians and fellow of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. Born into a Muslim Pakistani family in England, Dr. Ahmed completed her medical residency in New York City before practicing medicine in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the location of her memoir. Following her return to the United States, where she is now a citizen, she has written and spoken critically about the growth of the Islamist movement among Muslim populations around the world. She is currently writing her second book, a non-fiction work which will focus on interfaith relations between Muslims and Jews.