Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Mr. Bennett and Mrs. Woolf

So, we didn’t watch Satyricon, because my husband came home on Friday with a video for me: Alan Bennett’s screen adaptation of The History Boys. I loved it. And, having missed it in London AND New York, I was very glad to be able to see it at home.

All of which has me thinking about Alan Bennett and Virginia Woolf. And sent me to read the play I’d forever meant to read, Me, I’m Afraid of Virginia Woolf. I only knew about it from Brenda Silver’s Virginia Woolf Icon. (You can read an essay by Silver & emerging from the book here and you can read my review of Silver, too.)

I was not all that surprised to find that I loved the play and found it hilarious even as I could see its enraging anti-feminism pretty clearly. The play, a teleplay from the 70s, is about a closeted man, a lecturer in English literature, whose crisis involved a grotesquely defaced portrait of Woolf (with enormous tits) that’s up on the board for his lecture on Bloomsbury.

I went on to read another play, with a slideshow, in which a batty woman shows slides, one of which depicts one thing, but she says it depicts “Percival before he went to India and died.” In Woolf’s novel The Waves Percival dies in India.

And both The History Boys and The Uncommon Reader are rife with inspirational thoughts on reading that chime very closely to Woolf’s own thoughts.

But for a man of Bennett’s generation and working class from the North of England to admit an affinity with Woolf (that elite, effete, Londoner) would be, I guess, anathema.

Still, there’s definitely a strong love-hate relationship to Woolf here. To be continued….?

UPDATE: I’m sure you’ve already seen Maud Newton’s lovely review of Bennett for the LA Times. And, to my surprise, it was reviewed in AM NY (the subway freebie paper) this morning as part of their—get this—new book section.

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