SINCE THE EARLY 1970s, the British writer Alan Bennett has kept “a sporadic diary,” extracts from which have been annually published in the London Review of Books. The diaries are yet another winner among the many books, plays, and screenplays that the enormously talented Bennett—whose works include The History Boys, The Madness of George III,and The Habit of Art—has turned out during his fifty-year (and still going) career.
Over the years, these diary entries have found their way into three volumes of Bennett’s collected prose. The American edition of the third volume came out last year. This installment (diaries from 2005-2015), written when Bennett was in his seventies, finds him “beginning to tidy up a bit.” In addition to his reflections, the tidying up includes several occasional pieces: introductions to his plays, program notes, memorial minutes, prefaces to exhibitions, and a sermon preached at King’s College Chapel. The latter he calls “a hazard”: “One isn’t supposed to preach and gets told off if one does.” The book—all 700-plus pages of it—is rounded off with the complete texts of two plays that were “put away in a drawer” and never staged.