The Uncommon Reader
by Alan Bennett
Farrar, Straus and Giroux. 120 pages, $15.
SHORTLY AFTER FINISHING Alan Bennett’s novella, The Uncommon Reader, I began reading Terry Eagleton’s After Theory (2004) and came upon the following passage, in which Eagleton, discussing the role of money in the current social order, uses one of his characteristically inventive and arresting similes to amplify his point: “[Money] is infinitely adaptive to the most bizarre or extremist of situations, and like the Queen has no opinions of its own about anything.” Eagleton’s comparison hinges on a generally accepted belief about Britain’s monarch. Bennett, accepting that same truism, imagines a fictional Queen who proves it wrong and develops her own opinions about a whole range of things.