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Alan Bennett Imagines a Reading Royal

Sep 18, 2007 (Morning Edition)

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If you've got a stack of books that you know you should read, but you never do, maybe you have something in common with the queen of England. Or at least with the queen as imagined by the writer Alan Bennett.

He's the author of many books, and a play called The History Boys, which became a movie. In a book called The Uncommon Reader, he imagines Queen Elizabeth late in life. She's not a big reader — until she discovers how much she likes books.

As Bennett describes it, the queen gets so absorbed in reading that even while riding in a carriage, she is reading a book with one hand while waving to her subjects with the other.

Through her reading, Bennett's queen becomes more aware of the political world and the world in general, Bennett tells Steve Inskeep.

"She starts having opinions and she starts really for the first time in her life putting herself in other people's shoes," Bennett says. "She'd never really imagined what it was like to be one of her subjects. And now she does. Books really humanize her, I think."

So would the real queen pick up The Uncommon Reader? Probably not. She's likely "too busy ruling" to read his book, Bennett says.

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