Smut: Two Unseemly Stories by Alan Bennett

Unexpected tales from the master of short fiction.

Composed of two new stories, The Greening of Mrs Donaldson (first published in the London Review of Books) and The Shielding of Mrs Forbes, Smut is as funny and moving as all Bennett’s work, and brings his subversive side once more to the fore.

The Shielding of Mrs Forbes

Graham Forbes is a disappointment to his mother, who thinks that if he must have a wife, he should have done better. Though her own husband isn’t all that satisfactory either. Still, this is Alan Bennett, so what is happening in the bedroom (and in lots of other places too) is altogether more startling, perhaps shocking, and ultimately more true to people’s predilections.

The Greening of Mrs Donaldson

Mrs Donaldson is a conventional middle-class woman beached on the shores of widowhood after a marriage that had been much like many others: happy to begin with, then satisfactory and finally dull. But when she decides to take in two lodgers, her mundane life becomes much more stimulating …

Praise for Alan Bennett:

‘Never mawkish, Bennett’s droll wit has you laughing as well as mopping your eyes. Utter genius’ Val Hennessy, Daily Mail

‘Marvellous, ludicrous and touching situation comedy’ Tobias Hill, Observer

About The Author

Alan Bennett is one of the UK’s most celebrated figures. He is the author of Untold Stories, and numerous works of fiction including The Uncommon Reader. His play The History Boys was the National Theatre’s most successful production ever.

Smut: Two Unseemly Stories by Alan Bennett: A review by Sarah Churchwell in The Guardian

Alan Bennett’s witty, sly stories are a delight

Alan Bennett once remarked that his stage adaptation of The Wind in the Willows was partly about “keeping it under”, in which Toad doesn’t actually change his ways, but instead simply learns to “counterfeit” socially acceptable virtues in order to be accepted by his society. The phrase could serve as an equally apt description of Bennett’s latest book, Smut: Two Unseemly Stories: both tales are about keeping it under, people counterfeiting ideal selves in order to be accepted. Read full review here…

Smut By Alan Bennett: Reviewed by Arifa Akbar in The Independant

Smut is a curious mix of the Alan Bennett we know of old, whose clucking, mid-life Northern treasures – Thora Hird and the like – divulge their secrets in gently subversive sotto voce, and the Alan Bennett we are coming to know, post-cancer scare, who might one day be seen as late, uncloseted Bennett, with sex increasingly on the brain.

Thankfully, Bennett takes the subject beyond the uncomfortably repressed homosexual bottom-groping of The History Boys. Here, there is all manner of sex, wholesome and joyous, and not just the smutty variety of its title: there is straight marital, gay extra-marital, virtual, voyeuristic and bedroom farce. The result is not half as shocking as it may sound: neither straightforwardly comical nor sexually-charged, just amusingly peculiar. Read full review here…

Alan Bennett reads from his new book Smut:

Shaun Micallef, author of Preincarnate, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Shaun Micallef

author of Preincarnate

Ten Terrifying Questions


1. To begin with why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself – where were you born? Raised? Schooled?

Born in Adelaide. Raised by wolves. Schooled by Marist Brothers.

2. What did you want to be when you were twelve, eighteen and thirty? And why?

At 12 I wanted to be a movie star. At 18, a lawyer. At 30 a comedy writer. Now, I want to be a movie star again. Or a cowboy.

3. What strongly held belief did you have at eighteen that you do not have now?

I honestly thought that alcohol made me more engaging.

4. What were three works of art – book or painting or piece of music, etc – you can now say, had a great effect on you and influenced your own development as a writer? Continue reading


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