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Unbelievable sex

September 1, 2011

Smut by Alan Bennett

Two sex stories by Alan Bennett should be good.  But I laughed at only one.

The problem is the sex.   In The Greening of Mrs Donaldson, a middle-aged widow gets off watching her young student lodgers.  Not just peeping, she sits openly at the foot of the bed as they put on a show, and then lets them off the rent.  I think we are supposed to believe that her other sideline, role playing patients for the medical students in her local teaching hospital, has somewhat disinhibited her.  I wasn’t convinced.  Sure, voyeurism is interesting, but this was so unlikely that the laughs didn’t come.

In contrast the author reading The Shielding of Mrs Forbes on BBC Radio 4 over the last few weeks, had made me chuckle, and had prompted my wife to buy me the book – she knows me pretty well.  A just-married gay man gets blackmailed by his boyfriend, without realising that everyone who matters, including his new wife, already know what floats his boat, and they don’t care a jot.

Bennett’s supposedly comic description of the widow’s mind wandering to domestic matters, as she watches the young ones bonking, just reminded me what an unlikely scenario I was reading about.   But happily married men really do go off and look for a bit of gay action occasionally, so his lugubrious comments on the attendant inconveniences were much funnier.

But maybe that just shows the limitations of my imagination.

Jim Thornton

Alan Bennett. Smut: Two Unseemly Stories. Faber & Faber, London. 2011.  

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