Reading Alan Bennett’s diary for 2018 in the latest LRB
Part of the year is devoted to the rehearsal and performance of his play Allelujah. He writes:
In Allelujah!, though, the last speech is given to Dr Valentine, an Asian doctor who came here as a young man to study medicine but who outstayed his visa. So, though he is now a good and qualified doctor and is English in all but name, he is an illegal. In the course of the play his deception is discovered and he is deported. In this final speech he addresses the audience directly and if my unmediated voice is in the play, this is it:
‘Come unto these yellow sands and there take hands.’ Only not my hand, and so, unwelcome on these grudging shores, I must leave the burden of being English to others and become what I have always felt, a displaced person.
Why, I ask myself, should I still want to join?
What is there for me here, where education is a privilege and nationality a boast? Starving the poor and neglecting the old, what makes you so special still? There is nobody to touch you, but who wants to any more? Open your arms, England before it’s too late.
The house is never quieter or more filled with life than when we are all reading.
Listening to one of @backlisted podcasts (about Pierre Bayard’s book – How to talk about books you haven’t read)
This was quoted and I thought it was much more helpful than the catch-all ‘tsundoku‘. There are:
Books You Haven’t Read
Books You Needn’t Read
Books Made for Purposes Other Than Reading
Books Read Even Before You Open Them Since They Belong to the Category of Books Read Before Being Written
Books That If You Had More Than One Life You Would Certainly Also Read But Unfortunately Your Days Are Numbered
Books You Mean to Read But There Are Others You Must Read First
Books Too Expensive Now and You’ll Wait ‘Til They’re Remaindered
Books ditto When They Come Out in Paperback
Books You Can Borrow from Somebody
Books That Everybody’s Read So It’s As If You Had Read Them, Too
Books You’ve Been Planning to Read for Ages
Books You’ve Been Hunting for Years Without Success
Books Dealing with Something You’re Working on at the Moment
Books You Want to Own So They’ll Be Handy Just in Case
Books You Could Put Aside Maybe to Read This Summer
Books You Need to Go with Other Books on Your Shelves
Books That Fill You with Sudden, Inexplicable Curiosity, Not Easily Justified
Books Read Long Ago Which It’s Now Time to Re-read
Books You’ve Always Pretended to Have Read and Now It’s Time to Sit Down and Really Read Them”
If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler
By the way, I can’t recommend Backlisted too highly – real, joyous, informed conversations about books. I haven’t listened to one that hasn’t had me scribbling down a title or shouting out noisy agreement.