One For The Books

DAVE BENETT/GETTY IMAGES

AUTHOR! AUTHOR! Alan Bennett

It's a wonder the modern world can find a place for Alan Bennett. In an age of braying, he whispers. In a pop culture consecrated to Don Juan, he seems the grayish professor — a wan don. His plays, for stage and TV, are subtle comedies about daft people (The Madness of George III, The Lady in the Van) or lost ones (An Englishman Abroad, Talking Heads). His method is understatement, indirection, irony. "In England, we never entirely mean what we say, do we?" a Bennett character declares in the 1977 play The Old Country. "Do I mean that? Not...

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