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Talking Heads Paperback – 5 Jul 2007

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Product details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: BBC Books (5 July 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 184607259X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1846072598
  • Product Dimensions: 12.7 x 1.8 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (67 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 18,424 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Alan Bennett has been one of our leading dramatists since the success of Beyond the Fringe in the 1960s. His television series Talking Heads has become a modern-day classic, as have many of his works for stage including Forty Years On, The Lady in the Van, A Question of Attribution, The Madness of George III (together with the Oscar-nominated screenplay The Madness of King George), and an adaptation of Kenneth Grahame's The Wind in the Willows. At the National Theatre, London, The History Boys won numerous awards including Evening Standard and Critics' Circle awards for Best Play, an Olivier for Best New Play and the South Bank Award. On Broadway, The History Boys won five New York Drama Desk Awards, four Outer Critcs' Circle Awards, a New York Drama Critics' Award, a New York Drama League Award and six Tony's. The Habit of Art opened at the National in 2009. His collection of prose, Untold Stories, won the PEN/Ackerley Prize for autobiography, 2006. The Uncommon Reader was published in 2007.

Product Description

Amazon Review

Alan Bennett's award-winning series of six television monologues, Talking Heads, may have been first aired in 1988, but over a decade later it is still impossible to read these deeply moving and affectionate scripts without hearing the voices of the actors who played them. Maggie Smith as the alcoholic vicar's wife finding a semblance of happiness in an affair with an Indian shop owner, Patricia Routledge as the poisonous neighbour, Julie Walters as the over-the-hill dolly bird auditioning for a porn film and of course Thora Hird as Doris, the old lady alone in her home having fallen and broken her hip. All great performances and all made possible by Bennett's wonderfully observant and poignant scripts. Bennett rightly notes in his introduction to the pieces that, maybe apart from Doris, his narrators are artless in that they "don't quite know what they are saying and are telling a story to the meaning of which they are not entirely privy". But through their artlessnes they reveal more about Britain today and the stresses and strains placed upon ordinary people, than any number of docu-soaps that now claim to show us real life. --Nick Wroe --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

"Talking Heads places Alan Bennett in the highest tier of English dramatic writers" (New York Times)

"His finest achievement - indeed masterpiece wouldn't be too strong a word" (The Daily Telegraph)

"Bennett's genius is his ability to satirize humanely. [His] prose is like stained glass: if you stare at it, you see things you missed" (New York Times Book Review)

"It's hardly a revelation to say that Alan Bennett has proved himself a master of the modern dramatic monologue... One of the finest dramatic achievements of the past few decades." (Scotsman)

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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

64 of 64 people found the following review helpful By S. A. Kuipers on 13 Nov. 2006
Format: Paperback
Some twenty years ago, mr. van Broekhoven, who taught us english, told us one day to be sure and watch a television programme called "Talking Heads" which would be shown on the BBC that same evening.

I loved it, right from the start. I was spellbound by the quality of the acting and by the words, especially by Alan Bennett's ability to put the right words in a character's mouth. He fashioned these truly moving stories out of little else but the dreary everyday life of ordinary people.

"Talking Heads" started me off on Alan Bennett and I've read a lot of his other work since, which I've also enjoyed very much.

Bennett writes with elegance, understatement and with uncanny empathy. He succeeds in really making these people come to life. One can't help but be moved by what these people tell us and you end up sympathising with them, pitying them, hoping they'll be alright, hoping it'll all work out for them. You end up sympathising with nasty small-minded people like Miss Ruddick, who is a poisoned pen-letter writer, with sad people like Graham, a man in his forties who lives with his mum, with a gullible, naïve half-wit like Lesley: a bit-part actress or "extra" who unwittingly, but unrelentingly cheerful and chirpy, ends up doing a cheap German nookie film, you even end up sympathising, awkward though it is, with a pedophile.

Yet there are no tricks, no ploys being used to achieve this, to draw upon emotions. It's just ordinary people telling their stories, revealing much about themselves, even those thing they would not want to reveal to a stranger. Reading this reminded me of a familiar experience: one feels as if being on a train, or in a waiting room. There is only one other person there and this person starts talking to you.
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25 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Miss Preddy on 3 Jan. 2002
Format: Paperback
The beauty of Alan Bennett's monologues are that as you read or listen to them, you assume things from phrases they say. And so, when something happens in the story, it surprises you, it turns out that the person is different to how you imagined,but it still fits with the story. Alan Bennett is a genius! His monologues really are superb.
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 27 Dec. 2001
Format: Paperback
Extraordinary tales of ordinary people. Not a lot happens, but the things that do have profound effects on people. This will make you laugh out loud, grit your teeth in frustration and sigh in despair at the characters and the situations they force themselves in to.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Elizabeth Trigg on 14 Dec. 2007
Format: Audio Cassette
I am a fan of talking books, and I would describe many of the ones that I have heard as good, entertaining, thought provoking even. But this collection of stories stands so far above everything else that I have listened to that I can't see them ever being eclipsed. They are that very rare thing in literature - something that is brilliant, complex, moving - but absolutely not worthy, or 'difficult'. How many of us have struggled through a Booker prize winner because we 'ought to', when really it was too much like hard work? These stories are just so entertaining. You very quickly forget that they are monologues because the scenes and other characters are so real that you can see and hear them as if you were watching a full-cast production. You will be able to come back to them again and again because they are so rich with detail, and so beautifully written, and spoken, that they will always be fresh. If you are considering whether or not to buy these, then consider no longer. This is a cast iron guaruntee that tou will love them - and I don't say that very often, if at all.
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27 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Dave on 15 Nov. 2002
Format: Paperback
Breathtaking is a word so often used to describe an offering from any artist, but this truly is. From simply observing the different and sometimes darkest side of human nature you find yourself completely engrosed and almost personally attatched to each charachter. His ability to exploit humor, and then drift into sadness and frustration without even seeming to step aside is superb. Within afew lines, even as early as the preliminary "setting", the personal effect his writing has takes you instantly into the situation and leaves you unable to exit until the sometimes bitter,sometimes hilarous, but always intriguing end. Each charachter seems genuinely real, the ordinary lives turning out as anything but. Of all this writers brilliant work this is unboubtedly the best (although "The Lady In The Van" is also worth a look, as is "Telling tales"...)to name but afew.
Amust for any fan of literature.
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22 of 23 people found the following review helpful By "alatinackcs" on 18 Feb. 2002
Format: Audio CD
Talking Heads 2 is a series of short stories written and told from a single viewpoint, that of the narrator, the character in each play. The stories unfold through the "eyes" of each speaker, and the audience must picture the events and the people for themselves. Of course, the very fact that these accounts are subjective indicates that the speakers are not telling "the whole story." In addition to listening to an entertaining account of something that happened, we are at the same time learning even more about the narrators, perhaps more than they themselves realize.
Monologues by definition cannot use several defining features of drama dialogue, the interaction of characters, the clashing of voices and points of view. However, Bennett manages to create a detailed network of relationships for each Talking Head by means of reported conversations with others. They are beautifully constructed miniplays, each in its own way reflecting Bennett's marvelously observant view of the British way of life.
Bennett invests each piece with the kind of uncertainty and complex mix of possibilities that are so true. They are touching and real, and at the same time both tragic and funny. Originally written for television, they were played by Maggie Smith, Julie Walters and Thora Hird respectively.
As one of Britain's most distinguished playwrights, Bennett has exploded the old TV adage that nothing is as tedious as "talking heads" with his succession of riveting soliloquies titled just that. His monologues feature gripping stories, an intensity of delivery and a mastery of humour, passion and sadness.
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