The Laying on of Hands
is vintage Alan Bennett, who has clearly mastered the art of the funny, wise and moving story that stands somewhere between a novel and a short story. The story revolves around the funeral of Clive Dunlop, a young man who has died in Peru under mysterious circumstances. As Father Geoffrey Joliffe prepares to lead the funeral, it seems "hard to say what Clive was, for instance, though taking note of the numerous celebrities who were still filing in, 'well-connected' would undoubtedly describe him". As Father Joliffe begins to speak, it soon emerges that the TV stars, politicians, singers, writers, and even the priest himself, who have gathered to mourn Clive were all beneficiaries of his "healing hands". Clive was a gifted masseur, although for many of his clients massage "was just a preliminary to a more protracted and intimate encounter and one which might, understandably, come a little dearer".
Under the disapproving eye of one of his church superiors, Father Joliffe allows the funeral to descend into a free-for-all as Clive's friends and clients try to understand who he was, and worry over the nature of his mysterious death. Beautifully written in Bennett's laconic, adroit style, The Laying on of Hands suddenly creeps up on the reader as a funny and wise meditation on the big issues of sex, death, religion and HIV/AIDS. --Jerry Brotton
As memorial services go these days it had been billed as "a celebration", the marrying of the valedictory with the festive convenient on several grounds. For a start it made grief less obligatory, which was useful as the person to be celebrated had been dead some time and tears would have been something of an acting job. To call it a celebration also allowed the congregation to dress down up not down. Clive Dunlop was a masseur of exceptional talents. His "services" were much in demand amongst the great and the good and after his untimely death at the age of 34 they - the film stars and politicians, the writers and publishers, the TV pundits and celebrity chefs - are gathered for his memorial service. The conduct of the service is a great worry for the priest taking the service but it proves to be a test for the congregation. This is Alan Bennett at his absolute best with an exceptional satire. It is a perfect work of fiction but it will give readers the extra frisson of pleasure of identifying many of the characters, including even the masseur. A small masterpiece.
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.