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on 24 April 2011
Readers used to Bennett's style should enjoy these two, rather short, stories. As usual, Bennett explores the oddities of peoples' lives and the strangeness of language. The first story is probably the better. The second is a bit 'clunky' and you get the feeling that Bennett rushed to finish it.

As always, the author creates people you can care about. There is nothing gross or too explicit in these stories. As is often the case with Bennett, the characters are quaint rather than smutty. My only real reservation is how slim this volume is (or must be if I wasn't reading it on a Kindle.) In a full price book, we might reasonably expect at least one more story.
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Format: Audio CD|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Smut is available as a 4-CD audiobook as well as in print. The two stories - read unabridged by Alan Bennett himself - occupy two CDs each. While the printed book seems a little thin, roughly 2 hours for the narrated version of each of the stories (4 hours in all) is plenty long enough.

It wouldn't do to give away too much of the plot of either story - they rely for much of their effect on the unexpected - but both stories are about ordinary people whose public and private lives don't entirely correspond, and it's the friction between the facade and the reality that creates the drama and humour. The stories are subversive and very funny. The first - the Greening of Mrs Donaldson - is about a widow whose lodgers come up with a novel way of paying their rent arrears; the second - The Shielding of Mrs Forbes - is about an extended family where nobody is exactly what they seem, and they each spend much of their time trying to live up to the roles they have created for themselves. The sex scenes certainly have the potential to be raunchy, but it would be hard to take offence. After all, sex is perfectly normal: it's only our slightly odd unwillingness to talk about it that can make it seem smutty.

Bennett cleverly manages to retain the humanity and pathos of the individuals in his stories, while creating hugely entertaining scenarios for them. He is one of the best of our contemporary writers; that he writes satire and comedy makes his work no less relevant.
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Format: Audio CD|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
In his dotage there can be little doubt that Alan Bennett
is, indeed, a National Treasure! It is his incomparable
capacity to dignify the small details of lives lived quietly
behind net curtains; his dry, droll humour and perhaps above
all his innate humanity which makes his work so enjoyable.

These two stories, read by Mr Bennett, in this fine BBC Audiobook
recording, produced by Gordon House, find him as his hilarious best.
His capacity to combine the ordinary with the grotesque in these
tales stands up well to the finest he has written in a long career.
His voice has become an old friend; a Maiden-Aunt of a voice whose
pursed lips seem evermore tightly drawn into a tight disapproving bud,
the better to deliver his unseemly observations! A voice overheard on
the top deck of a bus or across the liver and sausages on a butcher's
marble slab. The hidden and quietly improper voice of Little England.

Mrs Donaldson, in 'The Greening Of Mrs Donaldson, is a marvellous
invention. A widow who, to expand her horizons, takes on a job of
role-playing pathological conditions to medical students (another kind
of Naked Civil Servant' if you will!) I had not know that such an occupation
existed until now but Mr Bennett brings the gory details to life in all
their grisly scatological splendour! That her two lodgers also deliver
more than a little spice into her lonely world should not be begrudged.
Hilarity and pathos hold hands like familiar but uncomfortable bedfellows.

'The Shielding Of Mrs Forbes' is a wonderful confection too. A story
about secrets that are not really very secret at all. The small horrors
which lurk in the embers of a failed suburban marriage : lies, prejudice,
pretension and hypocrisy hung out like washing, with no hope of drying,
on a cold, grey, damp Northern morning. An unforgivingly vivid narrative.

There is a bit of swearing here and there (which Mr Bennett manages to
make sound more dirty than it might do in almost any other mouth!) so a
little caution might be in order if you have young ones around and don't
want to have to deal with embarrasing explanations. That said, it's a hoot!

'Smut' manages to be both seedy and quite precious in equal measure.

Highly Recommended.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 20 June 2011
Format: Audio CD|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
If you liked Alan Bennett's TV monologues ("Talking Heads") or his autobiographical essays ("Untold Stories"), you might as well get Smut straight away. It has the same incisive wit and observation and delightful turn of expression.

If you aren't familiar with his writing, it is intelligent, entertaining, and funny, but in a deadpan, wry style, not laugh-aloud. His dour Yorkshire accent is perfectly suited to the style. For that reason I would strongly recommend the audio version, and I wouldn't be surprised if there was no print version.

Be ready for some very explicit sex. If you are unsure whether it would offend you, I would suggest giving it a try. Although there are some graphic moments, it is extremely witty and - I hesitate before using the word "unique" but Alan Bennet finds a genuinely unique and delightful angle on the subject.
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Format: Audio CD|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
While I generally agree with the reviews above of the fictions themselves (with the first story a little stronger, more nuanced and better paced than the second), I am commenting on the audio version of the book. It is a great treat to be able to hear the author himself narrate these two tales of mildy erotic mischief. With his wonderfully melancholic yet subtly playful tones and perfect timing, there are even more lines and exchanges here than on the printed page that make one laugh out loud at their precisely understated wit and insight. Lasting approximately four hours, this set of four CDs is not only an entertaining piece of fiction but also a marvellous memento of a great author's voice.
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Alan Bennett's latest book explores sexuality in suburbia with a 55 year old widower who becomes a peeping tom landlady in lieu of rent to her exhibitionist lodgers, and a secretly gay banker who gets blackmailed by one of his lovers.

The title "Smut" and the word "unseemly" both give the wrong idea about the stories - they might have seemed transgressive in years past but watching people have sex and being gay aren't really taboo any more. The quaint terminology employed by Bennett is reflective of the style in which he writes, that is in quietly articulate prose that neither offends nor exhilarates. The storytelling and writing is never less than masterful but for all that the stories themselves are never shocking and have a charm to them that's quite disarming.

The way Bennett drops information onto the reader - character A is sleeping with character B who is pregnant with character C's child - or an elderly woman being propositioned by a younger man, is very matter-of-fact and casual, which is how Bennett manages to keep the reader on their toes - blink and you'll miss the revelation!

While the book and it's subject of modern day sex may sell itself as racy, it's actually quite light and unchallenging. It's a good read and I enjoyed it but it's unlikely to make a deep impression on anyone. A "nice" book about sex - only Alan Bennett could've done it!
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Format: Audio CD|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Chuckles are guaranteed as Alan Bennett mischievously narrates two tales those of a certain age and disposition might consider near the knuckle.

In the first, widowed Mrs. Donaldson is part of a group role-playing as patients in a medical school. Dr. Ballantyne (who fancies her) can thus all the better teach students how to interview, diagnose and break bad news. What causes her suddenly to become so invigorated, her acting so inventive? Seek no further than her young lodgers and their novel suggestion how to pay off rent arrears, thereby ensuring everything is "bang up to date".

In the second, gay but now married banker Graham is blackmailed by one with whom he has an arrangement. Great is his terror that his blinkered, tightlipped mother should ever find out.

Gems abound - people's foibles pinpointed, their vocabulary hilariously nailed. Relish Dr. Ballantyne's "death and grief don't always go together" and "these days gender is in flux". Savour what long suffering Mr. Forbes Snr. whispers in his wife's ear as they dance at Graham's wedding reception.

Here is smut with a charm that can cause no offence, delivered by one who knows how to tease and beguile.
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Format: Audio CD|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Intially I was sceptical. I suspected that the title was a shameless publicity stunt on behalf of the publisher. I should have known that the venerable Mr Bennett would never stoop so low. I loved this collection. The stories could be described as cautionary tales: warning what can happen if one bites off more than one can chew -- in the bedroom. But, of course, it's all penned in pitch perfect prose. The stories are unseemly. Indeed, a tiny disclaimer on the back reads: This audio book contains some explicit sexual scenes/language. The Greening of Mrs Donaldson is more humorous than The Shielding of Mrs Forbes, which is more sinister. Even though one of Bennett's characters assures us `This isn't the 1950s', I still had my doubts which were finally assuaged by numerous references to the 'Internet'. This retro feel doesn't detract but merely gives the stories a unique and interesting flavour. What's more, this collection has an insouciance not in evidence in some of Bennett's autobiographical writing which can get somewhat sombre. If you're an Alan Bennett fan and even if you're not don't miss this offering. I was only sorry it wasn't longer.
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Format: Audio CD|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Nicely presented on 4 CDs, there is a 4-page insert which tells us virtually nothing, no index as to how the stories are split across the CDs and no information on Alan Bennett or anything about these stories, which is a pity.
CDs 1 and 2 have "The Greening of Mrs Donaldson" which I found the more enjoyable of the two stories. It is read by Alan Bennett with his usual English reserve, concentrating on wry little observations about human nature, for instance, we don't find out Mrs Donaldson's first name until nearly the end, everything is very proper except the subject matter which is how Mrs Donaldson's lodgers find a way of paying the rent.
CDs 3 and 4 have "The Shielding of Mrs Forbes" a story of a family and their sexual indiscretions which become intertwined with each other. Brought to a sudden conclusion it lacked the humour of the first story. Still enjoyable, it had a crueller edge to it.
It sounds as if Alan Bennett enjoyed reading these stories, there are some expletives, but it is smut after all!
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on 27 April 2012
[A copy of this book was given to me by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review]

3.5 stars.

Smut! What a fantastic word.

In these two stories, `The Greening of Mrs Donaldson' and `The Shielding of Mrs Forbes' we experience a lot of smutty sex; straight sex, gay sex, extramarital sex, cyber-sex, sex in company, sex that's paid for, sex that's paying for something - all reined back by a typically British tameness that stops it being trashy and allows it to be... smutty.

Bennett's prose is quite strange and at times uncomfortable to read; you can tell he is predominantly a playwright. However that criticism is a quibble - it's a quick and diverting read, perfect for dipping into whilst commuting or perhaps better saved for a longer train journey or flight so you can read both stories in their entirety in one sitting.
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