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35 of 37 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Quaint rather than smutty
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...
Published on 24 April 2011 by PB

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Quick and diverting read
[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...
Published on 27 April 2012 by E L Meakin

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The unexpected in suburbia, 10 May 2011
I found these two short stories very entertaining. They explore the unconventional beneath the mundane existence of middle-class suburban life and are full of Bennett's customary sharp wit, humanity and brilliant talent for dialogue and observation. They drew me into a recognisable but disconcerting world in which the characters' actions can surprise and amuse. The Greening of Mrs Donaldson describes the protagonist's heroic efforts as a mock patient used to train medical students about diagnosis, and her increasingly bizarre relationship with her young lodgers, while The Shielding of Mrs Forbes reveals comedic escapades and unusual predilections in various bedrooms, as well as the constant need for role playing to maintain appearances and avoid conflict in our relationships.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars avoid it, 24 Aug. 2013
This review is from: Smut: Two Unseemly Stories (Kindle Edition)
A very peculiar story, especially the first one which seems totally unbelievable. I feel it is just an excuse for Alan Bennett to write about sex. Having enjoyed some of his work so much in the past, and found his observations of people very perceptive, this was a complete disappointment
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars classic alan bennett, 14 Jun. 2011
the lambanana "the lambanana" (liverpool) - See all my reviews
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The first story is about recently widowed Mrs Donaldson.

In order to supplement her pension, Mrs Donaldson takes in medical students and soon Mrs Donaldson is entangled in a sexual ménage that opens her eyes....

The second also concerns sexual arrangements. The snobbish Mrs Forbes has a gay son. The middle-class, middle-aged woman is determined to keep up appearances....

Both are classic Bennett farces. Both stories are about putting on a show for other people. Most of the characters think they're fooling everyone and most of them aren't.

The theme is really less "smut" rather the pressures of keeping up appearances and societal expectations.
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4.0 out of 5 stars you can hear him in your head as you read, 28 May 2014
Mr. D. P. Jay (UK) - See all my reviews
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We think we know how conventional, middle-class ladies behave but we don’t know what really goes on behind net curtains.

Sex wasn’t invented in 1968, despite what Philip Larkin said. The woman in the first story seems more like a 1950s character. However, as another reviewer points out: “Occasionally, there is a conscious effort to encompass modernity. In a hospital, someone says of a patient on a life-support machine, ''if we switched her off it would reduce her carbon footprint''. But, on the whole, this is old Bennett territory in which elderly incontinence is called ''a little accident'' and a young wife (in the year 2011!) is seen as ''the little woman'' by her husband and referred to as ''your good lady'' by work colleagues.”

The first story, "The Greening of Mrs Donaldson", was not as funny or absorbing for me as for some reviewers. However, I started to read it amid some distractions and it suddenly, a few pages in, made me sit up and take note that things were becoming incredible. Is this how some people behave? Is truth stranger than fiction?

I suppose previously conventional people, when the constraints are taken away and a new opportunity presents itself, may branch out into new territory.

I also realise that many of us live double lives to some extent.

I wondered of Duncan Ballantyne was a conscious parody of the entrepreneur Duncan Bannantyne

In the second story, there are neat and short character descriptions, e.g.: Graham's father having nothing to say, said nothing. (Later): Graham's father was understandably sensitive to this spelling (of Greene) , being something of a silent he him¬self.

Mrs Forbes dislikes Catholics because they have lots of children. As one reviewer has pointed out: This has not been true in England for 40 years.

“For Graham's mother there was little to choose between Jews and Catholics. The Jews had holidays that turned up out of the blue and the Catholics had children in much the same way.”

Another reviewer wrongly suggested that the groom’s father wants the wedding to: be according to The Book of Common Prayer: he doesn't like the modern service because ''one has to shake hands with one's neighbour''. But in fact this is not the case in the modern marriage service, only in the communion. – that’s the point. That is what they will witness when they attend church on the Sundays when their bans are read, though someone else points out that it won’t be too onerous as there are usually only four people there.

If parents want the best for their children, they’d not go for superficiality: face facts, Edward. He's very good looking; she isn't. Marriage is supposed to be a partnership. Good-looking people marry good-looking people and the others take what's left…..`She may have money.' `A hole in her cardigan and the same tights three days running? I've seen no sign of it. `Her parents are dead. `That doesn't stop her going to the dry cleaners. If only she'd had some parents we'd have a better idea.

While I know what this sentence means, there seems to be something missing in the grammar: There were no bridesmaids, what few women Mends Betty had not really bridesmaid material.

Is this an allusion to the groom having lots of gay friends?: At the reception both Betty and her new mother-in-law were surprised by what good dancers many of Graham's friends turned out to be.

An interesting theory about mental health: at first if he was having a breakdown before deciding he wasn't imaginative enough for that.

It’s not until towards the end that I realised this story was set in Leeds, with mentions of Roundhay and Alwoodley.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining, 7 Aug. 2013
col2910 (Bedfordshire,UK) - See all my reviews
The Shielding of Mrs Forbes.
Graham Forbes is a disappointment to his mother, who thinks that if he must have a wife, he should have done better. Though her own husband isn't all that satisfactory either. Still, this is Alan Bennett, so what is happening in the bedroom (and in lots of other places too) is altogether more startling, perhaps shocking, and ultimately more true to people's predilections.
The Greening of Mrs Donaldson
Mrs Donaldson is a conventional middle-class woman beached on the shores of widowhood after a marriage that had been much like many others: happy to begin with, then satisfactory and finally dull. But when she decides to take in two lodgers, her mundane life becomes much more stimulating ...
I might have a bit of a theme developing here with my last book in part concerned with sexual hang-ups and behaviour. Rest assured, this is temporary as my next/latest read is a wee bit more traditionally rooted in the crime genre. It is nice to freshen things up now and again though.
I have obviously heard of the playwright Bennett and was intrigued enough to give try some of his shorter work, though apparently his memoir/autobiography/diary - Writing Home is supposed to be really interesting. It was a toss-up between Smut and Four Stories and Smut shaded it on length.
As a further aside, I was moved enough when reading this to buy a copy of the film adaptation of his award winning play The History Boys. Released in 2006, the Keane family four, youngest daughter excused - "14 and bored" were entertained last Sunday evening by the Grammar school boys and their teacher's efforts to achieve entry into Oxford/Cambridge Universities. The late, Richard Griffiths was fantastic.
Back to Smut....
Amusing and slightly titillating, these two long short stories or novellas proved an entertaining diversion from my usual fare of crime, murder, police and thieves. Note to self - I think I ought to try and read outside my preferred genre a bit more often.
Comedy writing can be a bit hit or miss, but when done well is satisfying. Bennett does it well, but also has me meditating on how closely we really know other people and on the secrets, often small things, that we keep from each other, particularly family. For a light book, Smut gave me some food for thought.
3 from 5
I think I got my copy, second-hand at the beginning of this year or end of last from either Amazon or E-Bay.
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5.0 out of 5 stars very entertaining, 16 Jun. 2012
Cloggie Downunder (Australia) - See all my reviews
"Smut: two unseemly stories" is, as the title suggests, an omnibus of two short stories by English author and actor, Alan Bennett. The first story is The Greening of Mrs Donaldson. Mrs Donaldson, recently widowed, finds herself a little short on cash and decides to take a student couple as lodgers. When they find themselves unable to pay the rent, they come to a novel arrangement with their landlady. Mrs Donaldson's other source of income is working as a Simulated Patient in medical student training; she becomes so talented at this that the consequences are almost grave. Bennett provides the reader with plenty of laugh out loud moments; the dialogue is oftimes dryly witty and occasionally hilarious. Full of understated British humour.
The second story is The Shielding of Mrs Forbes. When Graham Forbes decides to marry Betty Greene, Muriel Forbes's objections are manifold: name, age, looks, religion and something else she hasn't mentioned. Edwards Forbes has no such objections, wondering only if his fastidious son has "done it" with Betty yet. As more of their private lives is revealed (and I found that somewhat reminiscent of Maupin's Tales of the City), we learn that everyone is intent on shielding Mrs Forbes to safeguard her innocence. According to Alan Bennett, there is a lot more promiscuity in staid British households than you or I were ever aware. Very entertaining.
These two stories are at least as funny as his earlier work, The Uncommon Reader, if in a completely different vein. I really enjoyed them.
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5.0 out of 5 stars The milk of human unkindness: MUST be dramatized!, 23 May 2012
Subtitled "two unseemly stories", SMUT is only a little bit ruder than Mr Bennett's usual output and just a little bit - deliciously - crude here and there. THE GREENING OF MRS DONALDSON finds the newly widowed Mrs D. topping up her pension by 'performing' as a pretend patient at the local medical school. She also takes in a pair of co-habiting lodgers who find an imaginative way of settling the arrears on their rent.

We tend to identify Bennett's characters with the actors who've portrayed them on-screen and it's easy to Picture Mrs Donaldson being (beautifully) played by Penelope Wilton or Maggie Smith. Her life is the author's usual rich mix of comedy and tragedy. He manages to work in a few topical gripes about how today's over-stretched and under-motivated doctors and nurses rarely find time to be compassionate or even kind to patients. The story, 100 pages long, is more like a novella and, disappointingly, stops just as Mrs Donaldson is about to take on a new lease of life.

In THE SHIELDING OF MRS FORBES it's Patricia Routledge (in Hyacinth Bucket mode) who comes to mind. The chief protagonist is her gorgeous but confused son Graham who marries plain but resourceful Betty and then gets into a bit of bother to which his wife and his mother, separately, find a solution. This story has as many twists as a soap opera plot; it must surely be dramatized for stage or television.

Both tales are filled with the wry observations about the human condition that are Bennett's very distinctive 'trademark'. Being free to use the electric carving knife is for Mrs Donaldson "one of the several joys of bereavement". Mr Forbes worried that his son might be gay because "he had an umbrella at a very early age".

These two stories are, like everything else Mr Bennett puts our way, a joy to read, full of sly humour and the occasional dollop of the milk of human unkindness.

[Reviewer is the author of SHAIKH-DOWN]
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5.0 out of 5 stars Bennett proves he still has what it takes, 9 Mar. 2012
Steve Benner "Stonegnome" (Lancaster, UK) - See all my reviews
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"Smut: Two Unseemly Stories" provides typical Alan Bennett fare, presenting two fine examples of his unique blend of humour, pathos and perspicacious observation of the ordinary. Dating from 2011, they show that even at 76, Bennett has what it takes to continue to illuminate the English middle classes both in a light in they might wish themselves to be seen and, more importantly, as they really are. The fact that both stories can be presented in a four CD set in complete and unexpurgated readings by the author demonstrates their brevity. As with all Bennett, however, satisfaction lies not so much in the quantity but rather in the quality of the offering. The title of the volume is as integral a part of the whole as the rest, the two morality tales that the volume presents being not so much smutty (in absolute or real terms) as unseemly, it being this very play on appearances, expectations, perceptions and deceptions that each story is about.

'The Greening of Mrs Donaldson' is, to my mind, the better of the two stories, featuring as it does a greater quirkiness, a greater pushing at the boundaries of respectability and a deeper yet more subtle exploration of levels of deception and self-deception than its somewhat simpler, less refined bed-fellow, 'The Shielding of Mrs Forbes'. While the former explores territory on the periphery of middle class mores, and repeatedly trips up the reader/listener with its twists and turns and peregrinations in ambiguous territories, the latter is more straightforward -- blunt, almost -- in its presentation of the inevitable but pointless (and largely unsuccessful) deceptions and counterfeits surrounding unconventional (although not uncommon) sexual relationships. In the best traditions of English farce, the story (like its partner, more of a narrative play than anything else) manages to skate a successful if nevertheless precarious route around innumerable impending pits of disaster to its more or less inevitable, highly satirical, denouement.

As always, Bennett's use of the English language is both consummate and masterly throughout. Overall, my only complaint is that the collection contains just two such tales; there is to my mind scope for a balancing third part of a triptych. Highly recommended, nevertheless.
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5.0 out of 5 stars The Bonus of Bennett, 25 Jun. 2011
A. J. Russell-pattison "Tony" (Manchester. U.K.) - See all my reviews
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The Bonus of Bennett

I confess to being an Alan Bennett fan. From "Talking Heads" on telly to his short stories ("The Laying on of Hands" being my favourite) on through his autobiographical works (Untold Stories), plays (The Habit of Art) and probably his most popularist work "The History Boys", I have devoured them all.

Bennett's languid wit , sharp observational skills, northernism (with that very English Anglicanism) , gayness and his exquisite use of language make him somewhat of a hero of mine and so far none of his work has disappointed me. This continues to be the case having just completed listening to his two new short stories generically titled "Smut: two unseemly stories" courtesy of Amazon vine (many thanks).

The two stories, "The Greening of Mrs Donaldson" and "The Shielding of Mrs Forbes" are, as always, full of wry humour, rooted in the urbanity of what might be called common or everyday life, plotted beautifully and twisted and turned to bring the reader/listener to unexpected places which then delight. The marketing blurb provides an introduction to the basic plot which I do not intend to enlarge on, this work being far too good to lob spoilers at. I purred at the language, laughed out loud at the plot turns and sighed with content at the end of each you really need to know more than that? Get your own copy!

New to me was the format of audio CD (4 hours and 4 CDs or in my case 2 large loads of ironing! I suspect I ironed more than I needed in order to get to the end of each story. Now that's a recommendation and a bloody miracle!). I have heard audio CDs before but Mr Bennett's disembodied lugubrious voice has never previously tickled my ears. He reads his own work beautifully (I have no idea if he reads other peoples work as well or differently but that is certainly an experiment for the future) and I was lulled and delighted at the same time, not really an easy state to achieve. My companion however found Mr Bennett's voice to be somniferous and grating (again a difficult paradoxical state to achieve one would have thought) so it is obviously a personal thing. I confess that if I had been offered the book rather than the audio CDs I would have gone for that (more easily quotable for one thing) but was surprised by delight at this new way of enjoying this great man's work.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Delightfully "naughty" stories for ladies of a certain age..., 15 Jun. 2011
Ms. R. L. A. Amelan "Rachel" (Wilmslow, Cheshire) - See all my reviews
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Smut is a delightful portrayal of some of the idiosyncrasies of modern life, in particular the things that people of a certain age and class would rather like to keep hidden. The text centres around two ladies, Mrs. Donaldson and Mrs. Forbes, who are both really rather clever in their own ways and far more morally flexible than their respective families could imagine.

Mrs Donaldson, following her widowhood, is forced to consider taking in lodgers and acting as a model patient down at the local hospital to make ends meet. In doing so, she enters a whole new world that acts to stretch her horizons considerably. Her young lodgers are bad payers but come to her with an interesting proposal in lieu of paying the rent - it is thus that she is introduced to a whole new angle on sex! Bennett also describes with great relish her encounters at the hospital, which are quite hilarious and, I promise as a nurse, are very true to life complete with diffident and embarrassed young medical students who jump to conclusions - usually horribly wrong ones. By the end of the story, we see an increasingly more confident woman and one, I hope, of which her daughter would not approve.

Mrs. Forbes is a ogre of a lady, but much respected. She is a traditional matriarch who does not care for her new daughter-in-law. Much of the story is devoted to shielding her from a truth that she knows only too well and accepts completely. She is also, delightfully, much less upright than she appears (hooray) and appreciative of a comely male body. I simply loved the portrayal of her clever daughter-in-law, Betty who, in alliance with Mrs. Forbes's husband does much to sort out a very sticky situation and probably save her marriage. Secrets abound in this account and the end is very fitting.

This is one of my first experiences of Alan Bennett and I must confess that it is unlikely to be my last. He has a real affection for his characters and, I felt, for strong women in general. I really warmed to his heroes and heroines and there was a strong inclination to boo the villains of the piece. There are also nice atmospheric touches - for example, the potpourri in the toilet at the police station and the way Betty can tell there is something amiss from the state of her spouse's finger nails.

This was a delightful listen and is read by the author himself who adds delightful warmth and feeling to the whole rendition. Enjoy!
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