Have you ever "discovered" an author for yourself who had been in front of you for years? One whose works you've enjoyed but didn't appreciate who the author was until something was brought to your attention?
This is what happened with me and Alan Bennett. Yesterday I was reading Fintan O'Toole's review of the newest collection of Bennett's diaries and essays and I realized that Bennett is an author whose writings I've enjoyed when I've been exposed to them without realizing who he is. In many ways he's a giant of postwar British literature, yet apart from the 1994 film adaptation of his play The Madness of George III, I had never really seen or read his major works.
Reading O'Toole's essay made me appreciate that I need to change this. Part of it was that he connected a lot of dots as to who Bennett was. Not only did he start out as one of the members of Beyond the Fringe (and I don't know how I missed that), but he also wrote a number of plays that I keep seeing mentions of, as well as the novella The Uncommon Reader, which has always intrigued me based on the description. Yet for some reason I never realized how all of this was the work of the same author.
But it was O'Toole's description of Bennett's perspective, though, that really intrigued me. Reading of his wry and humane outlook left me thinking that I would find a lot in his personal writing to appreciate. I've long enjoyed reading the diary collections of British authors and politicians (which I have found is a form that most writers on this side of the pond can't quite master for some reason), and his sound especially appealing. I think I'll check out one or two of his books before deciding whether to go all-in and build up a collection of his works, but already I anticipate that I'm going to be richer for the experience.