The Uncommon Reader: a Novella, by Alan Bennett (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2008)
Alan Bennett’s The Uncommon Reader slyly imagines what might have happened if the Queen had discovered a passion for reading. The results are both funny and profound, leaving one to wonder what the world could be like if all leaders did the same.
The appeal of reading, she thought, lay in its indifference: there was something undeferring about literature. Books did not care who was reading them or whether one read them or not. All readers were equal, herself included. Literature, she thought, is a commonwealth; letters a republic. Actually, she had heard this phrase, the republic of letters, used before, at graduation ceremonies, honorary degrees and the like, though without knowing quite what it meant. At that time talk of a republic of any sort she had thought mildly insulting and in her actual presence tactless, to say the least. It was only now she understood what it meant. Books did not defer. All readers were equal.... -- from The Uncommon Reader: a Novella, by Alan Bennett
A Land, by Jacquetta Hawkes (Boston, MA: Beacon Press, 1991; first published in 1951)
Using “the findings of the two sciences of geology and archaeology” Jacquetta Hawkes sought in A Land to evoke the “entity” of the “land of Britain, in which past and present, nature, man and art appear all in one piece.” Lyrical and wise, A Land traces the land’s formation along with the emergence and consciousness of its people to create what Robert Finch calls “one of the pioneering works of modern nature writing and ecological thinking.”
I have brought together in consciousness a few of the pieces that make this island of Britain, pieces whose shaping in time by geological process, by organic life, by human activity and imagination I have already described. I have ended with those mountains that can symbolize the foundations both of our consciousness and of this land. I must draw round it the containing coasts – the curved sandy bays, shingle spits and desolate salt marshes, the infinite variety of the rocky coasts broken by savage inlets and by peaceful coves, adorned with caves, arches, inlets and towering stacks and visited by the grey, white and black birds of the sea. I will close it with the long line of the chalk cliffs. Into them I must set esplanades and bungalows, hotels and boarding-houses; fishing towns and villages; docks, jetties and piers, estuaries thronged with pleasure craft, and crowded ports, and round them all the movements of the small craft, the coming and going of great ships. So I have tried to celebrate the creation of this land and our consciousness of it and there is no more to be done except to express thankfulness for ‘An appetite; a feeling and a love…’ -- from A Land, by Jacquetta Hawkes