The Ransomes had been burgled. "Robbed," Mrs. Ransome said. "Burgled," Mr. Ransome corrected. Premises were burgled; persons were robbed. Mr. Ransome was a solicitor by profession and thought words mattered. Though "burgled" was the wrong word too. Burglars select; they pick; they remove one item and ignore others. There is a limit to what burglars can take: they seldom take easy chairs, for example, and even more seldom settees. These burglars did. They took everything.
This swift-moving comic fable will surprise you with its concealed depths. When the sedate Ransomes return from the opera to find their Notting Hill flat stripped absolutely bare—down to the toilet paper off the roll (a hard-to-find shade of forget-me-not blue)—they face a dilemma: Who are they without the things they've spent a lifetime accumulating? Suddenly the world is full of unlimited and frightening possibility. But just as they begin adjusting to this giddy freedom, a newfound interest in sex, and a lack of comfy chairs, a surreal reversal of events causes them to question their assumptions yet again.
The Ransomes' bafflement is the reader's delight. Alan Bennett's gentle but scathing wit, unerring ear for dialogue, and sense of the absurd make The Clothes They Stood Up In a memorable exploration of where in life true riches lie.
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Alan Bennett is the author of the number-one British bestseller Writing Home. He is a renowned playwright and essayist, whose screenplay for The Madness of King George was nominated for an Academy Award.From Publishers Weekly:
When life is pared down to the bare essentials, one can grow spirituallyAor shrink into one's basic instincts. Though profound statements as such are not to be found in British playwright Bennett's charmingly subversive and very amusing cautionary tale, his characters illustrate the principle in surprising ways. Mr. and Mrs. Ransome return to their London flat after a performance of Cos? fan tutte (Mozart's comic opera about changing identities) to find the place totally stripped. Even the casserole left warming in the oven is gone, along with the oven, all other appliances and every stitch of clothing. Mr. Ransome, a stodgy, misanthropic solicitor who is fussy about correct diction, is mainly concerned about the loss of his CD player and the earphones with which he has always insulated himself from his wife. Formerly cowed and repressed, Mrs. Ransome is surprised at her pleasure in replacing their lost possessions with a few inexpensive items. The burglary liberates her personality, allowing her to inch cautiously toward new interpersonal connectionsAfirst with an Asian grocer, then with the man who, the Ransomes eventually discover, has been living with their furniture and clothing in a storage facility, then with another man who holds the key to the bizarre thievery. Her social awakening occurs in counterpoint with her husband's more selfish gratifications, until a funny and fitting denouement permanently turns the tables between them. Bennett carries off his terse, surreal comedy with witty aplomb, adding to risibility with apt comments about the foibles of contemporary society and the consumer economy. (Feb. 8) Forecast: English readers familiar with Bennett's plays (The Madness of George III, etc.) snatched up this novella to the tune of 140,ooo copies. The premise of being left without any possessions is provocative enough to entice readers on these shores, and the small size of the volume (4x 6) reinforces the idea that simplicity can be liberating.
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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