The Pleasure & The Privilege

Last night I popped over to my local library to read a short little book that I’d been meaning to dip into for a while. The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett was recommended to be by my friend John and I picked up a used (albeit immaculate) copy of it a while back in Charlie Byrne’s in Galway. The title of Bennett’s novella alludes to a 1925 book by Virginia Woolf and the protagonist of his story is far from a common reader. She is, in fact, Queen Elizabeth II or, rather, a fictionalised version of her majesty. Liz’s recent visit to Ireland made me want to check it out and I also wanted to take a break from all the Scandinavian crime fiction I’ve been devouring lately

After getting a bite to eat nearby, I made it to the library at half six, a couple of hours before it closes. It was busy enough, but most people were quietly working away on the computers or browsing through the shelves or reading. I found a spot in the corner near another uncommon reader: a woman was teaching an older lady how to read and write. Appropriately, the book I started to read is about the love of reading and its power to take the reader to different places and gain new experiences. The Queen of The Uncommon Reader is portrayed at the outset as someone who doesn’t have time for reading until she stumbles upon a mobile library that visits the palace every week. She decides to borrow a book and soon becomes hooked on literature. She is assisted by an unlikely ally who appears to be the only other regular user of the mobile library. The rest of the story focuses on the Queen’s struggles with the increasingly more challenging texts that she encounters and the changes that her new hobby creates. Bennett does a great job of imagining his main character’s voice and treats her with respect and not a little humour. I managed to finish the book in the time that it takes to watch a film and well before closing time

When I got home I discovered that yesterday was the 25th anniversary of the release of The Queen is Dead, my favourite album by The Smiths and one of the best releases from the eighties. The folks over at Cover Me have revived a post from nearly two years ago that features ten versions of the ten songs on the album. I’ve decided to post just three. Placebo‘s take on Bigmouth Strikes Again first surfaced on a second bonus disc of covers that came with their 2003 album Sleeping With Ghosts. Their version is heavier than the original and it updates the lyric by replacing “discman” for “walkman” and “megadrive” for “hearing aid”. Perhaps another update is called for. Less effectively, the High Llamas leave the lyrics alone on Frankly, Mr. Shankly, though they do slow the tune down. It appears on the tenth anniversary tribute album called The Smiths is Dead. James Eric is known for doing a lot of covers and his interpretation of the oft-covered There Is a Light That Never Goes Out is not too shabby. I wonder what Liz would make of it all

Bigmouth Strikes Again (The Smiths cover) – Placebo

Frankly, Mr. Shankly (The Smiths cover) – High Llamas

There Is A Light That Never Goes (The Smiths cover) – James Eric


2 thoughts on “The Pleasure & The Privilege

  1. I once chanced upon a selection of something like 20-odd versions of There Is A Light That Never Goes Out, one of my all-time favourite songs. None of them was any good. Some were just bloody awful. I don’t recall whether James Eric’s was in that lot.

    • I think the band’s sound was more important to The Smiths than many bands, so covers of their songs are never as good as the originals. And that’s more true of There Is a Light That Never Goes Out than any of their songs

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