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alanbennett

The Habit of Art

The Habit of Art

by Alan Bennett

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  • UK First Edition, First Printing


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About the book

Auden often said that metre and rhyme led him down unexpected paths to thoughts he wouldn't otherwise have had, and in this respect versification and fornication are not so different.

Benjamin Britten, sailing uncomfortably close to the wind with his new opera, Death in Venice, seeks advice from his former collaborator and friend, W H Auden. During this imagined meeting, their first for twenty-five years, they are observed and interrupted by amongst others their future biographer and a young man from the local bus station.

You are a rent boy. I am a poet. Over the wall lives the Dean of Christ Church. We all have our parts to play.

Alan Bennett's new play is as much about the theatre as it is about poetry or music. It looks at the unsettling desires of two difficult men, and at the ethics of biography. It reflects on growing old, on creativity and inspiration, and on persisting when all passion's spent: ultimately, on the habit of art.

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About the Author

Alan Bennett

Alan Bennett was born in 1934 in Leeds.


He studied at Exeter College, Oxford, then after a period of National Service, became a lecturer for a short time at Oxford University. He co-wrote and starred in Beyond the Fringe (1963), a satirical review, along with Dudley Moore, Peter Cook and Jonathan Miller, at the Edinburgh Festival in 1960. Later the show travelled to the West End and to New York. After this, he started writing for the stage and, later, for television. To date he has been actor, director and broadcaster, and written for stage, television, radio and film. His work focuses on the everyday and the mundane; on people with typically British characteristics and obsessions.


His first stage play was Forty Years On (1969). Other well-known stage plays include Kafka's Dick (1987), The Wind In The Willows (1991), and The Madness of George III (1992).


His first work for television was a sketch show, On the Margin, and he also wrote the television series Fortunes of War. His first television play was A Day Out, followed by several more television plays, five for the BBC, published as Objects of Affection and Other Plays for TV (1982),and five for London Weekend Television, published as The Writer in Disguise (1985). His two series of monologues for television, Talking Heads I (1988) and Talking Heads 2 (1998), proved Bennett to be the master of television monologue, a genre he had first anticipated in A Woman Of No Importance (1982) - his first play starring a single actress.


Alan Bennett has also written for radio, including The Lady In The Van (1990), an autobiographical memoir of a woman who parked her car in his garden and stayed for 15 years, and films, including A Private Function (1984), Parson's Pleasure, Prick Up Your Ears (1987), and The Madness of King George (1994), for which he was nominated for an Oscar for his screenplay adaptation.


Alan Bennett has won many prestigious awards for his writing. His prose collection Writing Home (1994), was followed by a sequel, Untold Stories, in 2005. His play, The History Boys (2004), won the 2004 Evening Standard Award for Best Play of the Year and The Uncommon Reader (2007) is a novella in which the Queen develops a taste for reading.


His most recent play is Hymn / Cocktail Sticks (2018). His 1999 play The Lady in the Van was released as a film in 2015, with Dame Maggie Smith in the lead role.

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