I listened to Alan Bennett reading from the latest volume of his diaries Keeping On Keeping On on BBC Radio 4. As expected it was funny, poignant and perceptive but I also thought it showed that Bennett has an angry side. He’s not exactly The Incredible Hulk, turning green and bursting out of his tweed jacket and comfortable shoes but he’s no softie either.
I wasn’t exactly surprised at this because his work has always contained this radical edge. Bennett accepts that he’s usually portrayed as the epitome of tweeness in the media but his passionate defence of public libraries, for example, and his stinging criticism of politics and politicians are far from twee. When someone in the media wrote that there were no truly radical playwrights left, Bennett wrote in to say ‘Ahem!’ Don’t make him angry; you wouldn’t like him when he’s angry.
It feels like the whole world is angry at the moment. For me it’s not so much anger that I find repellent in people but spitefulness, closed-mindedness and bigotry. Alan Bennett is none of those things. And neither was The Incredible Hulk, come to think of it.