In his preface, Alan Bennett asks us to view this bumper book as one of those once popular but now rare annuals that at the close of each year would lure readers through a gallimaufry of stories, reminiscences, pictures and puzzles. Some of the items in those annuals would already be familiar to their readers. So will items in this collection, particularly to those who have already encountered extensive extracts from Bennett’s diaries in the London Review of Books.
Fortunately, even already familiar pieces can still delight; but one suffers an intermittent exasperation when something already served up in this new literary banquet then reappears, an unwelcome reflux, many pages later. So it is with Thurston Hall, a long forgotten movie actor, of whom we are three times provided