Smut by Alan Bennet

3/5

This book. Hm. I’m finding it hard to form how I feel about this book. So, I guess I’ll start by being honest. I picked this up in the bargain section of Barnes & Noble a few months ago because I remember being on the fence about putting it on my TBR. And, I was only considering putting it on my TBR because it was titled Smut and had teacup sex on the cover. Is that something I should be ashamed of? Most likely. Is that something I actually am ashamed of? Nope. I was intrigued. Then, I found it so cheap, I couldn’t help but pick it up. “Why not?” I told myself. I thought I was in for a bit light reading, but here’s what I ended up dabbling into.

Smut consists of two short stories. In the first story, a middle-aged women who’s husband has died picks up some shifts working as an “actress” for new residents at the hospital to hone their skills on. She pretends to be ailed by many different things while the residents attempt to figure out what is wrong. On top of this, she also decides to rent her room out to a college couple. Somehow she gets herself into a very strange situation where sex gets swapped for money, but this is where her life really starts again.

The second story is about a man who is gay, but doesn’t quite want to believe that he’s gay. He dabbles into this part of his sexuality through multiple hook-ups. He then marries Betty. After the marriage he continues to dabble into his homosexuality, but only because he ends up being blackmailed. Things escalate and the deeper meaning of not hiding who you truly are comes to light through more characters than just himself.

I’m pretty on the fence with these two short stories. There were many things that I really liked about them, but many things I didn’t really like either. I don’t really know what to think at this point, so I guess I will start by talking about what I liked.

I really did like that this text seemed exceptionally progressive and dabbled into ideas that good writers tend to paddle into. I liked how Bennet was constantly challenging gender and societal norms. There were many great, relatable lines in these pieces. I loved the critiques that he had to offer. The themes were significantly deep. The first one involves doing what is right for you regardless of what society thinks you should and the second one delves into how the burden of keeping secrets about pivotal parts of your personality can affect you. Overall, I did enjoy the stories. Plus, the humor was superb.

I guess the real issue I have with this text is that I got myself into something much deeper and thought-provoking than I thought I was signing up for. It threw me for a huge loop and I’m still trying to process what this loop has done to curve my final thoughts on this little novella. When I saw the title Smut, I did not know I was signing up for such a political critique Because, let’s face it, I thought I was just gonna get a bit of what the title said, “Smut.” One other issue I had was that parts of the text were definitely dry and slow going, but if you persevere through, the end is quite satisfactorily rewarding.

I don’t really know if I would recommend this book. I know I most likely will never read it again, and, although I liked it, I didn’t love it. Plus, the topics and content are such abstract topics. It’s hard to tell if you are going to love, hate, or mildly enjoy these stories. I know this review didn’t really help with much. But, I can say that from the reviews I was reading concerning this text that many people were saying that this isn’t Bennet’s best work, and that they absolutely adore most of his other writings. So, I will most likely be reading more by this author, since I did enjoy his writing style and the views he conveyed in his writing.

As always thanks for reading! Feel free to add me on Goodreads and/or follow me on Tumblr for more book-y goodness!

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