Middle class rutting

Smut: Stories

Brit Alan Bennett is the master of the longish short story that skewers middle-class mores, and this pair of challenged sexual morality stories fits the bill. In “The Greening of Mrs Donaldson,” the eponymous widow takes in some boarders and, when they can’t pay the rent, accepts their offer to let her watch—an agreement that leads her to discover all sorts of things about herself. In “The Shielding of Mrs Forbes,” the title character’s rigid morality requires all sorts of rule-bending, dissembling and back-alley deals on the part of her family in order to keep her from discovering the reality of their lives. Both stories drip with gentle irony, as well as a good-natured cynicism and a wallop of love for flawed humanity. Smut: Stories is anything but pornography; mostly, it’s compassionate.