Thanks to everyone who has reviewed The Anna Karenina Fix, especially on Amazon and Goodreads. All authors hate the idea of being reviewed but the fact of being reviewed is what sells books… Thanks also to all the literature festivals who have hosted this autumn, especially Folkestone who were the last stop on the tour (pictured here). More events coming in 2018.
(Pics: Ben Bowles)
Books of the Year: The Spectator, The Observer, The Times, The Sunday Telegraph
“Funny, clever and joyful. I loved this book.” — Nina Stibbe, best-selling author of Love, Nina: Despatches from Family Life
“Everyone’s happiness project looks different, and for Viv Groskop, reading great works of Russian literature held the key to a happier life. In this hilarious, candid, and thought-provoking memoir, she explains how she used lessons from Russian classics to understand herself better and to create the life she wanted.” — Gretchen Rubin, author of #1 New York Times bestseller The Happiness Project
“Like the best sort of conversation with a wise, hilarious and well-read friend. Sitting somewhere between memoir, literary criticism and comedy, this book slips down like iced vodka and is brilliantly entertaining. Viv Groskop shows us not only why the great Russian classics should matter to us today, but unpicks the contradictions of the “Russian soul”, right down to Tolstoy’s penchant for eggs.” — Sofka Zinovieff, author of The Red Princess.
“Funny and only second best to reading the stuff itself” — Sara Wheeler, The Spectator
“Enchanting. Groskop falls in love with the literature, her impressive knowledge of which she conveys with a charmingly breezy tone.” — The Observer
“A beguiling tasting menu of some of the finest reading experiences of my life. Witty, likeable, and lighthearted, Viv Groskop invites us to embrace the work of these august Russian dead souls as belonging to us all.” — Lionel Shriver
“A superb book. I loved it.” — Vesna Goldsworthy, author of Chernobyl Strawberries.
“A passionate, hilarious, joyful love letter to Russian literature” — Allison Pearson, Sunday Telegraph
“A delightful primer and companion to all the authors you are ashamed to admit you haven’t read” — The Times
“A self-help memoir hybrid, Groskop examines life’s problems, such as unrequited love, feeling directionless and having anxiety about your looks, through 11 Russian classics.” — ELLE
“What does Tolstoy have in common with Oprah Winfrey? What can Chekhov teach us about body image? In The Anna Karenina Fix, comedian Viv Groskop shows us how to use Russian literature as self-help, with hilarious and eye-opening results.” — Good Housekeeping
“Add this memoir to your reading list for winter: The Anna Karenina Fix by Viv Groskop. The popular comedian mines the lessons to be found in classic Russian novels.” — Vogue
“A wry literary memoir examining what we can learn from the great Russian novelists.” — Stylist
Thanks to everyone who has supported Anchorwoman: When the News Gets Too Much all this year and this summer in Edinburgh. It was an insane idea to do a show about the news when everyone is completely sick of the news but hopefully it provided some respite in a warped way. Massive thank you to Zedel where I just did the last show (and messed up the Powerpoint for the first and last time by starting it on the last slide instead of the first — d’oh).
“If we can find who – or what – to blame, we know what to change. Is it the culture? Is it men? Or is it women, afraid to ask for what they’re worth? The reality is that it’s a messy combination of all these things. But only one of them can be changed quickly: how women feel about themselves and their value.
This is difficult stuff to talk about. Philip Hampton, co-chair of a government-commissioned review into the number of women in senior business roles, was reviled last week for saying that the BBC women on the best-paid list “let it [the pay gap] happen because they weren’t doing much about it”. During his career in the City, he said, “lots of men have trooped into my office saying they are underpaid, but no woman has ever done that”. Woman’s Hour presenter Jane Garvey hit back, saying he was “peculiarly out of touch”.
Is he out of touch, or is he speaking from experience? After all, the real story here is not about whether 20 wealthy women at the BBC are paid the same as 40 wealthy men. It’s about the millions of women elsewhere who feel uncomfortable about saying: “Can I have a 20% pay rise this year?” This is the internalised pay gap, and it’s everywhere.”
I set myself the insane task of getting close to a real-life Anchorwoman. And got rather more than I bargained for — on set at Good Morning Britain with Piers Morgan and Susanna Reid. It was an extremely, um, interesting morning…
“As I shadow Reid for the morning – right down to the 3.45am start and a generous application of makeup – I find myself thinking: in her shoes, sitting next to Morgan, what would you do? How distracted would you be by dark thoughts about his salary? How would you hold your own? How would you avoid coming across as “the little woman”?
For the past year, I have been writing a standup show inspired by Angela Rippon, who became the UK’s first woman to hold a position as regular long-term newsreader on a national news programme in 1975. More than 40 years on, we have had dozens of anchorwomen on breakfast television and national news. Women are more physically present on our screens than they were and yet, as the published salaries of the BBC’s talent proved last week, they are often paid far less than their male counterparts.”
Writing in today’s Observer about Macron, Trump and the Daft Punk mash-up. Who do they think they are? Cool Britannia?
“If Richard Curtis were French and writing a bromance movie (L’amour, actuellement?), he could not have conceived a better climax to the narrative than a troupe of Alain Delon lookalikes (and some women: no sexism here), all in full-dress uniform and raising an ironic eyebrow, serenading the happy couple who have just cemented their union. They even had a sexy majorette dude throwing a giant ceremonial baton up in the air and catching it! Oh, France, with your contemporary take on field music, you are really spoiling us.
But what does it all mean? It means France is trying to be Britain, that’s what. This was like a homage to the London 2012 Olympics opening ceremony, only a much cheaper, lo-fi version costing a lot less than the £27m we spent on recreating Glastonbury Tor and the Thames and flying a giant Pink Floyd pig between the towers of Battersea power station. France’s display of national pride must have taken half a day to put together and cost about €50. (This was a replacement drumstick for Jean-FranÇois who got carried away in the transition from “Do it faster, makes us stronger” into “Like the legend of the phoenix…” No one can blame him.)”
“I came across an interview with a neuroscientist recently whose daughter was asked: “What does your father do?” She said: “He replies to emails.” He was gutted. I know how he feels. When my son was asked at the age of five what I do for a living, he replied: “She goes on her computer.” I’m a writer and a comedian, but as far as my kids are concerned, I’m a professional technology user who gets paid to ignore them.
Maybe I’m an extreme case because I work from home, so there is no delineation between home and office life for me or for my three children, aged six, ten and thirteen. Does the six-year-old think I spend too much time on devices?
“Probably, yeah. On your phone and computer.””
Well done me.
My new show is coming to Edinburgh this summer – very excited. It’s dedicated to all the women newsreaders I grew up with. I was obsessed with them and inspired by them: Jan Leeming, Angela Rippon, Sue Lawley, Selina Scott, Moira Stuart. If only the news could be as easy to understand as it was then. Ten minutes of Angela and you’d be done for the day. Much better than being on Twitter 24/7. I’m at Stand 5 at 5pm every day (except 14th) from 3rd to 26th August. Tickets here.
“A series of new reports suggests that young people aged 18-32 (in this case, in the United States, but in line with trends elsewhere) are becoming increasingly convinced by the idea that it would be “much better for everyone involved if the man is the achiever outside the home and the woman takes care of the home and family”.
It’s the words “much better for everyone involved” that I find particularly distressing for some reason. They have the ring of the capitulation Betty Friedan described in The Feminine Mystique, a kind of surrender that was traditionally best treated with Librium, Valium and strict observance of “gin o’clock”. Younger sisters: believe me, you don’t want this. I understand the lure of the siren call, but it must be resisted. No one is going to look after you apart from yourself. It’s an illusion.”
From today’s Guardian… The six-month anniversary of Trump’s “pussy” comments and how strange it still seems. That caused such a fuss and yet had no impact on his electability whatsoever? Why exactly was that? Let me explain…
“…Six months on, and liberals still don’t get why the “pussy” moment was not instrumental in raising questions about Trump. In fact it had the opposite effect. It galvanised his support. It boosted his campaign. It played well to the base, as they like to say. Just as, in the face of all the current investigations, the men-only White House photo line-ups play well. Just as people can shrug and say: “What do you mean, no women? They have Ivanka and Kellyanne.”
The crucial attempt to understand that moment and why it didn’t represent the end of everything for Trump is finally starting. Oprah Winfrey has led the charge. For the latest issue of O magazine, she gathered a cross-section of voters, five from each side. In her best therapist’s voice, Oprah says: “He said a lot of hurtful, divisive things. Can we all agree with that?” The Democrats spend the meeting weeping (literally). Oprah acknowledges their tears, but lets the Trump voters have their say. When Oprah works her way up to a discreet mention of “the P word”, the responses are blunt: “It was a private conversation and I’ve heard men say far worse.” And, importantly, the next reply: “What about Bill Clinton?” This is the pussy version of “But her emails..” These defences have not changed in six months.”
I presented this half-hour documentary on L’Origine du Monde for BBC Radio 4 on the 150th anniversary of Courbet’s painting — and in the wake of a big court case against Facebook in Paris about censorship. A century and a half after this work was first created, it’s still causing controversy: if you post it on your Facebook wall, your account can be suspended because it activates the pornography sensors.
Recording for this programme with producer Natalie Steed was a lot of fun. We spent two days at the Musee d’Orsay, where the painting has been exhibited since 1995, interviewing tourists and museum visitors about their reactions in front of the canvas. They were everything from excited and impressed to indifferent and blasé to passionate and, in one memorable case, “aroused”. (A very eloquent young Chinese gentleman who spoke beautiful English. I will not forget him in a hurry. I had to take a break after recording his interview because I couldn’t stop laughing. At least he was honest.)
L’Origine is just one of a series of artworks – and other images – causing problems on social media sites who struggle with the distinction between art and obscenity. I wrote about this for Sunday Times New Review. My favourite example is the lady who had the picture of her simnel cake removed from Instagram because the marzipan balls looked too much like nipples. Not quite the same as censoring great works of art, perhaps, but just as pointless.