Watching, Reading, Listening #1

A list of books, shows and podcasts that I have loved lately.

Reading: Not That Kind Of Girl, by Lena Dunham. Candid, unexpected, fresh and funny.

There is nothing gutsier to me than a person announcing that their storyis one that deserves to be told, especially if that person is a woman. As hard as we have worked and as far as we have come, there are still so many forces conspiring to tell women that our concerns are petty, our opinions aren’t needed, that we lack the gravitas necessary for our stories to matter. That personal writing by women is no more than an exercise in vanity and that we should appreciate this new world for women, sit down, and shut up.

I also really loved Alan Hollinghursts The Line Of Beauty recently, and a wonderful female take on Madison Avenue in the 60′s, Mad Women by Jane Maas.

Lastly, I re-devoured Fun Home, an astonishingly moving and beautiful graphic novel about family life by comic artist Alison Bechdel (fun fact – she’s the creator of the once-learned-never-forgotten Bechdel Test).

Listening: The excellent Guardian podcast The Digested Read. I’m working my way back through the archives. Satirist John Grace distils the essence of a book into 600 words, and then joins a panel to review it. Grace’s take-offs are painfully, wickedly funny. The Stephen Fry episode – although desperately harsh to Fry, whom I adore – is a highlight.

I know what you’re thinking. What has silly old Stephen gone and done now? To you, my darlings, I can only put my hands up and admit that this third volume of autobiography is every bit as narcissistic and unrevealing as the previous two. If you want an interesting autobiography, in which you find out who did what to whom(I’m still very particular about that usage), then I suggest you read Rupert Everett’s absolutely marvellous humdinger of a book. I just don’t have it in me to be that honest about either my friends or myself. I’m far too needy of people’s approval. Besides, I genuinely find that everyone I meet is absolutely marvellous. I worry, too, that some of you sweethearts might find this unbearably smug – “There goes Stephen off on one again” – but the truth is I would rather have that than the thought I was being ignored.

Knowing where to start is always incredibly tricky. Should I plunge straight into the mephitic swamp of my cocaine years, or should I spend the first 100 pages rehashing the first two volumes of my autobiography? After a nano-second of indecision, I find that what I want, even if you don’t, is a little more of La Vie En Fry, because the more often I reread myself, the more interesting I find I become. I still chortle every time I get to the passage when the be-cardiganed library assistant ruffled my hair when I was 12. Such schoolboy larks!

Watching: I am thrilled to have discovered the latest season of the Real Housewives of Beverley Hills on iTunes. Much fine and witty  snark to be had from my favourite Housewife Lisa Vanderpump.

Lastly, Keith and I have just watched out way right through all seven seasons of Peep Show – very British, very hilarious and very silly. I think the hand signal for ‘Wank Bullet’ will be part of our language for many years. PLEASE tell me if you are a Peep Show fan. I am laughing thinking about it. On my own, late at night in bed with my sore back while Keith works on his algorithms, I absolutely loved the Maggie Gyllenhaal drama The Honourable Woman. With the kids, we’re starting to really get into the Gilmore Girls – I think it will become a favourite family show.

Happy leisure time,  my friends! Let me know if you are reading, watching or listening to anything good.