Podcast review: Book Off! Viv Groskop and John Niven

Having recently been part of the audience at a literary event she took part in, I knew when I saw Viv Groskop’s name that this episode was going to be hilarious. Needless to say that I was right! Even if you couldn’t care less about books, you’d still enjoy this episode of Book Off! purely based on the entertainment value of the banter between the two writers.

The bubbly writer and comedian spoke about her new book - The Anna Karenina Fix - that she describes as a combination of memoir, literary criticism and self-help manual. The other guest of this episode was John Niven, whose latest book is No Good Deed. After listening to the anecdote that was the origin of the idea behindthe book, I just had to pause the audio and go straight to Amazon to add it to my wish list.

How school dynamics keep replaying themselves into adulthood is a topic I find super interesting. I haven’t been to a school reunion in at least 15 years and I don’t plan on making that mistake again. Living abroad is a fairly good excuse to not show up anyway. One such reunion was actually organised not too long ago by my high school classmates and my 'insider' reported back that I am remembered as ‘the one who would start reading the dictionary if there was nothing left to read’. I don’t actually remember ever doing that but I suppose there are worse reasons to be (in)famous for.

But I digress… host Joe Haddow went on to ask both authors if they can only relax and catch up with reading once they’ve finished writing. I feel like I should leave you to find out what their answers were. I will however tell you that one of the books mentioned went straight to my wish list: The Bird Tribunal by Agnes Ravatn. This episode of Book Off! is going to turn out expensive!

Re-reading was also mentioned and guess what? Yes, that led to a further wish list addition in the form of Lectures on Literarure by Vladimir Nobokov. You can find an extract here, where he makes a case for re-reading saying that ‘curiously enough, one cannot read a book: one can only reread it’. I have been thinking about this in the past few months but this is something for another post.

Let’s get to the juicy stuff: the Book Off! pitches.

John Niven’s choice was Rabbit is Rich by John Updike – one in a series of four novels that examine a life normally unexamined. Viv Groskop’s choice was Heartburn by Nora Ephron – a funny and bitchy story of revenge in a marriage gone wrong. Which book won? Well, you have to listen here to find out. What I can tell you is that – although I don't normally like reading series – I felt more drawn to Updike. Whether that’s because I was fascinated by Niven’s Scottish accent, which I could hardly understand, or by the book… that, I can’t tell you!

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