My Mess is a Bit of a Life: Adventures in Anxiety by Georgia Pritchett
If you haven’t heard of Georgia Pritchett, chances are she’s made you laugh. A prolific TV comedy writer, she’s contributed to just about every zeitgeisty series and/or stand-up routine over the past thirty years, from Spitting Image to Smack the Pony, The Thick of It and Veep. The roster of comedians she’s written for include Ronnie Corbett, Jo Brand, Lenny Henry and Miranda Hart. Her most recent credit is HBO’s smash Succession (the best show ever made, IMHO) and the first show that properly pushed her into my consciousness, just in time for the release of this memoir.
Without any real administrative discussion, Book Club has shrunk to three core (read: keen) members. Though this reduces the cross-section of opinions, it does tend to make organising the Zoom calls much easier. What made this call easier still is that we all enjoyed the book. It’s written in short, mostly chronological vignettes and as a result we all read it in a matter of hours in one or two sittings. My return train journey to London from St Leonards-on-Sea (just over three hours) was the perfect amount of time; in case you were wondering.
Unsurprisingly, the book is hilarious, particularly her account of her childhood and early years. And Pritchett’s self-effacing, almost masochistically British approach to her experiences of anxiety and various difficult life events is in stark contrast to the other autobiographical works we have read recently. There isn’t much in the way of reflection or contextualisation, as Joan Didion sought in her grief in A Year of Magical Thinking, nor any responsibility heaped onto those around her, as Christina Crawford sought to do in Mommie Dearest.
The book is written on the pretext of Pritchett having been encouraged by a therapist to write about her life so that she might begin to find a way of managing the anxiety that has plagued her since childhood. Though the title suggests that a reader might get an insight into this journey, in reality the book covers her life up until the point that she receives a diagnosis, and many of her stories are coloured by the disorder, rather than being about it directly. In an uncynical way, it seemed to us to be the most appropriate framework for a self-professed shy person to write about her life and (objectively) enormously successful career. Anything else might feel vulgar to the sort of person who finds the idea of winning awards hugely embarrassing.
This is an easy recommendation for all of us, even if you’re not familiar with Pritchett’s work. It’s very funny, well-structured and a rare glimpse into the life of one of our best TV writers, who are usually hidden behind the curtain of a show or famous-faced actors and are often more interesting than those they give words to. In this case, certainly so. Take it on your glamping holiday and let it distract you from the rain/price/stag party in the next-door pitch.
Moving on from autobiographies, our next book is Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel. I apologise, as I know that everyone on the planet has probably already read it, but a fellow club member and I are fed up with pretending we have!