Terence Blacker: Vicky Pryce and the curse of shared pain

Social Studies: The best way to avoid being seen as a victim is to keep quiet

Share
Related Topics

There are few characters in public life who give the press, and presumably its readers, such sustained satisfaction and pleasure as the deserted wife. When things go well at the end of a high-profile marriage – that is, badly – the full misery and ghastliness of the situation can be played out like a wonderful soap opera over a period of months with the help of concerned commentators and journalists.

Sometimes the wife refuses to play the game. Jane Clark was maddeningly philosophical while her husband, Alan, was in full rut. Others with straying husbands follow the Mary Archer/ Norma Major approach, and resolve their problems in the old-fashioned, private way. Increasingly, though, the wife in a marriage that has very publicly gone wrong obliges by speaking out. It is the 21st century, and she is damned if she is going to stand by as her husband skips off with his new squeeze, occasionally muttering the usual clichés of regret.

It is always a terrible mistake. By a cruel paradox, the more a deserted wife resists victim status by speaking her mind, the more of a victim she appears. As Margaret Cook once showed, and Vicky Pryce is now demonstrating, the brief moment of satisfaction of press coverage is nothing beside the lasting harm it does, publicly to reputation and privately to the process of emotional repair.

In our own lives, we know that life is complex, and that few if any marriages conform to the villain-and-victim model of Victorian melodramas, but in coverage of public marriages old attitudes live on. People like to have reassuring prejudices reinforced: the randy husband, the suffering, self-sacrificing wife, the scheming other woman, the happy home destroyed by selfishness and lust.

When the wife speaks out, the fairytale version of events endures. However hurt and angry Pryce feels about the way her marriage to Chris Huhne ended, allowing herself to play the media game merely makes it worse. Anyone who has been through the end of a long-term marriage will know that it is difficult, perhaps impossible, to keep the unhappiness to oneself. There comes a moment, though, when sharing the misery around does more harm than good.

There are always those who rather enjoy being part of the drama. In a Guardian interview this weekend, Pryce said: "I have friends who say if they were me they wouldn't get up in the morning. And every morning, I think: 'How am I going to get through the day?'" Could she not see that, like the "friends" who make her feel worse with their sympathy, an interviewer is an emotion-junkie. Pryce may have wanted to talk about her impressive career and plans, but the journalist is after the money-shot and, sure enough ("I am not sure her eyes are not filling"), she gets it.

Folk wisdom of the age dictates that expressed emotion brings relief, but the examples of Pryce and others tell a more awkward truth. Don't share your pain. The best way to be strong and avoid being seen as a victim is to keep quiet, and get on with your life.







Big certainly, but is it art?



Those of us who find the conceptual art of Mark Wallinger, with its giant horses and gallery imitations of Brian Haw's anti-Iraq display, just a touch gimmicky will probably not hurry out to buy a new study of his work, written by Martin Herbert. All the same, it includes reassuring news about some of the Wallinger projects which we have been spared.

A plan to put 10 huge white orbs around the Olympic Park was rejected, as was an "extraordinarily long" photograph of the Derby finish on the Heathrow Express. An artwork which involved dropping $15,000 into an American river was thought to be ecologically risky. The world's tallest flagpole was not, after all, erected in South Shields. A vast heart-shaped balloon almost, but not quite, made it into the sky about Folkestone. The 50-metre high horse, planned for Ebbsfleet in Kent, has posed problems of structure and finance, its cost currently around £12m.

There is a pattern to this work. It is big, excessive, egocentric. Its scope is presumably intended to provide an ironic commentary on something or other, but there is also an arrogance at its centre: the artist wants to impose himself massively on everyday scenes. These monstrous installations undeniably sum up the mood of the moment – but not in a good way.







On the endless celebrity circuit



In his bizarre and compelling new book One on One, Craig Brown recounts 101 unlikely but true encounters of the famous, linking them together like a daisy-chain of celebrity meetings, beginning and ending with Adolf Hitler. So George Galloway meets Michael Barrymore who meets Diana, Princess of Wales, who meets Princess Grace of Monaco, and so on.

The effect of the book is to confirm the impression that the famous live in their own world in which differences of background and attitude are as nothing on the common ground of shared celebrity. To anyone reading the book, the news that Sir Salman Rushdie has recently been going out with Courtney Love, former lead singer of Hole, widow of Kurt Cobain and an impressively consistent bad girl in the worlds of rock and Hollywood, would seem only natural.

The question of who Courtney Love will next meet in the endless celebrity daisy-chain is trickier, particularly since she currently plans to take a business studies course at Oxford. Lord Sugar, perhaps, or Duncan Bannatyne.



www.terenceblacker.com

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Should parents be allowed to take pictures at nativity plays?  

Ghosts of Christmas past: What effect could posting pictures of nativity plays have on the next generation?

Ellen E Jones
The first Christmas card: in 1843 the inventor Sir Henry Cole commissioned the artist John Callcott Horsley to draw a card for him to send to family and friends  

Hold your temperance: New life for the first Christmas card

Simmy Richman
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'
Marian Keyes: The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment

Marian Keyes

The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef creates an Italian-inspired fish feast for Christmas Eve

Bill Granger's Christmas Eve fish feast

Bill's Italian friends introduced him to the Roman Catholic custom of a lavish fish supper on Christmas Eve. Here, he gives the tradition his own spin…
Liverpool vs Arsenal: Brendan Rodgers is fighting for his reputation

Rodgers fights for his reputation

Liverpool manager tries to stay on his feet despite waves of criticism
Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
Michael Calvin: Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick