Thursday, 15 January 2015

The Reading Nook: Caitlin Moran

The first time I picked up and started reading How To Be A Woman, I got a bit of a girl crush.  I'm sure I'm not the only one either.  Caitlin Moran, part of the influential twitterati who occasionally, nervously, lets her 11 year old daughter take control of her feed, is the voice of a generation of women who aren't exactly your 1950's housewife women, but also are not the stereotypical man-hating, bra burning militant feminists of the 1960's and 70's.  She represents a middle ground, women who just wanted to be treated with the same amount of respect that men, for the most part, are automatically granted, without having to jump through hoops of fire.  She is the voice of women who quite like being able to vote, be a CEO and also secretly dream of baking the perfect loaf of bread (Bake-Off has a lot to answer for).  She gives life to all those thoughts and insecurities that women have about work, family, looks, weight, sex, alcohol, drugs, clothes, abortion, boyfriends, music, periods, fashion, pea-cocking and the quagmire that is adolescence at a time in your life when all you want to do is scream 'look at me, I'm important' and the rest of the world says 'that's nice dear' and returns to its adult conversation.
Not only that, the woman is astoundingly funny.  Laugh out loud, 'Steve you've got to let me read this section to you' funny.  It's described as the book that every woman should read, won the Galaxy Book of the Year Award and tipped the best seller lists.  I think part of that is due to Moran's signature, chatty, girls over a glass of wine writing style. Her command of the English language is masterful - she can be as flowery as a meadow in summer when she wants to be and is not afraid to swear like a docker.  Her descriptions can be graphic - the accounts on her giving birth and her abortion are particularly moving and had me squirming uncomfortably in my seat.  Her complete bafflement with expensive handbags and thongs had me nodding in agreement.  Her awkwardness at her first real job had me howling with laughter.

Is How To Be A Woman a feminist book? Well, yes, of course it is, but only in so much as explores what it means to be female in modern day Britain and then challenges that.

Should all women read this book? Yes. Should all men?  Hell yes. If anything, it may give you a bit more of an understanding as to why we flip out when we have nothing to wear.

I loved How To Be A Woman.  I couldn't wait to read Moranthology.  If How To Be A Woman is Moran's humorous mantra, then Moranthology are her sermons.  A collection of her best columns from The Times, sandwiched together with musings over topics that didn't quite fit into the How To Be A Woman structure (like the conversations with her husband Pete, who is drifting off to sleep moments before Moran gets her newest bolt of lighting, need to discuss it right now moment).  The problem with Moranthology is that you are reminded on a regular basis just how extraordinary a life Moran has led thus far.  A published writer, TV presenter and music critic whilst still in her teens, she has interviewed (and partied) with music's royalty, been late to interview the PM and downed gin with the poster children of TV and film.  She is still only in her 30's.  Makes you a bit sick.  
David Ellis
All through Moranthology though, you get a much stronger feel for who she is as a person and how she is as part of a strong family unit.  You get the feeling that, no matter who you are, she will quite happily plant down, spark up, pour out two large glasses and natter away with you until the small hours.  She is endearingly human and you get a sense of that no matter if she is talking about Lady Gaga lying down drunk with her head in Moran's lap in a sex club in Germany or playing with her kids on a beach in Wales before going for a picnic. 

Her observations are not just over the convoluted and sometimes ridiculous plot lines of Downton Abbey (the ability of a maid to kill the unborn Earl of Downton with a bar of lilac soap was a particular favourite of hers) or which Ghostbuster you should dress up as, but also offer a compassionate and frankly much more honest look at the some of the more serious issues facing society, such as the real life implications of benefits cuts on those families who truly need them (from the voice of someone whose family relied on those benefits when her father was unable to work) and her strident belief in the value of our public libraries 'a library in the middle of a community is a cross between an emergency exit, a life-raft and a festival. They are cathedrals of the mind; hospitals of the soul; theme parks of the imagination. On a cold rainy island, they are the only sheltered public spaces where you are not a consumer, but a citizen instead'.  You can read her full libraries column here
Levon Biss for The New York Times
If you are a regular reader of Moran's columns, a lot of the material in Moranthology will be old hat to you, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't get a copy.  Hell, the Keith Richards interview is worth the purchase price of the book alone (currently £6.29 on amazon, or about £4 for a kindle copy).  If you love How To Be A Woman, you should also read Moranthology, although it is very different, and not as strong as her brilliant debut, it will still have you laughing out loud.

Her latest offering, the semi-autobiographical How To Build A Girl is now out as well.  I'm off to get a copy.

If you like (or hate!) what you have read, please do let me know in the comments below or slap me with a cheeky follow, or say Hi to me on my facebook group or twitter!

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