on 6 November 2012
First the good news. Caitlin Moran's journalism has for some time been largely hidden from view unless you buy The Times. Now here are many of her articles available to us all - really, a lot of them - it's a good-sized book. And if you like her writing, you'll like this. She is genuinely funny and seldom dull.
I bought How To Be a Woman, but I didn't buy this. I borrowed it from the library. For two reasons.
1. She is, theoretically at least, passionately pro-libraries so I imagine she should be all in favour of that.
2. I read a quote from her that every time she sees someone with a copy of her book, she says "Kerching" under her breath. And that's not very nice, is it?
So this brings me to the bad news. Underneath all the brilliance and the determination to entertain, I sense something rather like contempt for her readership, who after all provide her with a huge income. When I saw her speak last year she was hung over. All those people had paid to see her and she couldn't stay sober the night before. There's also something uncomfortable for me about the way she writes about her children - about her attitude to her husband - about her massive self-belief (please don't write about world economics again, Caitlin. You have no understanding of economics. It makes you look stupid as well as arrogant and I'm sure you don't want that).
Also, the later articles are not as well-written as the earlier ones. Churning out all those words every week seems to be taking its toll and it's clear she's ready to move on from journalism.
Therefore, three stars. Read the book fast, revel in her facility with language, enjoy her interviews with the cream of the entertainment world. Just don't look too deep beneath the surface, because you might not like what you find.
on 19 September 2012
Oh, Ms Moran. I am sad and disappointed by this book. I had waited for it like a child waits for Christmas, and read it the first day it downloaded itself onto my Kindle.
If I hadn't read "How to be a Woman" this would have been a very, very funny book. But because it's a collection of articles, it is somehow...not very satisfying in book format. One can, at times, almost sense the desperation of the author, up against her deadline, typing away furiously in order to fill up that 600 word count with Sherlock fangirl love before the editor explodes. If this had been advertised properly as a selection of the Times columns, it would have been a very good book indeed. However, it was publicised as "all the stuff that didn't fit into "How to be a Woman"". And it's not, really. There is a great deal of churnalism. We've heard about the going clubbing with Lady Gaga. We know your views on burqas and the test for sexism (is it polite? Are the men doing it?) We remember you talking about being horrifically late to interview the PM.
Don't misunderstand. This is not a bad book. I would be being very, very unfair indeed if I were to suggest that this isn't enjoyable. There are some lovely purple patches about Downton Abbey, the beauty of Wales and the disconcerting resemblance of David Cameron to a gammon (yup, that hits the nail on the head. Or the clove into the gammon). The elogy on Ghostbusters and the versatility of its one liners was classic Moran: "Back off, man - I'm a scientist" is the one I find myself using the most often; most recently when the logic in opening a bottle of warm rose at 3am was brought into question". The piece on libraries is one of the most beautiful things written in the English language, and made me cry, a little bit. Ditto the pieces on the Olympics, which are so very well observed: "Even if Sebastian [Coe] does completely balls it up, there's no getting away from the fact that, for a month, the Canadian Men's Swimming Team are going to be on the Central Line, a little bit lost and a whole lot buff, letting me stare at them for free. Bring the honey to the MILFs, IOC". That one had me laughing so hard on my morning commute that I think my Tube carriage wanted me sectioned - or better still, shot at point blank - at the next station. But there aren't enough of those moments to make a book. The purple patches fade to lilac as they're stretched out with column-filling tumbleweedy stuff about the hotness of Benedict Cumberbatch, and the attempt to weave in the "in bed with Pete" conversations doth not a structure make.
This suffers from second book syndrome, in my view. Her first adult book was so great, so glorious, that I have made a present of it to EVERYONE I know, man, woman and awkward teenage girl alike. (I haven't given "How to be a Woman" to teenage boys. They have to figure that stuff out first, else they'll be way too successful in life.) I can't do that with Moranthology. It was funny in places, sad in others, wry in many - but it didn't have that awesome newness of perspective and turns of phrase that you will end up quoting from memory even whilst wrecked in a bar on a Saturday night.
on 22 August 2013
If you like Caitlin Moran you'll enjoy this. Great if you missed any of her columns in The Times, or you want to be reminded of what clever writing looks like. If you've never read any of her work, do give this a go. An opinion on everyone and everything. Probably something I'll go back to and dip in and out of again.
on 19 January 2013
I love Moran's writing when it's light-hearted. It's funny, warm and charming. She is usually great at writing on popular culture and autobiographical events. There was a little of that involved in this collection, which I enjoyed.
Unfortunately any good stuff was heavily outweighed (maybe not literally, but by the end of the book it felt that way) by ill-conceived columns on various subjects that she, bafflingly, seems to have appointed herself a spokesperson for (at least, that's how it comes across).
To say Moran over-simplifies world issues is an understatement. This type of writing makes me baulk. It's not considered, funny or thought-provoking and it's impossible to take seriously when it's riddled with mawkish philosophizing, emotional outpouring and unrealistic solutions written in a 'why can't we all just get along' vein. At times it reads like a teenager's diary.
When I want to read about politics, or global issues, I look to the appropriate publications, or experts, or at least a writer who has thoroughly researched their subject; not a columnist/author famous for her 'Celebrity Watch' populist style.
(nb. I have also read How To Be A Woman, and found some of the language used a bit problematic - no, not the swearing - 'retard' & 'that napalm kid' for example. I disagreed with many of her views on feminism, finding them contradictory and ill-considered eg. burlesque good - stripping bad. Small pants bad - 'sexy' bra good. She was judgemental, ethnocentric and her musings lacked real, wider relevance. I gave her the benefit of the doubt as I did not consider it a serious attempt at academia. As long as you didn't take her feminism 'critique' seriously, it was still a fairly enjoyable, easy read; something to while away a few hours on holiday).
Overall, this book (or collection of columns) was disappointing. Perhaps I only slowly became aware of it, or perhaps the tone changed, but as the book progressed, I found the emotive, childish language and heavy sentimentality present everywhere. I can cope with it up to a point; when it's autobiographical there is a 'authenticity' (for example, a retelling of her and her husband's road to marriage) which lends gravitas - but even the (you would presume) light-hearted subject-matter, such as interviews with pop stars, were given this treatment, and so everything read in the same, cloying manner. Towards the end, it was irritating me so much I almost didn't finish the book.
At least I know I've not been missing out on much behind that 'Times' paywall. I wish the writer would stick to writing about subjects she knows well; the difference when she doesn't, is glaringly obvious.
'Moranthology' is no 'one thing' - it's not funny enough to be called comedy and it's not well-written enough to be taken seriously.
Maybe it's just me, maybe she's always written this way and I've only just noticed? I was sure she was better than this though.
on 25 October 2014
Not a very good look, her opinions often don't match up. She's a feminist so wants 50/50 work place quotas (that's not equality, that's just silly) but then in the next chapter she wants men to stand up for her on the tube and give her their seat. Make your mind up! Its just a way for her to show off how rich she is still working class innit.
on 26 November 2012
Reading through the reviews here on Amazon and elsewhere, it is clear that a few readers are a little disappointed about the fact that Moranthology is a collection of Caitlin Moran's Time's columns. I can possibly understand this - it isn't made clear, exactly. But you do have to ask yourself
a) What exactly is wrong with the idea (she's a great writer and great writers have been putting together anthologies for years and people seem to like them)? And...
b) ...if you read The Times regularly, surely it would have been difficult not to know what this book was about (they serialised it for a week!)
So, that's not a problem. And neither is the writing. The three weekly columns that Caitlin writes for the Times (Celebrity Watch, the TV review and Weekend magazine column) are invariably highlights of my weekly read. She is clever, funny and original. The punning is superb and the wit and rhythm is usually timed to perfection (sometimes it goes slightly wrong but even that's okay). Anybody who brought the world "the Gallery of Hotness" or "Shag Order" or who describes David Cameron as "a C3PO made of ham" is worth re-reading. There is a type of critic whose criticism is often more memorable and creative than the work he/she is critiquing - Caitlin Moran is right up there in that league (Ghostbusters!). When I heard this was effectively a `greatest hits' collection from the last few years, I didn't have to think twice about buying it. But then, there is a slight problem, a different one...
When you sit down to read this book, you will spot it quite quickly. It's not the message; it's the relentlessness of the message. Taken together, these columns are basically a very long polemic on very few subjects, subjects on which Caitlin holds a very passionate, irreducible opinion and brooks no dissent. You notice this less when it's just a couple of remarks or half a paragraph in a review of the latest episode of Doctor Who but when you staple half a dozen years worth of them together and try and read through the whole lot, it bites. Basically, this selection (perhaps it is just THIS particular selection?) serves to demonstrate that a Caitlin Moran column is effectively little different from a Daniel Finkelstein column. The politics are different and Caitlin is funnier, her words more original and more memorable but a refreshingly objective view of the world it just is not. And I doubt if I would get through a Daniel Finkelstein anthology
So there we are. I wanted and expected to give this five stars (I'd read all of it before, you see) but I can only give it three. How does that work? Well, I just added three for making me laugh and making me think and subtracted two for telling me exactly what to think...over and over again
on 3 March 2016
I love her writing! I think 'How to be a Woman' was the best feminist handbook I've ever read. CM writes about the things that women think and feel, with minimum pandering to political correctness or worries about things like not talking about 'wimmin's issues' in front of men. These columns are great, with several 'snort out loud' lines. Pretty well edited and proofed, with only a few typos here and there. I'm pretty sure that a reference to a member of Paul McCartney's retinue "balling" someone out was a misspelling - but worth it for the initial pornographic mental image!
on 21 June 2013
I had recently finished "How to be a Woman" by Caitlin Moran and went looking for more of her writing, which is assured, insightful and occasionally just very very funny. I have laughed out loud on the train reading this; I have also had tears in my eyes from some of the pieces here: there's one particular article summing up her life in under 900 words which was so stunningly beautiful and so honest that it stopped me in my tracks. The political articles will of course become less topical over time but this anthology has been really well-assembled to cover, in the main, topics which will survive into the future. As a long-time fan of Clive James' writing on television, Caitlin Moran's reviews are a natural successor, and fans of Dr Who and Sherlock will love the articles on both. I can't find anything wrong with this, other than being sad that there isn't a second volume.
Essentially this is a collection of Caitlin's Time collumns so if you have already read them then i wouldn't buy this book, unless you really really loved them, in which case this is a handy little carry around set. Personally i haven't read any of her collumns, mostly because i don't buy The Times that often and as she rightly says The Times live behind a giant paywall. I have read the odd Celeb Watch collumn and found them interesting so i thought this book would be right up my street. It turns out that i was correct in this assumption.
Overall i did enjoy most of the stories, some made me laugh out-loud (one nearly made coffee come out of my nose), some made me cry (quietly on a long journey during the night), mostly they were entertaining. They also made me feel so much better about being completely crazy (so says my other half), i too worry about baldness and find travelling abroad to be more hassle than it's worth. There were the odd story that i found to be annoying when my views didn't quite tally with Caitlin's but this didn't happen often enough to completely spoil this book.
I would say that this was an enjoyable little collection of interesting stories about interesting people, alongside some hilarious night-time chats.
on 20 September 2012
This could be disappointing if you didn't know it's a collection of her Times columns, and have seen most of it already, but as someone who doesn't regularly read The Times but does love Caitlin Moran's writing, most of this was new to me. I appreciated having all the pieces gathered together, and in some ways enjoyed it more than How To Be A Woman, due to the diversity of subjects she sounds off about. She's always good at humour, but I most loved the pieces that felt like the emotional core of the book (a piece about holidays in Aberystwyth is a small, life-affirming masterpiece, and her account of a childhood on benefits is something that should be pressed urgently upon every politician in the land). The short article format makes it 'bitty', but I found that addictive rather than annoying. Admittedly I skimmed through some of the tv reviews, but she can make me sit down and read a book in one breathless go, alternately laughing and welling up, and has a basic love of life and the world that's infectious and counteracts the odd bit of smugness or narcissism (about which she's disarmingly honest, including a column in which she demands that her husband details the effect her tragically early death would have on him). She always leaves me on a weird empathetic and emotional high, like a cat that's been rolling around in catnip for too long. Which is all to say I'd recommend her, and didn't find it disappointing at all.