Archive for the ‘Caitlin Moran’ Category

how to be a woman caitlin moranHow to Be a Woman by Caitlin Moran ~ 2011. This edition: Ebury Press, 2011. Softcover. ISBN: 978-0-06-212429-6. 305 pages.

My rating: This one was unrateable.

What can I say? It’s all been said. Multiple times.

Outspoken, thought-provoking, vulgar, romantic, profane, profound, controversial, brave, rude … and very, very funny. This is not a book I would give my mother! But I would leave it where my teenage daughter could find it.

I actually did just that, and she (the teenage daughter) dipped into it, and basically said “Ew. Too much information. And swearing. She’s a bit scary, Mom.” So that didn’t take. Which is just fine. We’ve already had all of the conversations that Caitlin missed with her mother. A lot of this one reads like a cautionary tale, a what-not-do-do manual, at least until Caitlin gets herself all grown up and out in the big world. Though even then her decisions aren’t exactly stellar one hundred percent of the time.

This is a big, bold, brassy memoir of British newspaper columnist and generally funny lady Caitlin Moran’s teenage years right up until the present. She has zero barriers; she discusses everything there is to discuss about being born with on the double X-chromosome side of the human sexual spectrum. This is Caitlin’s take on what it means to be a woman. While frequently prescriptive, it’s best taken with a good dash of salt. As one reviewer quipped, this one should perhaps have been titled How to be Caitlin Moran, because it certainly doesn’t apply – or appeal –  universally. Many are – and will be – sceptical, if not downright appalled, at Moran’s Technicolor rantings.

Menstruation, masturbation, obesity, body hair, pregnancy, childbirth –  full coverage of the biological range. Then there are drugs and alcohol and the over-the-top excesses these can lead too. Bad relationships. Good relationships. Marriage. Children. Abortion. Right along with the ethics of employing a cleaner.

And this is what seems to be getting all the attention in the reviews I’ve been reading. Capital-F Feminism. What it looks like today, and what Caitlin Moran thinks it should look like. In a nutshell, good old Golden Rule stuff. Do as you would be done by. Treat each other well.

I’ve been thinking about how to present this review for a few days now, ever since finishing the book, and since reading fellow blogger Claire’s take over on Captive Reader – How to Be a Woman . What I’ve decided is to not really say all that much about this one. The internet is crowded to overflowing with reviews; this one has received capital-H Hype, and some people are taking it really, really seriously.

Here’s the Goodreads – How to Be a Woman page. 2500 reviews. Go wild!

I’m not taking this one terribly seriously. I found it amusing, and I agreed with Caitlin Moran on her various opinions a good majority of the time. I particularly liked her chapters on marriage and motherhood, and the abortion chapter was something very unusual in its sincerity and refreshing lack of sensationalism. I don’t think I could be so detached and unemotional as Moran was, if it were me facing the same scenario, and my decision would likely have been the exact opposite, but her forthright acceptance of what she did felt genuine.

But I’m not about to bow down to her as our newest Feminist leader, our Womanly Great White Hope, as some enthusiastic fans seem to be. She’s not really breaking any new ground here, just repeating what’s already been said with a lavish dash of shazzam.

Moran is a very funny writer. I literally laughed out loud – a rarity for me when reading –  more than once – most notably during the bra and breastfeeding discussions – spot on! Loved it. I’ll likely purchase the book one day, but I’m in no rush. If I never read it again, no big deal. I’d never heard of the woman until a few weeks ago, and I strongly suspect I’ll not hear too much from her in future, but I’ve at least placed her in my personal “cultural literacy” file and can now nod knowingly if her name comes up.

And that’s good enough for me.

As a parting gift, here are some quotes I lifted from How to Be a Woman, courtesy of Goodreads. If anything here resonates, you’ll probably like this book.

*****

If you want to know what’s in motherhood for you, as a woman, then – in truth – it’s nothing you couldn’t get from, say, reading the 100 greatest books in human history; learning a foreign language well enough to argue in it; climbing hills; loving recklessly; sitting quietly, alone, in the dawn; drinking whisky with revolutionaries; learning to do close-hand magic; swimming in a river in winter; growing foxgloves, peas and roses; calling your mum; singing while you walk; being polite; and always, always helping strangers. No one has ever claimed for a moment that childless men have missed out on a vital aspect of their existence, and were the poorer, and crippled by it.

*****

I cannot understand anti-abortion arguments that centre on the sanctity of life.  As a species we’ve fairly comprehensively demonstrated that we don’t believe in the sanctity of life.  The shrugging acceptance of war, famine, epidemic, pain and life-long poverty shows us that, whatever we tell ourselves, we’ve made only the most feeble of efforts to really treat human life as sacred.

*****

Overeating is the addiction of choice of carers, and that’s why it’s come to be regarded as the lowest-ranking of all the addictions. It’s a way of fucking yourself up while still remaining fully functional, because you have to. Fat people aren’t indulging in the “luxury” of their addiction making them useless, chaotic, or a burden. Instead, they are slowly self-destructing in a way that doesn’t inconvenience anyone. And that’s why it’s so often a woman’s addiction of choice. All the quietly eating mums. All the KitKats in office drawers. All the unhappy moments, late at night, caught only in the fridge light.

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moranthology caitlin moranMoranthology by Caitlin Moran ~ 2012. This edition: Ebury Press, 2012. Softcover. ISBN: 978-0-06-225853-3. 237 pages.

My rating: 9/10.

*****

I searched this one out because of Claire’s intriguing posting about it on The Captive Reader recently. Click this link to read her take, and don’t forget to scroll down into the comments for an interesting side note onto the life of Charles Dickens. Here you go: Moranthology

I had never heard of Caitlin Moran before, but the lack of context was no barrier to enjoying this collection of columns originally published in the London Times. A previous book, How to Be a Woman, gets rave reviews on the back cover of Moranthology, and also, when I did my small bit of “research” for this review, all over the internet. One I may also seek out, because I liked Moran’s brash, cheeky and occasionally heart-rending voice in this later compilation.

Some articles are decidedly stronger than others, but every single one was more than readable. Moran works the pop culture beat, with frequent forays into personal memoir, and anecdotes about her own marriage and family life.

Caitlin Moran apparently had quite a counter-culture childhood and adolescence. Growing up in a self-described family of “hippies”, she frequently mentions her family’s poverty and the heavy-as-lead despair of the slow slide downward; the family lived on Moran’s father’s disability benefit, never quite enough to meet the basic daily needs, let alone afford any sort of advancement in life. Moran refers frequently to her youthful status as one of the lookers-on. As a homeschooled child, she remarks that she had zero experience in fitting in with her more conventional peers, and I suspect that it is this position outside of the norm which has helped make her such a sharp observer of the more ridiculous of the pop culture excesses splashed across our universal consciousness in this age of hyper-information.

There are poignant moments throughout Moranthology which I found most moving, in contrast to the aggressive humour of some of the pop culture critiques. Caitlin limping through London on her first visit there, astounded by the scale of the city and unable to find her way, on foot, to either the British Museum or Buckingham Palace, which she thought she’d just briefly visit before visiting the offices of The Observer; she’s won a “young writers” prize which includes a tour of the newspaper office and a chance to write a youths’ view article for publication. Caitlin and her brothers and sisters squeezed into the cab of their camper van, singing to drown out the sounds of their parents’ lovemaking in the back. Caitlin’s four years as a supremely heavy user of marijuana, and the gap in her life (and memories) this caused.

This is a strong collection with a wide variety of pieces; the range meant that it never blurred for me, as collections of newspaper columns sometimes may.

Outstanding pieces were a rather brutal observation of the ironies of Michael Jackson’s lavish funeral and the public response to it, and two interviews with rock and roll icons, Keith Richards and Paul McCartney. The Keith Richards piece is an absolute stand-out, jaw-droppingly frank and frequently very funny; a must-read for any long-time Stones fan such as myself. I learned nothing new – Keith’s excesses and the sordid details of his frequently wasted (in every sense) life are common knowledge to anyone who has been paying attention to the mesmerizing freak show of the Stones during the various stages of their rock royalty progression – but what Moran observes, and how she reports it makes for a brilliant piece of pop journalism. This article alone makes Moranthology worth buying, but there’s a lot more packed in here, too. Including, I must mention, a visit to a German sex club with Lady Gaga, a surprisingly gentle article which shows a strong affection and admiration for the blatantly controversial main character of the ongoing Gaga Saga.

Switching gears successfully from the pop world to social commentary, Moran also writes compelling, thought-provoking and serious pieces on such diverse topics as the importance of public libraries, the compassionate and economic benefits of a strong public welfare system, and the right of women to access safe abortion.

Cheeky, over-the-top, family-targeted humour abounds. Moran pens a scathing critique of the practice of providing goody bags at children’s’ parties, and gives a spirited defense of the occasional need for parental binge drinking. A slightly more serious, but exceedingly funny piece discusses the changing meaning of the word “special” to something rather dirty – references to “Daddy’s Special Lemonade” (it has limes in it!)  and playground requests for Daddy to “tickle me in my special place” (under the chin, for heaven’s sake!) – bring parental mortification and suspicious glances from other ever-vigilant parents on high alert for any shadow of anything smacking of sexual perversion.

All in all, a most entertaining read. Loved it.

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