Review: Moranthology by Caitlin Moran

Hardback book cover of Moranthology by Caitlin Moran

Moranthology isn’t actually next in my woefully ambitious ‘Books I Need To Review’ list, but I was so desperate to talk about it after I read the review of How To Be A Woman at Sarah Says Read (my own is here), that I had to bump it up. I adored that book; it featured on so many of my lists last year – the best books of 2011, the best book quotes, the best books to read if you’ve never read non-fiction… There are many, but the point is that I loved it. That’s why I felt so very sad when Moranthology not only failed to deliver but also actually occasionally made me so angry I had to stop reading. What’s that? You’d like to hear my vaguely-relevant rant? Well alrighty then!

Possibly the only drawback about the bestselling How To Be A Woman was that its author, Caitlin Moran, was limited to pretty much one subject: being a woman.

MORANTHOLOGY is proof that Caitlin can actually be ‘quite chatty’ about many other things, including cultural, social and political issues which are usually the province of learned professors, or hot-shot wonks – and not a woman who once, as an experiment, put a wasp in a jar, and got it stoned.

These other subjects include:

Caffeine | Ghostbusters | Being Poor | Twitter | Caravans | Obama | Wales | Marijuana Addiction |Paul McCartney | The Welfare State | Sherlock | David Cameron Looking Like Ham | Amy Winehouse | Elizabeth Taylor’s Eyes | Michael Jackson’s Funeral | ‘The Big Society’ | Big Hair | Nutter-letters | Failed Nicknames | Wolverhampton | Squirrels’ Testicles | Sexy Tax | Binge-drinking | Chivalry | Rihanna’s Cardigan | Boris Johnson – Albino Shag-hound | Party Bags | Hot People| Transsexuals | The Gay Moon Landings | My Own, Untimely Death.

I understand that many of the points that bothered me about Moranthology will not offend the majority of (slightly more rational) readers, but this is my review and as such I will write what I jolly well like! It’s not a bad book, but it does seem to me like it was published purely to drift off the success of How To Be A Woman – there’s very little new material, as it’s just a collection of her columns from The Times. 

To be fair, there is a huge range of different topics, from Ghostbusters to the time when she was late to interview the Prime Minister. The Contents page is particularly helpful with keeping things straight. Seriously, every book should have pages like this.

It’s just nowhere near as funny as How To Be A Woman. There are a few snippets that made me giggle, but not many and I choked on my own spit pretty much the entire way through her first book. Perhaps I’m not being fair by constantly comparing the two, but if she’s going to churn out a nothing-book just because her first was a success, I feel more or less justified.

There’s more about her actual life in the present in this book, which is interesting. I feel like I know more about her as a person than I did previously, although she doesn’t always come across as very likeable. There’s a little too much about various TV programmes that she visited the set of, and it doesn’t really make sense if you’ve never seen them – Downton Abbey, amongst others. There are more serious ones though- there’s an article about The Killing Fields programme and it nearly made me cry on a train, despite having never seen the show itself. Caitlin Moran can write so very well and this particular article was more than a little moving.

Speaking as someone who, four days a month, really might faint on the Tube if someone doesn’t give up their seat, I am eternally grateful for any gentlemen who stands as I limp into his carriage. Sometimes, I have been suffering so badly on public transport I have inadvertently let out a low, animal-moan of ‘Maaaaa’ – then had to style it out by pretending to be a slighly unhinged person singing along to ‘Mamma Mia’ on my iPod. I have had swooning moments so intense I had to rest my head on a Slovakian’s rucksack, while mouthing the words ‘Don’t faint, Cat-Mo; don’t faint’ into a gigantic outside zip.

However. However, however, however. What primarily made me not like this book as much as I could have was pretty much what Sarah talked about in her review. She contradicts herself all the time! In one chapter she talks about how inspiring and feminist Lady Gaga is for going out in just her underwear (I’m not exaggerating), and in the very next chapter discusses how women in music videos need to wear more clothes and how pathetic they are. What? What!? No! It’s fine (more or less) if you have different opinions to me, but for God’s sake at least make your own consistent, whether you’re starstruck (and brainwashed) or not.

So that’s 2a) of my rant. The second part is related, but more personal. It’s also more directed towards Lady Gaga herself but also a tad towards for Caitlin Moran for buying into this garbage. So, not only is LG all snivelling and ‘I live for my fans’ type crap, but she also hints strongly throughout the entire piece how very, very ill she is but she’s a trooper andperseveres anyway. Right afterwards in an obviously directly unrelated comment she mentions how a relative of hers died of Lupus. Caitlin Moran gasps. “Isn’t that hereditary?” she cries. Lady Gaga gently lowers her eyes and looks up through her long, dark eyelashes. “Yes,” she says softly*.

Oh fuck OFF. Lupus is absolutely not hereditary and I’m sorry but there is no way anyone with even a smidge of Lupus could prance around on stage for any length of time, however much of a trooper they may define themselves as. The symptoms she hints at are ridiculously unrelated to Lupus and are pretty much what anyone might suffer from when they don’t eat and travel the world. Caitlin Moran writes about this in such a gloopy, woe-is-her fashion that it makes me sick. Between this and the inconsistent views on feminism (she is also completely in favour of positive discrimination), I actually feel a little betrayed.

And yes, it sounds like I’m over-reacting. Perhaps I am. And I know how I shouldn’t judge a book because it doesn’t agree with my own views. But in How To Be A Woman, she came across as so sensible and down-to-earth and now she’s buying into anti-feminist clap-trap and swooning over celebrities. I’ve lost a lot of respect for Caitlin Moran, a) for publishing this collection in the first place when it seems like a money-making/publicity scheme and b) for falling into the group of people she purports to dislike in her first book.

Parts of it are very funny and other parts are very moving, but there are offensive and slightly boring sections too. As a whole, it’s worth reading but be prepared to have your opinion of Caitlin Moran slightly lowered.

*This is not a quote. But it’s not far off either.

Read my review of How To Be A Woman, or visit Caitlin Moran’s website.

Comments

  1. Aw no that's really not good. Sucks when you lose respect for somebody and that Lupus shite… *shakes head* pathetic.

    1. Hanna says:

      That was fast Hannah!

      I never liked Lady Gaga, but that was the last nail in the coffin. And I don't blame CM for Lady Gaga being annoying, but just for buying into the whole crap and then writing about it like we should too.

  2. Laura says:

    *Weeps* Poor Cat-Mo! Although fair enough being pissed off with the Lupus thing, because yeah. Annoying. She DID proper say how she loves Lady Gaga in How To Be A Woman as well though, so that at least is a consistent thing!

    I really liked this because I'm just like CAITLIN FOREVS, but fair enough being disappointed at the content (and it's DEFINITELY not as funny as How To Be A Woman. But I really liked the sad sad sad things, to be fair). I am going to comfort you on this (hopefully this will be comforting…) by telling you that this was originally the book she was going to have published, and that's how the idea for HTBAW came about and THEREFORE this book is awesome just because of that, I feel!

    1. Hanna says:

      I don't remember her liking Lady Gaga in HTBAW, but I daren't go back and reread it (again) in case I find it, if that makes any sense. I'll wait until this review is a distant memory and THEN I'll see 🙂

      I liked the sad things too – I'm not disputing the awesomeness of her writing. She clearly has talent of some of the articles were really moving.

    2. Laura says:

      The thing in HTBAW is kind of like her comparing Lady Gaga to Jordan as a role model, and Gaga winning? Which *I* think is kind of fair enough even though, like you, I can't really say I like Gaga very much/at all.

      Yay at the awesomeness of her writing- common ground Hanna, we has it! 🙂

  3. This explains a lot. The other day, I was on the train and I saw a girl reading this and she looked utterly miserable – I was obviously not staring at her but I kept thinking, "I thought Caitlin Moran was supposed to be funny! Why is she scowling?" (although not quite like that because I don't think in grammatically correct sentences when it is 7.30am and I've been up since 5.45am…). Maybe it's because she was disappointed.

    I'm happy that I've still got my first reading of How To Be A Woman ahead of me (thanks to you!)!

    And on another bright side, I actually snorted when I read that I am not the only person who chokes on their own spit. It is so undignified but such a risk with amusing books!

    1. Hanna says:

      Haha, a fortnight ago and it could have been me you were looking at! Although there's a chapter about a TV programme she'd seen about war in… somewhere, and it was pretty horrific. Lewis said I looked like a wounded puppy when I read it.

      5:45am!? Because of travelling? I thought I was badly off when I had to get up at 6:30 two days in a row to go down to London!

      Oh, don't get my whingey review put you off – HTBAW is still beyond awesome.

      Snorting and choking on your own spit? We're such ladies 🙂

  4. Jean says:

    Aaah, it's always a bummer when a writer you love turns out to be utterly, willfully clueless about the thing you know all about.

    I read part of "How to be a Woman" at the bookstore because you loved it so much. It was really funny, but also kind of more obsessive about ladyparts than I really wanted to read about. 😉 Though I absolutely agreed with her about a couple of things!

  5. Interesting review Hanna. I need to get around to reading her first book. I like the point about Gaga because I'm not convinced that her fuller figure thing is anything other than marketing. Saying I'm torn between wanting to believe her and not is ascribing far too much importance to her as an artist. I admire her sentiment but I can't get past it being a bit of cynical exploitation on her behalf. I mean, is it wrong to question her if all she's trying to do is bring attention to modern soceity's obsession with body image? I don't know.

    Your comments about Lupus though suggest she's positioning herself in the marketplace yet even then can we be so sure that she means to trivialise the illness rather than highlight it? I guess time will tell.

  6. Sarah says:

    Yeah, I'm gonna skip this book. How to Be a Woman kind of frustrated the crap out of me, and I just cannot handle more "OMG Lady Gaga is the best" bullsh*t, especially when it couples with "women should wear more clothes".

  7. Amanda Marti says:

    lol..Im sorry to hear you didn't like this book, but your review had me laughing! Thanks for the great review!

    I just started following you and hope you can stop by and follow me back as well!

    http://www.themakeupmother.blogspot.com

  8. I originally wanted to read her new book, Moranifesto, but I thought buying this older, slightly cheaper one might be a safer bet to get to know her style first. I finished it in less than a week, and went straight to Amazon to buy and read the next one. Absolutely no regrets there. Her text on public libraries and the Gaga profile are awesome.

    The Maids of Wall New Jersey

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