“And so to read is, in truth, to be in the constant act of creation. That old lady on the bust with her Orwell, the businessman on the Tube with Patricia Cornwell, the teenager roaring through Capote – they are not engaged in an idle pleasure. Their heads are on fire. Their hearts are flooding. With a book, you are the landscape, the sets, the snow, the hero, the kiss – you are the mathematical calculation that plots the trajectory of the blazing, crashing zeppelin. You – pale, punchable reader – are terraforming whole worlds in your head, which will remain with you until the day you die. These books are as much a part of you as your guts, and your bone. And when your guts fail and our bones break, Narnia, or Jamaica Inn, or Gormenghast will still be there: as pin-sharp and bright as the day you first imagined them – hiding under the bedclothes, sitting on the bus. Exhausted, on a rainy day, weeping over the death of someone you never met, and who was nothing more than words until you transfused them with your time, and your love, and the imagination you constantly dismiss as ‘just being a bit of a bookworm.'”
My love for Caitlin Moran, it seems, knows no bounds. At least, that is one of my many conclusions having bathed in, devoured, relished her newest book “Moranifesto”. My review copy is littered with sticky notes – nearly every page has quote-worthy, laugh-til-you-cry, mind-bending moments.
“Moranifesto”, in the words of its inimitable creator, “is about the wider world, which starts to feel far less abstract, and closer, and more pressing as you get older: Syria, abortion, welfare, rape, the death of Margaret Thatcher, FGM, renewable energy, ironic bigotry, refugees, austerity, and inequality. The things which shape the outside world – which seem distant, merely ‘issues’ – but which at any minute can come into your house, or that of those you love, and blow all their plans away. The stuff we think we can escape when we shut the front door – only to find it has come in through the kitchen window and is sitting on the table, waiting for you. Setting fire to your books, and your calendar, and your life.”
Caitlin takes on bigotry in its many glorious forms – racism, sexism, xenophobia – and brilliantly sprinkles in levity, both by finding the funny in cringe-worthy subjects and by including equally well-crafted essays on such important topics as bacon, hipsters, and cystitis.
- On feminism: “It’s amazing to me that it’s still considered a notable, commendable trait – ‘Oh, she’s a well-known feminist’ – in a woman, or a girl, or a man, or a boy. That that is the unusual thing. Really, it should be the reverse. Rather than what seems like a minority having to spend time, energy, brain, and heart explaining why they’re ‘into’ equality, the majority should be explaining why they’re not.”
- On government and inequality: “[W]hat’s the worst – the very worst – a government policy can do to you if you’re poor – food-bank poor? Dependent-on-the-government poor? Well, everything. It can suddenly freeze, drop, or cancel your benefits – leaving you in a panic of unpayable bills and deciding which meals to skip. It can underfund your hospitals and schools – death in a corridor, no exams passed: no escape route into private hospitals or tutors when your purse is full of buttons and old bus tickets. It can let your entire industry die – every skill learned and piece of knowledge earned left useless. It can leave your whole city to ‘managed decline’ … You know when middle-class people feel ‘absolutely devastated’ by the government’s policy on the EU? They’re not devastated. They’re just annoyed. You know when poor people are ‘absolutely devastated’ by the government’s policy on housing benefit? They are absolutely devastated. They’re in a hostel, with their children. It’s not just words to them. It’s the reporting of a fact. Because if you are in the wrong town, in the wrong job, in the wrong class, the policies of a government can ruin you. And all those around you, too – so that you are all in fear.”
- On news and reporting: “We need a new kind of news program to show us the news five years before it becomes ‘The News’: when it’s still a manageable, budding problem that can be solved with technology, aid, diplomacy. Where someone watching the news could, feasibly, be the very person to solve it. When there is still some kind of hope that love, insight, skill, or genius could provide – rather than just another dispiriting, numbing reporting of the winners and losers.”
- On anxiety: “Anxiety is a physical state – flooded with adrenaline, you are, essentially, constantly running for your life from the most terrifying beast, but while sitting on a chair, or cooking the tea, or talking to your children. My hands shook; my stomach was liquid. My skull was porous – I could feel the coronal suture between the frontal and temporal lobes straining, and fizzing.”
Moran’s essay entitled “The Two Things Men Need to Understand About Women” should be read by every man everywhere. In two short pages, Moran shares something core to what it feels like to be a woman in this world (at least for the vast majority of women I’ve ever met) and yet something I have never heard or read. She writes so clearly, so convincingly, so honestly that one would be hard pressed to not be moved. In 5 minutes, Moran conveyed a message to my husband which I hadn’t communicated in 15 years of being partners.
Throughout “Moranifesto”, Caitlin Moran espouses pithy wisdom cloaked in eye-watering humor and honed to pin-point accuracy. Her writing is profound and profoundly appealing. Moran makes the serious funny and the indescribable eloquently simple. She is, quite simply, a badass and a welcome voice in a world that makes me want to hide under my bed.
Thank you to Harper Perennial for providing a complimentary copy in exchange for a fair and honest review.