Tuesday 24 April 2018

Books: It's politics - but not as we know it

Non-fiction: Moranifesto, Caitlyn Moran, Ebury Press, pbk, 448 pages, €19.99

Shouty: Caitlin Moran
Shouty: Caitlin Moran

Hipsters. Ant & Dec. Cystitis. Trolls. Refugees. Starbucks. FGM. Bacon. If the back-cover design of Caitlin Moran's latest tome is anything to go by, it's a political book, but not as we know it.

Sure enough, Moran is attempting to do for political thought just as she did for feminism; make it palatable to the masses.

"I thought that feminism was a job for Professional Feminist People and it wasn't something you could rock up to unless you'd been to the right university, joined the right groups, and learned the right history and terminology," Moran writes. "And when How to be a Woman took off, I started to think, 'maybe you don't need to be the 'right' kind of person to write about big things'."

Yet Moran is precisely the person for the gig, noting that people power is the foremost political weapon that is criminally underused, almost hidden in plain view. The entire operating system, like a Macbook, is due an upgrade. Or as she calls it, Snow Leopard capitalism. Political ire has genuinely never been as fun.

And just as How to be a Woman showed young women that feminism isn't built on the cornerstones of misandry and dungaree-wearing, Moran also blasts apart the conceit that politics is for middle-aged Etonians in the right suit. Rather, it's the simplest changes that are front and centre in Moran's manifesto: Victorian-style drinking fountains would save on plastic bottle waste, while society might function better if rail travel were cheaper. All so blindingly simple and obvious. Warning: may cause ire for all the right reasons.

It's likely that Moran's youngish and overwhelmingly female following will not be as engaged with politics as they might like, and the writer's kickstarting of the conversation is a supremely good place to start for them. That feeling that one may not be educated, erudite or clever enough to engage in politics is likely more common than meets the eye, and something that needs to be addressed, fast.

Brainstorming a few solutions for the current political quandary, Moran advocates a revolution; not the anarchic kind, but the shape-shifting kind. People power used in the right way, she contends, can bring about seismic social change. Much as the back cover suggests, however, the argument is presented in fun, salient, deliciously Zeitgeisty terms.

For all Moran's popularity, her work has proved somewhat divisive. Some balk at her shouty, ebullient prose, but those who do appreciate her seem to love her with the heat of a thousand suns. It's easy to see why; Moran fearlessly gets to the nub of some pretty big, difficult issues, making them palatable for everyone else.

No doubt they'll be chomping at the bit to get their hands on what appears, at the outset, to be a rather weighty tome, and her first in four years. Moranifesto clocks in at over 440 pages, but much of the book is made up of previously published Times columns. Die-hard fans may already be familiar with her interviews with Benedict Cumberbatch, Russell T Davies, as well as TV reviews of The Apprentice and the Paralympics. There is a continuation of sorts of Moran's feminist manifesto, too, packaged under such intriguing chapter headings as 'My Lady Festival Advice', 'Olympic Prostitutes' and 'I Have Given Up Heels. Like, Totally'.

Whatever subject she turns her hand to is moot, for it's the lyrical sleight of hand that is the most enjoyable part of reading Moran. Certainly, she is shouty and ebullient, her humour often like a pal digging you in the ribs, but then she tosses a carefree bullseye into the mix, like the surprisingly emotional 'My Posthumous Letter to My Daughter'.

Overall, Moranifesto is full of charm, pin-sharp truisms, hilarity and touching moments that will make you stop in your tracks and think for a bit. And really, what manifesto that ever existed has done that?

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