Maitlis’s writing is light, easy and thought-provoking. She attempted to skewer Piers Morgan, a long-term mate, on the subject of Me Too. He declared that women objectify men disgracefully too, and challenged her to interview the Chippendales dance troupe. Which leads to Las Vegas, and possibly the most memorable opening line to any chapter written by a BBC employee: “I am watching a man simulate masturbation in the shower.”...She sounds great company: she loves a drink, admits to frizzy hair and being a terrible mother on occasions, goes to sleep with make-up on and indulges in mad internet shopping late at night. Her finest career moment, she claims, was appearing with Alan Partridge. Her book’s a romp. Don’t forget, though: she did her homework first.
An Elephant in Rome
" January 1, 2021 Read this issue IN THIS REVIEW AN ELEPHANT IN ROME Bernini, the Pope and the making of the Eternal City 224pp. Pallas Athene. £19.99. Loyd Grossman Acheerful bricolage of biography, art history, trivia and travelogue..."
— Times Literary Supplement
Maitlis paints a vivid picture of the intensity and unpredictability that come with her assignments, which punctures the perceived glamour of life reporting the news... Her writing is excellent: precise, economical and accessible. And she does a nice line in self-mockery. When her editor, Neil, calls to discuss coverage of the migrant crisis at Budapest central station, all she can think about is whether she’ll be home in time for her birthday. Later, waiting in 43C heat for Clinton, she changes her clothes in a barn smothered in goat poo, and frets about her “pothole-jolted make-up” that looks “crayoned on by a three-year-old”...Her thoughts on her professional performance along with the wider responsibilities of a national broadcaster are more revealing. Given the divisive political times and the ire frequently directed at news organisations, addressing the BBC’s role seems especially vital.
Anyone with aspirations to work in television news, any wannabe presenter who thinks it looks pretty easy to read an Autocue, should study this book and take on board just how hard the whole thing is... The searing honesty that informs Maitlis on this, as well as on migrants in Budapest, her compassion for those who present an unsympathetic face to the world, the intelligence that informs the most succinct paragraph on Brexit I have ever read . . . all this leads the reader towards a deeper understanding of an essential part of our culture: current affairs.
This is a book that engages at every level — and so I’ll take ‘brainbox’ perhaps, Ms Maitlis, but not ‘airhead’ . . . no, no, no.
Airhead is a compilation of her greatest hits. And boy there are many. I am reminded of her mauling of former White House press secretary Sean “Spicey” Spicer, in which she tore strips off him for underwriting Trump’s lies and corrupting the discourse “for the entire world”... But Maitlis is no one-trick pony. Her passion over the Grenfell fire — she lives near the tower and describes volunteering in the aftermath — sharply contrasted with Theresa May’s stiff reserve when she interviewed the Prime Minister two days after the tragedy. She also coaxed a mesmerising interview from Emma Thompson about Harvey Weinstein as #MeToo was breaking. All this is narrated in her snappy, chatty style.
This doesn’t mean the rest of the book isn’t great. She is a superb writer, used to throwing together pacy, engaging scripts at a second’s notice. Each chapter is dedicated to one of her interviews — it is a sort of greatest-hits compilation. If you’re a fan of Newsnight you might find it a bit recycled, tossed together hastily during one of Evan Davis’s more tedious links. She’s always rushing: “Airhead” gamely refers to the panic she feels just before she does a piece to camera.