It’s quite a ride, this book. It’s laugh-out-loud funny, sweetly romantic and fiercely angry. Often all at once. Sometimes the wordplay of the autodidact desperately seeking synonyms becomes exhausting; rock stars are “be-leathered yodellers” in Dolly’s publish-me-pleeeeeeease lexicon. At other times, Moran, a Times columnist, calms down and riffs on authors she loves, like the Brontës, and those moments are beautifully written.
Moran's second novel sees the return of Johanna Morrigan, and this time she's left home for 1990s Camden. Like a randy highwayman, Moran's alter ego makes the most of Britpop, boys and a cracking pseudonym. It's so much fun, it's like giddy time-travelling 25 years across London
How to Be Famous, the new novel from Caitlin Moran, reads like poptimism in book form. It sparkles and fizzes, romping along even when its subject matter turns dark, and veering blissfully toward the best-case scenario whenever it can. And it never, ever turns away from its conviction that teenage girls must be defended to the death...Is there an element of wish fulfillment here? Maybe. But if there’s anything teenage girls are due for, it’s an emotionally grounded book that respects them and what they can do, sees their vulnerabilities and weaknesses, and is still willing to give them a happy ending — even if that book is marketed to adults rather than to teens themselves. And How to Be Famous is that book.
There are many reasons to read Moran – the demystifying glee around the squelchy stuff, her helter-skelter verbiage, always barrelling towards a zinger of a phrase, her bottomless fount of ideas – but one of the less headline-grabbing is a love of literature, which Moran wears lightly. A cynic might wonder whether her enthusiasm for writing dirty helps keep her on the bestseller lists. In more repressive times, Morrigan reflects at one point, writers had to encode their sexuality. Moran no longer has to. If nothing else, you’ll come out of How to Be Famous looking at the start of Moby-Dick in a fresh light: “basically Melville crushing on the hotness of Queequeg”... As in her previous volume, Moran is at pains to emphasise the fictionality of her work. But How to Be Famous rewrites a familiar near-past heroically, dispensing justice and leaving a rosy, satisfied afterglow.
A #MeToo prequel with some bolted-on journalistic observations on fame, gender and sex, the book rattles along, powered by Moran’s typical heady blend of humour, insight and cleverness. But it’s also quite perfunctory. Much here feels familiar from previous books or articles...Moran is hugely famous herself now but has stayed authentic: her fans — I am one — regard her as a real-life chum they hear about in the paper and on social media. The problem with writing so prolifically, so personally, for an audience that devours everything you produce is that they’ll notice when you start repeating yourself.