Living modernly is living quickly. You can’t cart a wagonload of ideas and romanticisms around with you these days. When you travel by airplane, you must leave your heavy baggage behind.’
Not Caitlin Moran, but Lady Tantamount in Aldous Huxley’s 1928 novel Point Counter Point. Moran would put it differently. But no writer in Britain today is more modern or quicker on the draw than the woman behind Celebrity Watch and every other feature in the T2, and Caitlin Moran travels light. Intellectual baggage, with all its -isms and -ations, is ditched in favour of ROFLs and OMGs by the first writer ever to get the word ‘cunt’ into a Times op-ed (and it ranks among her proudest achievements).
‘The funniest woman in the country’ – so says Jonathan Ross, anyway – greets me on the doorstep. She has a purple velvet dress, and her trademark shock of black-and-white-streaked hair – modelled on the TV series Dynasty, she says, although it reminds me of Rogue from the first X-men film – is more impressive in real life than in the pictures.
I am whisked into the kitchen, past a room that contains more CDs than an HMV. Few books. Many photos. Moran bustles happily, fixing me an instant coffee with the last of her Nescafe Gold while her daughter watches intently from the other side of the table. Her new book – which she describes as ‘redefining feminism for the 21st century, with a load of knob gags’ – was finished about an hour ago, and she is all sweetness and light and utterly comfortable with this jaded stranger in her home.
Up to the ‘office’, a spare bedroom where she lifts a stack of copies of The Times off the bed – yes, Moran hoards her articles just like we do – and she lights a roll-up. She sighs with pleasure. ‘The main reason for writing this book was so that I could start smoking again.’
And the interview begins. Sort of. Moran talks nineteen to the dozen, faster than a fourteen-year-old girl on a sugar high, and there is absolutely no distinction between what is on the record and what is off it. I can scarcely keep up.
What’s she on about now? Her book. ‘What makes it unique is that it is written from a position of absolute pig ignorance and lack of any academic grounding whatsoever.’ I point out that this sense of humour is anathema to feminist writing. ‘That’s why I needed to write the fucking book,’ she replies.
Sudden interlude: a message appears on her Twitter account. It’s from Stephen Fry: ‘So, @caitlinmoran, I believe madam has finished her book. Huzzah! Let joy be unconfined. A million shimmering congratulations.’ She scrambles to reply, while I desperately try to catch spurts of the stream of brilliance pouring from her lips.’@stephenfry Fucking ace. Can I use that as a cover quote? Or a tattoo on my face? Or arse?’
This isn’t how student interviews are supposed to go. I’m used to earnest discussions about the state of the nation and the decline of culture, where you have to spend entire half hours angling for a single risque quote. And here is Caitlin Moran, rattling out more controversy in a minute than you’ll find in an entire issue of NME.
For Moran, speed is everything. ‘I just get faster and faster – you’re at your most creative when you don’t have time to think.’ She points to a picture of Usain Bolt breaking the world record for the 100m at the Beijing Olympics, tacked up on her wall over what must be the world’s largest coffee cup. ‘That’s my inspiration – I love to think of all my rivals sweating away while I do a little victory dance at the finish. I used to have to sit and think about writing, but now it’s mechanical – in a joyful way.’
Her parents pulled her out of school at 11, and she wrote her first and only novel at 16 just to pay the bills. ‘We were insanely poor,’ she says, ‘we were very, very poor. I just thought, “if the cataclysm comes, I’ll defend my family with the money I get from writing.” I was just a fuckwit in a hat who wanted money to pay for bunkbeds.’
Now humour is everything in her writing. ‘I don’t read the serious people,’ she protests, ‘I’m out there for the ROFLs. Humour is having an excess of intelligence. It means you have time left over to be charming. I literally just want somebody to have the best possible time on my page.’ She even has an aesthetic theory of gossip: ‘We’re all gossipy creatures – most art is either the result of somebody having a fucking affair or screwing somebody over. And with some art – like Francis Bacon – you just look at it and think “fucking hell, I can see the gossip there.”‘
But Moran’s humour has a sharp point to it. She has just started work on a ‘Gallery of True Hotness’ in the Times, offering women ‘useful’ men to fall in love with. ‘The men women are told to fancy are a bunch of hateful fucking wankers. Half of them are actors, and most of the actors I’ve met are cunts. You don’t want Aragorn, son of Arathorn, he’s a div.’ In place of Jude Law and Leonardo di Caprio, Moran is putting forward a sensible pantheon of crushes: Aslan, Father Christmas, and Gonzo from the Muppets.
‘If I have any responsibility at all,’ she says,, ‘it’s to be somebody a bit more clever and a bit more liberal and a bit more calm and to tell somebody who’s a div that, well, he’s a div. A little political correctness doesn’t hurt, either – political correctness is politeness, and politeness is one of the best inventions we’ve ever made.’
There are only two celebrities she will always go for with her claws out. The first is Simon Cowell, ‘because he’s insanely powerful and dim, and an absolute fucking philistine.’ The second is not Fearne Cotton – ‘I need to lay off her,’ says Moran wistfully, ‘even if she does let women everywhere down by pointing at things and just going AAAAAAAAH!’ – but David Cameron. She met Cameron at a News International party shortly after describing him as ‘a camp robot made out of ham,’ and he pointedly snubbed her for Giles Coren. ‘I thought posh boys were supposed to be polite and gracious,’ she muses, ‘even when dealing with these Hogarthian peasants.’
A full-time mother to two young children, she scarcely has the time to read books any more – everything comes off the internet. ‘I used to read a book a day, but since I’ve had kids I’ve just been fucked.’ She puts on a kind of counter-cultural pose: ‘I’m the naughty one. I was the first journalist to get in there with the ROFLs, the LOLs, and the Lolcanoes. In my opinion, the Profanisaurus is the best book published in the last ten years.’
Nevertheless, her siblings were packed off to university, and she has fond memories of dropping her brother off to read ‘super-advanced Maths’ at Jesus College, Oxford. But in spite of the pride she takes in her illiteracy – ‘if it’s a funny picture of a cat with a sausage on its head, I am so in’ – you can’t escape the impression that Moran is the brightest of the lot.
And she prizes education, whatever she says about it. ‘I would have thought an Oxford degree would be managed by the crusty old professor from The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, sucking on his pipe and giving you crumpets. Actually, I’ve got this plebby, MILFy crush on these Oxbridge boys making their way through this system of favouritism like some microcosm of Twitter.’ I cross my legs and try to look bashful. She looks up with a smile. ‘The age of the nerd is upon us.’
I sure hope so. I think I am a little in love.
The Best of @Caitlinmoran:
‘Toby Young hasn’t done ANYTHING
other than be a c*** since 1993’
‘This bloke on Radio 4 is suffering from
severe “Delighted chuckle in the voice”.’
‘*sadly* I used to take loads of drugs on a Saturday night. Now I’m feeling “jangly” off the MSG in a Cup-a-Soup.’
‘Quick note to Gaga-haters trying to convince me she’s over-rated: I believe life is too short to talk to people who don’t like “Bad Romance”‘
‘Balls of hair, cheese rinds, fag ends, chewed gum, a bottle of champagne, 3 metres of
bubble wrap and a Mooncup: my desk.’
‘I can’t believe people are saying that Father
Christmas is my dad. My dad would have been far, far too stoned to do anything at 2am.’