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Saturday, 2 July 2011

How To Be A Woman by Caitlin Moran

After so much discussion on Twitter about Times columnist and all-round saucy-cool-chick Caitlin Moran's book "How To Be A Woman" I decided today, at 3.15pm, to pop quickly into town and purchase it for myself. I didn't want a wasted journey so I called ahead and asked WHSmith if they had it in stock. "We have, but it's selling out quickly. Do you want me to keep you a copy?" Of course I did. So off I went with £11.99 in my arse pocket and an expectant grin on my chops.

When I got to WHSmith, after an arduous bus journey, that seemed to consist of attempting to ignore vomiting children and abusive drivers, I found that my copy was not being kept as promised. The swine. So, I ventured to the shelves in search of what I wanted. I found it - and three other copies; yes, only four in the whole shop! - and rushed to the tills. They were closing at 5:30pm and I wanted to get that 5:40pm bus home.

So, I paid - a very reasonable £6.99, a very pleasant surprise -and left the shop with almost half an hour to spare before my bus. "Never mind," I thought, "I'll pop to Gregg's the Bakers and get me a pasty, then read my book by the war memorial for a bit before the bus comes..." - this I did. Within the first five pages (the bear minimum I'd usually read in-store before purchase, to 'test the waters' before I committed myself to another week without bread and milk; a practice I had abandoned on pure faith in the author in this case) I found myself laughing out loud. Actually LOLing. I thought, "this isn't really a book meant for me, I don't think. I'm a 25 year old man" before I made a decision to give it a go anyway, but it caught me immediately and I was drawing troubled glances from the Christians outside the God Shop thanks to my chuckles. How wrong I was in my original judgement. I missed my bus because I was lost in this delightful piece of genius. I caught the 6:05pm, for those worrying. This book should, in all seriousness, be read by everyone.

'How To Be A Woman' is wonderful. Part memoir, part feminist deconstruction of life, it manages to be informative and interesting - even thought-provoking - without once being preachy or pompous. And, most of all, it's fucking funny. As a man - and a fairly ignorant man, it would now seem - I have little or no personal experience of buying bras, getting my first period and organising a wonderful wedding. I didn't think they were things I'd ever really have wanted to know about, since I am - as it turns out - totally the opposite of knowledgeable when it comes to women and their "stuff". I know. I sound like a pig. I am aware!

But this book opened a window for me to gaze blinkingly into the inner-workings of the better sex. All women should read this book, if only to measure where they stand in terms of their views on feminism. Caitlin's almost-hero-worship of Germain Greer doesn't stop them disagreeing on numerous feminist issues (I hate the way I'm phrasing this, I blame Caitlin). All men should read it because it really will help you understand the women you love, and those you don't.

She discusses porn, pubes, periods, work, shoes and bags, family, dogs and wanking all with such a frank and forthcoming honesty and realism that you cannot help but go along with her on her little journey through her past, and love every second. The book held me like a comforting Granddad, but one who would whisper rude jokes to me when my Mother was out of earshot. I found myself turning the pages, laughing like a loon, then turning back as I realised that the last four sentences were actually blurred beyond visibility thanks to the tears in my eyes. I started reading, as you have learned above, at 5:15pm-ish. I will finish this book this evening. I've struggled to put it down. I have so much to do before tomorrow afternoon and have done none of it - again, I blame Caitlin. 

Honestly. If you've never read anything Caitlin Moran has written before then make 'How To Be A Woman' your jumping-on point. If you're familiar with her work then you should already have this book in your home. I don't think I've thundered through (what is, at its bones) an opinionated autobiography with such hunger in all my years as a bookworm. And that's a long time! Without question the most enjoyable read I've buried myself in in years. Outstanding stuff. And meaningful. I learned a lot!

ADDITIONAL: It's 3:12am and I've just finished the book. Sigh. I think I'll start reading it again in the morning. Without a doubt the best non-fiction book I've read in years. Perfect, essential reading for everyone.