With a Cruella De Vil streak of grey in her bouffant hair and Doc Martens on her feet, Caitlin Moran looks every inch the woman who once likened the British Prime Minister David Cameron to a "camp gammon robot", interviewed Lady Gaga in a sex club and described herself as "a s..t Dickens or Orwell, but with tits". A long-time and occasionally controversial columnist for The Times in London, she's also the author of 2011's highly successful memoir/manifesto How to Be A Woman.
A few months ago, I attended a session with Moran, 37, at the Cheltenham Literary Festival in England, where she received a rock star's welcome from a sell-out crowd before making the festival-appointed interviewer look entirely superfluous as she chatted - eagerly, intelligently, with words tumbling out - about being a self-described "strident feminist" and growing up in a council house. She was brilliant and charming, and I went away a devoted fan.
Moran was promoting her latest book, Moranthology, which brings together a selection of her Times columns and is now available locally. The pieces included are appealingly broad in both subject matter and tone, from heartfelt defences of the welfare state and local libraries and wry accounts of family life to her take on everything from Ghostbusters ("the greatest film ever made"), drugs, being late to interview Gordon Brown, mental illness, Amy Winehouse, gay rights and Doctor Who.
Tying it all together is her superb, passionate writing: hilarious, warm, heartfelt and addictive. Moran can be both entertainingly silly and wonderfully insightful, as her moving obituary of Elizabeth Taylor and her perceptive piece on the Occupy protests prove. Frequently she manages the two simultaneously.
What is most striking about this book is its sense of intimacy. The tone is more akin to a lively discussion with an old friend than a disparate series of articles previously published in a newspaper on the other side of the world. You won't necessarily always agree with Moran, but you'll almost certainly enjoy the conversation. Reading Moranthology feels a lot like sitting in that tent at Cheltenham on a rainy autumn evening listening to its author - and that is a very, very good thing.