Book Review – A Curious Career by Lynn Barber


This one not strictly mine but nicked from my wife after she finished it recently and glad I did.

It’s a memoir of sorts from legendary journalist and interviewer Lynn Barber (she wrote An Education, adapted into the Carey Mulligan film a few years ago) and trails and trawls meanderingly through her history as a professional interrogator of the famous and powerful while setting out her stall on life, work and how to do them both. It’s a long-hackneyed phrase but she really does seem to take no prisoners in either.

Staring, of all places, in her early days writing for Penthouse magazine this book focuses on a handful of ones she wants to revisit from affectionate portraits of Tracy Emin to long, very entertaining (for the reader) lost weekends with Salvador Dali and Shane McGowan and power battles with Marianne Faithfull through Jimmy Stewart’s toupee and just what a complete bastard Martin Clunes can be.

She also talks about how the art of the interview she used to do in decades past is dying due to overzealous press people and dull interviewees far too aware of their public image. This is the bit that really stuck me as something to examine and live by as an interviewer. We live in an ocean of “celeb” puff pieces put together by willing and compliant journos just glad to get 8 minutes with a third-rate star from a fairly big new movie (and yes, I’m aware of my complicity with this in times past). Oh to have the ability and the heft to do interviews like these…

Yes. she’s probably an acquired taste as a reader but if you’re young and thinking of getting into the interviewing business you could do a lot worse than take guidance and warning here. If you’re not in the biz it’s still a cracking look behind the curtain of how these things works, power games and what really goes into creating 1500 words on a Sunday.

I liked it very much.