There’s no end to the number of interviews available to us at the minute but many of them are deeply unfulfilling, with celebrities wheeling out the same anecdotes about whatever it is they happen to be promoting. Lynn Barber’s work always gives us a good insight into people and she goes through the various stages of her career in journalism in A Curious Career.
She says it’s hard for her to be a guest at dinner parties as she always wants to know everyone’s business. This nosiness has got her a long way as she’s not afraid to ask the questions that some would see as being out of bounds. She’s got admiration for celebrities as she admires the courage it takes to become a star, the will to do something different with their lives. Readers are very interested in them and she still gets a great buzz when she gets the chance to interview them. She’s got preferences about which type of celebrity she goes for though, finding actors to be repetitive and boring.
She’s not snobby about the tabloids, finding them enjoyable and loving a juicy scandal. Her own fame after An Education has given her some knowledge of how celebrities feel about being in the public eye. She treats all of them with respect, making sure she does a significant amount of research before meeting people and can’t wait to write up the interviews with interesting guests. She has a desperate time of it with Marianne Faithfull and Rafael Nadal but getting this form of juice is always better than having a thoroughly dull interview with little to put on the page.
She gets to the parts of people that many don’t even dare approach and comes out the other end with great tales. There’s great stories here of her time with guests, including a night on the town with Shane MacGowan and her friendship with Tracey Emin.
Lynn Barber knows that people can’t be put into big sweeping brackets. A Curious Career will be invaluable to anyone wondering how to approach conducting an interview with big figures. Many things will be locked down in the modern world where people are well prompted not to talk about certain things but hopefully there’ll always people like Lynn Barber that can cut through the nonsense and provide something of value.