The strange World of Julie Burchill


If you have ever read any Julie Burchill articles, you will know that she writes the same clunky way she did for NME Magazine when she was 17. But that is not all bad.

She has written for most English newspapers in some way, shape or form over the last 30 years.

And in 2003, Burchill was ranked number 85 in Channel 4‘s poll of the 100 Worst Britons, and not without justification.

Once a trenchant atheist punk, she is now into theology; and her journalism is just as fickle and capricious, but always delivered with the trenchant fervour of a religious fanatic.

Variously claiming to be a leftist or anarchist, and a proud member of the working class and “chav” elite, she has often revelled in confounding the left-wing, middle class press by being apparently reactionary and belligerent, especially during her stint at the Mail on Sunday during the 1980s.

Julie Burchill

But it is hard to tell whether Burchill is primarily an iconoclast or just a journeyman reporter, willing to write any old guff. I suspsect the latter, and when she left the Guardian in 2007, she left similar feelings of irritation and wonderment in her wake.

Stephen Brook wrote on June 1, 2007:

“No one could agree with everything she said. But there was a delight in encountering her thoughtful opinions, strongly held. And vitriolically delivered, of course, which only added to the sense of weekly occasion when reading one of her columns.”

However I also agreed with the sentiments of American feminist Camille Paglia about Burchill‘s childishness, hypocrisy and lack of verve, which she made in 1993:

“[Your writing]  contains a shadowy, tragic – or should I say pathetic – history of your life, your grim obsessiveness about your body image and what were pretty clearly some early sexual encounters with men, where your credulity or failures of judgement got you into situations that left permanent marks on you…

“Your flip, cliched locutions, braying rhetoric, and meandering incoherences are those of a college or even high school student…You think yourself madly clever, but I’m afraid you enfant terrible personality is a bit tattered…

“A friend of mine calls a style like yours -which we have seen a thousand examples of- ‘alcoholic prose’. There is a heavy, grinding ponderousness pull on the sinking syntax, a noisy blathering sound, a bitter, maudlin self pity breaking through the false bravado and cynical posturing… It is palpably 30 years out of date.”

Chief among Burchill‘s Crimes were her formless, meandering discourses in the Guardian Magazine before 2007.

In her farewell column that year, her longest paragraph filled 17 lines on a web page, and God knows how many in print. And I cannot even begin to tell you what it was about.

And in a 2004 comment for The Times, she even wrote a fawning retrospective of the Thatcher years, dripping with power-envy and her disgust for men.

But all-in-all, her columns make compelling, unputdownable reading, largely because of her unpredictability and unreasonable turns of argument.

I read her columns with the kind of grim fascination that accompanies traffic accidents and always felt less clean for doing so.

Her contradictions, she would inevitably claim, are all in sync with her punkish, confrontational zeal. 

I reckon she is just a crap and sanctimonious hack who has found a shtick that works.

 Julie Burchill and then boyfriend Tony Parsons in her punk days




2 Responses to “The strange World of Julie Burchill”

  1. Thnx for contribution to Burchilliana.


    Jean Moulin (Swedish patriot, leader of La Resistance Suedoise and enlightened xenophobe)

  2. 2 Lee

    I recently picked up a copy of “Not In My Name”, Julie Burchill’s book about hypocrisy, as it looked interesting – but I ended up hating it and hating her. Your final sentence really sums her up. She hates just about everybody and delights in being offensive for the sake of it, and has very, very little intelligent stuff to say. Everything she writes seems incoherent, inconsistent, angry, and poorly researched.

    See my blog for a blistering attack on aforementioned book. I shall make a point of avoiding her work in future.

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