Thursday, February 01, 2007
Molly Ivins 1944-2007
Witty, Feisty, Irreverent
"And what are we, the spiritual descendants of Puritans, to make of this monument to materialism? So much stuff it makes you sick to look at it, like eating too much cotton candy. Stores that sell only stuff to put your stuff in. Sub-specialties of stuff beyond the wildest dreams of most of the world's people. Should we not disapprove? Well, yeah. On the other hand, the pyramids were built for Pharaohs on the happy theory they could take their stuff with them. Versailles was built for kings on the theory that they should live surrounded by the finest stuff. The Mall of America is built on the premise that we should all be able to afford this stuff. It may be a shallow culture, but it's by-God democratic. Sneer if you dare; this is something new in world history."
Katherine Seelye of the The NY Times, where Molly Ivins once worked as a reporter, covered the news very well. See excerpts.
January 31, 2007
Molly Ivins, Populist Texas Columnist, Dies at 62
By KATHARINE Q. SEELYE
- In her syndicated column, which appeared in about 350 newspapers, Ms. Ivins cultivated the voice of a folksy populist who derided those who acted too big for their britches. She was rowdy and profane, but she could filet her ideological opponents with droll precision.
- After Patrick J. Buchanan, as a conservative candidate for president, declared at the 1992 Republican National Convention that America was engaged in a cultural war, she said his speech “probably sounded better in the original German.”
- “There are two kinds of humor,” she told People magazine. One was the kind “that makes us chuckle about our foibles and our shared humanity,” she said. “The other kind holds people up to public contempt and ridicule. That’s what I do.”
- Her subject was Texas. To her, the Great State, as she called it, was “reactionary, cantankerous and hilarious,” and its legislature was “reporter heaven.” When the legislature was set to convene, she warned her readers: “Every village is about to lose its idiot.”
- Her Texas upbringing made her something of an expert on the Bush family. She viewed President George H.W. Bush benignly. (“Real Texans do not use the word ‘summer’ as a verb,” she wrote.)
- But she derided President George W. Bush, whom she first knew in high school. She called him Shrub and Dubya. With the Texas journalist Lou Dubose, she wrote two best-selling books about Mr. Bush: “Shrub: The Short but Happy Political Life of George W. Bush” (2000) and “Bushwhacked” (2003).
- In 2004 she campaigned against Mr. Bush’s re-election, and as the war in Iraq continued, she called for his impeachment. In her last column, earlier this month, she urged readers to “raise hell” against the war.
- Like her mother, Margot, and grandmother, Ms. Ivins went to Smith College in Massachusetts. Graduating in 1966, she also studied at the Institute of Political Science in Paris and earned her master’s degree at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.
- Ronnie Dugger, the former publisher of The Observer, said the political circus in Texas inspired her. “It was like somebody snapped the football to her and said, ‘All the rules are off, this is the football field named Texas, and it’s wide open,”’ he said.
- In 1976, her writing, which she said was often fueled by “truly impressive amounts of beer,” landed her a job at The New York Times. She cut an unusual figure in The Times newsroom, wearing blue jeans, going barefoot and bringing in her dog, whose name was an expletive.
- She quit The Times in 1982 after The Dallas Times Herald offered to make her a columnist. She took the job even though she loathed Dallas, once describing it as the kind of town “that would have rooted for Goliath to beat David.”
- But the paper, she said, promised to let her write whatever she wanted. When she declared of a congressman, “If his I.Q. slips any lower, we’ll have to water him twice a day,” many readers were appalled, and several advertisers boycotted the paper. In her defense, her editors rented billboards that read: “Molly Ivins Can’t Say That, Can She?” The slogan became the title of the first of her six books.
- Ms. Ivins learned she had breast cancer in 1999 and was typically unvarnished in describing her treatments. “First they mutilate you; then they poison you; then they burn you,” she wrote. “I have been on blind dates better than that.”
- But she continued to write her columns and continued to write and raise money for The Observer.
- Indeed, rarely has a reporter so embodied the ethos of her publication. On the paper’s 50th anniversary in 2004, she wrote: “This is where you can tell the truth without the bark on it, laugh at anyone who is ridiculous, and go after the bad guys with all the energy you have.”