Thursday, February 01, 2007

An American original

Everyone is justly paying tribute today to Molly Ivins, who died yesterday of cancer. She was only 62 and had a lot of writing left in her, as she demonstrated in dictating her last columns from her hospital bed.

There's a lot I will miss about Molly--her skewering of President GW "Shrub" Bush, her consistent opposition to the Iraq war, her hilarious observations on the Texas Legislature. What I liked most about her, though, is that she was always true to herself, even when she had the most prestigious job in journalism--a bureau chief for the New York Times. She had an unusual, often brilliant way of looking at things and a wicked way with words, which didn't play too well with the Grey Lady. Regular readers know that the Times has its own standardized, understated style, which Molly tended to ignore. She once described a local chicken-killing festival as a "gang pluck," which offended her editor, the august A.M. Rosenthal. And then there was the time she described a corpulent individual as someone with a "beer gut worthy of the Smithsonian," a characterization which subsequently appeared in the Times as a "protuberant abdomen." She could not be herself there, would not continue to have her prose "flattened and defoliated," as someone wrote today. So she walked away from the Times--an unthinkable act for a serious journalist. But that was the greatest thing about Molly. She refused to adapt to the world--she made the world adapt to her, and she kept right on writing as she saw fit. I think that's what made her the vivid, compelling, hilarious writer she was.

We'll all miss her. We should honor her memory by "raising more hell," as she always advised her readers, and taking care to laugh a lot, too.


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