Friday, March 25, 2005


I really didn't get this bit from a recent Michael Kinsley column:
When the New York Times anointed Maureen Dowd as a columnist nine years ago, I gave her some terrible advice. I said, "You've got to write boy stuff. The future of NATO, campaign spending reform. Throw weights. Otherwise, they won't take you seriously." The term "throw weights" had been made famous by a Reagan-era official who said that women can't understand them -- whatever they are, or were.

Dowd wisely ignored me and proceeded to reinvent the political column as a comedy of manners and a running commentary on the psychopathologies of power. It is the first real innovation in this tired literary form since Walter Lippmann. Eighty years ago, Lippmann developed the self-important style in which lunch with a VIP produces a judicious expression of concern by the columnist the next day about developments in danger of being overlooked. Most of today's columns are still variations and corruptions of this formula. But Dowd is different, and she is the most influential columnist of our time.
The most influential columnist? Says who? Her only schtick is to come up with snarky insults, often repeating the same play on words ad nauseam. The effect can be occasionally amusing, but influential? Really?


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