February 10, 2007

The Kettle Wears Black

Maureen Dowd — I mean, MoDojust might be onto something here.

No, I realized with growing alarm, chick lit was no longer a niche. It had staged a coup of the literature shelves. Hot babes had shimmied into the grizzled old boys' club, the land of Conrad, Faulkner and Maugham. The store was possessed with the devil spawn of The Devil Wears Prada. The blood-red high heel ending in a devil's pitchfork on the cover of the Lauren Weisberger best seller might as well be driving a stake through the heart of the classics.

I even found Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar with chick-lit pretty-in-pink lettering.

"Penis lit versus Venus lit," said my friend Leon Wieseltier, the literary editor of The New Republic, who was with me. "An unacceptable choice."

Looking for Mr. Goodbunny by Kathleen O'Reilly sits atop George Orwell's 1984. Mine Are Spectacular! by Janice Kaplan and Lynn Schnurnberger hovers over Ulysses. Sophie Kinsella's Shopaholic series cuddles up to Rudyard Kipling.

Even Will Shakespeare is buffeted by rampaging 30-year-old heroines, each one frantically trying to get their guy or figure out if he's the right guy, or if he meant what he said, or if he should be with them instead of their BFF or cousin, or if he'll come back, or if she'll end up stuck home alone eating Häagen-Dazs and watching CSI and Sex and the City reruns...

The novel was once said to be a mirror of its times. In my local bookstore, it’s more like a makeup mirror.

I know! It's almost like, what if newspaper columnists who did actual reporting and analysis of consequential world affairs were crowded out by self-involved gossipy girls who only want to write about their shopping trips with their semi-famous BFFs or, if they do write about politics, reduce everything to cutesy nicknames and pop-culture analogies because it's just so much more fun than having anything thoughtful to say, and then they do it over and over again until each column is indistinguishable from the next, lulling you into a hypnotic state with their simple life lessons and dispensing nuggets of hard-won wisdom like, "her national anthem may have been off-key, but her look wasn't. It was an attractive mirror of her political message: man-tailored with a dash of pink femininity." Talk about the makeup-mirroring of America!

At least she didn't mention Christian chick lit. That's my turf.

Posted by Daniel Radosh


Wait ... does this mean you actually pay for TimesSelect?

It comes free with home delivery. Why I still pay for delivery is another question. I can just get all my news from Democratic Underground!

"The Kettle Wears Black" is a hilarious title. You're onto something, Daniel....I mean, DaRa.

"The store was possessed with the devil spawn of The Devil Wears Prada. The blood-red high heel ending in a devil's pitchfork..."

This woman doesn't get paid for her writing, does she?

Once she found out Are Men Necessary? had been displaced by No Ass to Mouth Until the Third Date, she went home and ate a dozen cupcakes from Magnolia.

All these years, I thought Nostromo was just the spaceship in Alien. No wonder Maureen Dowd's just my speed.

Right? Come to think of it, why is MoDo looking to brush up on her Conrad? Let's play a little game, shall we? Here's the plot description from Wikipedia. Which contemporary figure will Dowd compare to Conrad's anti-hero in an upcoming column?

Nostromo is what would today be called a shameless self-publicist. He is believed by Señor Gould to be incorruptible, and for this reason is entrusted with hiding the silver from the revolutionaries. He accepts the mission not out of loyalty to Señor Gould, but rather because he sees an opportunity to increase his own fame.

In the end it is Nostromo, together with a ruined cynic of a doctor and a journalist (all acting for self-serving reasons), who are able to restore some kind of order to Sulaco. It is they who are able to persuade two of the warlords to aid Sulaco's secession from Costaguana and protect it from other armies. Nostromo, the incorruptible one, is the key figure in setting the wheels in motion.

In Conrad's universe, however, almost no one is incorruptible. The exploit does not bring Nostromo the fame he had hoped for, and he feels slighted and used. Feeling that he has risked his life for nothing, he is consumed by resentment, which leads to his corruption and ultimate destruction.

My guess: Rudy Giuliani, with Lisa Nowak as a dark horse.

Funny take, Daniel. But then, how will she bring in references to Anna Nicole Smith, the latest episode of Ugly Betty and Crantinis? And will she have the wit and creativity to refer to Giuliani as "an Alpha Male" in every other column over the next two years? I've got it: "Rudy Giuliani is the ultimate Alpha Male while the bully boys of the Bush administration are just mailing it in." Or is it more of a classic MoDo sentence if you make it even more circular? As in "mailing it in and eating alphabet soup."
Sadly, I've heard MoDo on NPR describing these awful lines of hers as "jokes." Groan.

My favorite MoDo story is how Joel Stein nebbishly (sp?) tried to apologize to her after he made a joke about her in one of his columns and she didn't like it because she's who she is. After several failed attempts, he tried sending her a case of wine. She sent it back with a note:

"Mr. Stein, keep the wine."

If I were him, and thank God I'm not, I would have replied with:

"Pardon the affront, you miserable--"

Post a comment

Powered by
Movable Type 3.2