Man Without Qualities

Thursday, July 10, 2003

Hyperdowdified III: Getting Personal

Tom Maguire e-mails some very interesting materials, including an article on Maureen Dowd by Catherine Seipp that may be a definitive portrait of the columnist as clueless egomaniac. Ms. Seipp believes that Big Mo's crimes against readers now fall into three main categories—formulaic nuttiness, posturing, and condescension.

Well, yes, but these are mere devices to conceal Big Mo's biggest problem: sheer inability to understand the substance and implications of the matters of world-historical importance on which she chooses to write. Ms. Dowd's talents are almost exclusively verbal and observational - not generally analytic.

Why does Big Mo not write about what she knows - or at least could hope to understand? Why doesn't she write about matters she experiences in, and understands from, her personal life? It's not a rhetorical question. Wouldn't writing about more personal matters be a better use of her particular talents, and the talents of all hyperliterate capital-W Writers with an eye for detail and an ear for the shuffling going on behind the curtain, as her critic Katherine Boo characterized Big Mo and her disciples (as recounted by Ms. Seipp)?

Tom Maguire e-mails this note regarding what Ms. Dowd sees when she turns off the lights:

[Maureen Dowd] was a working class Irish kid born Jan 14, 1952 (so now she is 51), never married, no kids (as best I can tell, which is not easy). She has been romantically linked to Michael Douglas (1998) and Aaron Sorkin (2003).

Apparently no kids? Does it strike anyone else how creepy it is that someone who affects such a self-consciously personal "woman's view" as Big Mo's leaves unclear whether she has ever had a child?

Never married? 51? Michael Douglas and Aaron Sorkin? The choice of men seems especially telling. The first never married her (although he has married two other women) and dropped her for trophy-squeeze-and-ultimately-wife Catherine Zeta-Jones, and the second is a confessed, well-known, arrested drug abuser with a famously foul temper.

Is it a wonder that this woman would write columns that are increasingly bitter towards men - and all things male?
Is it a wonder that she does not care to convey telling details about any matters close to her own home? With this approach to men, would one be surprised to learn that Ms. Dowd has been the victim of actual domestic abuse? “Ms. Dowd does not speak to the press,” her assistant told New York magazine media columnist Michael Wolff in 1999 (again via Ms. Seipp). Well, of course she doesn't. The "press" would ask personal questions.

Could it be that Big Mo increasingly indulges in what OpinionJournal terms her custom of writing breezy, trivial columns on matters of world-historical importance because writing on matters of personal significance is increasingly unbearable for her? That is: Are Ms. Dowd's columns increasing flights of escapism from her own sour experiences, and the Times is inviting its readers along for the increasingly bizarre and sublimated rides?

Yes, this is speculation, but it is speculation about a woman whose most recent column implicitly likens men to parasitic worms imbedded in a huge, bloated female, among other gross indicia of hostility. And it is certainly no less speculative than what one reads every day in Big Mo's own columns.

As an aside, Big Mo is of course happy to include in her column a reference to the old story about female praying mantises devouring the heads of their mates. But Snopes says the story is not quite true, and appears to be mostly untrue for the insects in their natural habitat (that is, outside the laboratory). More hyperdowdification.

MORE: Here and here and here and here and here.

UPDATE: Paul Jaminet at Brothers Judd sums it up nicely:

The [Supreme] Court has not yet addressed whether [a] Constitutional right extends to the bio-engineering of small parasites that can generate sperm from within a woman's reproductive tract, or to the production of quasi-males who can be eaten during procreation. But is there any doubt that imagining these possibilities sends a frisson through Maureen Dowd?

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