November 13, 2005

Too much Dowd: like too much coffee?

Kathryn Harrison reviews Maureen Dowd's "Are Men Necessary?"
Consumed over a cup of coffee, 800 words provide Dowd the ideal length to call her readers' attention to the ephemera at hand that may reveal larger trends and developments. But smart remarks are reductive and anti-ruminative; not only do they not encourage deeper analysis, they stymie it...

When a few hundred pages' worth of these observations are published in one book, they suffer the opposite of synergy, adding up to less than the sum of their parts. Energizing in small morning doses, the author's fast-talking spins on the spin can rear-end one another until the pileup exhausts a reader's patience.
Bloggers shouldn't be writing books either then, I suppose. But there is this urge to become a permanent object -- a permanent, saleable object.

17 comments:

PatCA said...

But I think a blogger (such as you?) could produce a very nice coffee table style book--short pieces, lots of images.

paulfrommpls said...

A universal human urge.

Incidentally, I think the muskies in Lake Harriet in the middle of Minneapolis are starting to get used to getting caught and released, like all muskies are anymore. It seems to be getting easier to catch them. I suppose one day they'll just stop fighting.

wildaboutharrie said...

"Does she let loose three arrows instead of one because she can't choose the cleverest among them?"

That's Dowd, dead-on.

Allah said...

Holy cow. I can't believe she got slagged in her own paper.

I also can't believe people find her "clever." This is a writer whose work can be -- and has been -- reduced to paint-by-numbers.

paulfrommpls said...

"But smart remarks are reductive and anti-ruminative; not only do they not encourage deeper analysis, they stymie it..."

But wait! That can't be true! That's the whole left approach to politics! Just hold on there a second!

wildaboutharrie said...

Clever, Paul! You just stymied me.

Oh, wait...

Palladian said...

"But smart remarks are reductive and anti-ruminative; not only do they not encourage deeper analysis, they stymie it...they suffer the opposite of synergy, adding up to less than the sum of their parts. Energizing in small morning doses, the author's fast-talking spins on the spin can rear-end one another until the pileup exhausts a reader's patience."

Sounds like the Democratic party of late, except the "smart" and "energizing" parts.

Allah said...

The ultimate Dowd takedown is right here, of course. The best part is the end, but the best line comes a bit earlier: "Who wants to deal with Tinkerbell flitting around when you’re trying to read the op-ed pages?"

knoxgirl said...

PJ O'Rourke, for example, can write about politics and be funny and substantive at the same time. With Dowd, it's like they keep saying lately: "There's no there there"

Paul said...

Can I just say I've never enjoyed her writing and she seems quite happy to deviate from facts as much as she wishes?
Or do I have to (try) and do a cerebral analysis of her trash?

EddieP said...

Is Dowd necessary?

SippicanCottage said...

There's lots of talk on these here innernets about newspapers going the way of the dodo. The internet, as currently constituted, makes a poor newsgathering instrument. It takes a fairly large apparatus to assemble the news every day.

But blogs already make Dowd and her ilk superfluous. It's the op/ed page that's dead already, they just forgot to bury it. You can get opinion, firehose style, of a very high quality, from innumerable sources instantly. And it's exposed to the group intellect of the readers in a way that makes it much more difficult to be full of merde like the average Times Op/Ed writer. Dowd's the queen of the dodos. And I mean that every which way.

PatCA said...

MoDo even made it into the NYT Crossword Puzzle today!

Dowd was the answer to the clue "sharp-penned Maureen."

What is it, anyway, is she the laughing stock, or is this some Rovian PR campaign for her book?

BeyonceKnowsBest said...

Like every book over 300 pages, I skimmed the parts I found less compelling. But I did not do much skimming with this book. Most of the posters here clearly just disagree with Dowd's opinions, and just as clearly have not read this book, but are merely hopping on the conservative knee-jerk reactive "let's slam liberal authors" bandwagon.

wildaboutharrie said...

Beyonce, Lord knows I'm no conservative, but I can't stand her columns, for style and "substance". However, you're right - I haven't read the book. But the excerpts look to be of a piece with Dowd's usual writing. So, it's not for me.

Ann Althouse said...

Beyonce: I didn't see a theme here of rejecting Dowd because she's a liberal. And in case you're just type-casting me as a conservative, I consider myself a stronger feminist than she is. She's trying to do the post-feminist thing.

BeyonceKnowsBest said...

Ann -- I was responding to many of the comments rather than your original post. From what I've read, I wouldn't type-cast you as conservative in general, but I would say you are on the conservative side of constitutional law commentators. And I would be in shock to discover a female law professor who is not a feminist, however she defines that.

As for the response itself -- looking up I see quite a lot of snarky references to Dowd's book based on the politics (i.e., "the whole left approach"; "problem with the Democratic party"; the article ordering Dowd to stay out of politics). I just wanted to find out how many critics commenting read the book rather than rehashed political battle-cries.