Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Out Of Fashion

What is amazing about Maureen Dowd is that she instills such strong passion even when she doesn’t have a current column. Lapata in Chapati Mystery takes on the entire New York Times stable of columnists, but singles out Maureen Dowd in particular.

I am willing to cede the point that numerous op-ed writers for that newspaper of record often appear to lack even the most basic skills needed in making a logical argument. In the case of Maureen Dowd, of course, logical argument is not, it is hoped, even a goal. In her column, the formula of pegging every political figure and situation to a corresponding character in a widely viewed prime-time hit television show does not require logical argument, but only a fit of insinuating pique.
What brought on his pique? It seems he is rather smitten with the prose of one Guy Trebay, the NYT fashion columnist.
Guy Trebay would never be invited to write an op-ed column in the Times, nor would his byline grace the columns of the first section of any newspaper. Guy Trebay would never call the world flat, or compare prime ministers of foreign nations fictional mafia dons or devote whole columns to baby names.
Lapata, of course, is calling out Flat Earth Friedman, and the baby names column by David Brooks is pretty silly, but of all the poisoned paragraphs by the Dowdster, what does he pick on? A five-month old item titled “A Tale of Two Tonys, Exiting Tormented”. Let’s have a look:
They’re both going out, not with a bang, but with a bing.

As they go dark, the two Tonys are bitter, paranoid and worn down by their enemies and scheming erstwhile allies. They both live in a bleak universe of half-truths, compromises and betrayals, a world changed utterly by the violence they set in motion. They were both brought low by high-stakes mistakes.

Tony Blair fears the feral beast. Tony Soprano is the feral beast.

The two Tonys found that their skin was never thick enough. And they stumbled into trouble with their Juniors, Junior Bush and Junior Soprano. Before he steps down in two weeks, Tony Blair decided to let loose with one of those self-pitying Tony Soprano-style rants that drove Dr. Melfi to terminate him. Call it No. 10 Downer Street.
It may not be Coward, or even Parker, but it’s fresh, clever, and topical (at least at the time). I would have never come up with the Blair in the Bada Bing Club allusion, but Dowd makes it work. As always, she stretches a metaphor a little further than it should go, like here:
I worry more about the press when it’s reverent rather than irreverent, when it’s a tame lapdog, as it was in the buildup to Iraq, than when it’s a feral beast. And I worry about politicians like W. and Blair being black and white rather than gray, as they were in building their hysterical, phony case against Saddam. We would have been well-served back then if Mr. Blair had explained to the jejune Junior that there’s some good, some bad, and some gray in the world, and that sometimes it’s smarter to squeeze tyrants, rather than Shock-and-Awe them.
It may not have the flowery flourishes of a Guy Trebay who can milk four paragraphs out of leering at supermodels at the tail end of a pout about hirsute hipsters, but I would rather spend an afternoon just staring at a Maureen Dowd column than read purple prose about underfed fashionistas.

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