Sunday, February 04, 2007

From one Molly to Another

Much has happened in the week since my last post. Windows Vista was release and Barbaro was put down to name a few events. But the news that caught me off-guard and that has stuck with me, was the untimely passing of Molly Ivins.

I was first introduced to Ms. Ivins' writing my junior year in High School. A beloved aunt and uncle of mine had been reading her for years out of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and after what I'm sure was a lengthy conversation about ways to fix the state, the country, the world, etc, they clipped a few of her columns and mailed them to me. Reading those columns was like fortified cake for me. Here was a woman who was arguing points of view I agreed with not only more in depth than I would or could - almost any columnist could argue any side of any point better than I can - but with a rich colloquialism that came straight from my front porch. And her use of the language, counter to what we're conditioned to think, didn't harm the argument at all. She was "speaking Texan." I later read several of her early books and all I could do was smile. Her eloquence in the colloquial tongue and her ability to retain argumentative credibility just thrilled me.

Her use of language in any context was like walking on sunshine for me. In the early 80s, toward the end of her stint with the New York Times, covering the southwest, she reported on a ritual chicken slaughter in a small western U.S. town and referred to it as a "gang pluck." Her editor was mortified and demanded she change it. She refused. He canned her. The Times' loss was everyone else's gain. Ms. Ivins secured her niche in column writing.

There were no targets off limits to her. She has been known as - and certainly was - a liberal columnist, but she was by no means a lapdog to the democrats. If she saw injustice or flat wrongheadedness she called it and it didn't matter if the campaign sign for the subject of her piece was in her front yard. That was another thing I loved her for. And if a conservative was doing something right, she called that, too. Too bad, just days after her death, news that Gov. Rick "the Hair" Perry made Texas the first state to require HPV vaccines for girls entering 6th grade. I would have loved to have read what her response would have been.

I don't habitually read the opinion page in news papers. Most that I read anymore are in our subscription to Newsweek or online at other news sites. In the last few years, I have only read her column sporadically. In May of 2004, I sat down to read Bushwhacked. The scandal about Abu Gharib had just broken (and was breaking my heart), the divisive ire surrounding the impending election was really beginning to percolate. I found my own blood boiling so much surrounding the administration that I couldn't finish the second chapter, much less the second paragraph of any news article about them. There are times in one's life when she must simply deal with her own anger before reading more on a subject. The last 4 years have been such a time for me. I will go back to Bushwhacked sometime, but once I'm done with my blind fury. When I do, I know there will be good information delivered in linguistic gems.

I did not know that Molly Ivins had cancer. This explains why in the last year, the photo alongside her column on the Star-Telegram website showed her with closely cropped hair. Her passing is almost more of a symbolic personal loss. In the last 4 months, Anne Richards and Molly Ivins have both died. These are both women who inspired me by their language, their larger-than-lifeness, their willingness to proudly be a minority voice and their beautiful ability to hang quite easily with the good old boys. They, like my beloved aunt who turned me on to Molly Ivins, are the Texas women I crave to grow up to be: bold, socially concerned, articulate good old gals whose default countenance is a beaming grin.

To hear an interview with Molly Ivins, go here.

Molly Ivins is one of those people I'd've always loved to have had dinner with. My opportunities to do that in this life, limited here are they were, are over. I hope we can catch up in the sweet by and by when I leave this world. ... in the meantime, I guess I need to see what I can do to get on the dinner guest lists of Jimmy Carter and Bono!


Sonnjea B said...

Although I'd heard of Molly Ivins, I didn't really know who she was or what she was known for. Your post beautifully explained her appeal and her importance, not just to you and other Texans, but to our country -- and now I realize I missed out on something (someone) lovely without ever knowing it (she) was there.

And if you ever manage to get invited to dinner with Jimmy and/or Bono, can you PLEASE sneak me in with you? I promise to behave.

Virginia Gal said...

A dinner with Jimmy Carter and Molly Ivins - that would be freaking great!