The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

14 December 2005

Is a review necessary?

Yes, I have now read Maureen Dowd's Are Men Necessary? (Short answer: Yes, at least sometimes.)

I haven't reviewed it here because, well, there's not much to it: I got the distinct impression that coming up with actual transitional material to fill in the Marianas Trench-sized gaps between the original Dowd columns that make up the bulk of the book was a lot lower on MoDo's to-do list than, say, finding a suitable pulp-fiction cover design.

Which is not to say that there was nothing worthwhile in it; but that which was worthwhile, I believe, came off as merely incidental to the intent of the book. In fact, suggests the Anchoress, Dowd wrote the wrong book altogether:

I hope you will try to write the book you should have written this time around. A book that should not contain the words "men" or "me" or "Bush" at all, and it should not contain a single reference to a movie, or television or pop music. Because honey, you need to focus on something different — you need to break out of your rut, and your unhealthy obsessions.

Write a book about the three women whom you clearly loved and admired and miss. Write a book about your mother, and Katharine Graham, and Mary McGrory.

Because I have to tell you, in the whole silly exercise of Are Men Necessary?, the only time you were readable, likable and still clearly in control of your pen was when you were writing about these three women, and you made the reader want to read more.

Absolutely true. This isn't much material — a mere handful of pages — but this is where Dowd shines, where she's more concerned with getting the story told than with maintaining the standard snark level, where she comes across as someone who still has ideals and is grateful to those who imparted them to her.

People (not just you, Snitch) ask me why I bother with Maureen Dowd at all. My stock response has been that I see her as sort of a kindred spirit: fiftyish, certified smartass, and utterly clueless about the ways and means of love — how could I not pay attention to someone like that? But I was going back through some of the archives this week, and reread some of the stuff I wrote where sneers took a back seat to sense — here's a particularly good example — and it occurred to me that perhaps MoDo and I, in addition to having most of the same weaknesses, might also have one or two of the same strengths. (A tongue-in-cheek review of same came out here last month.)

Or it could be simply this, as the Anchoress says:

Somewhere in your Catholic background, you learned about gifts and how they are used. You have one, and you've been wasting it on worldly and fleeting things. Write something out of love. It will last, as love does.

Something to add to my to-do list, I see.

Posted at 10:28 AM to Warn Mode Due


Wow.

I'm not a fan of Mo, although she used to be an idol of mine, once upon a time. I think, now, I might know why that happened.

Posted by: Jennifer at 7:01 PM on 14 December 2005

See what a bass-ackwards world this is? The Anchoress should be writing for a major platform such as the Times, and Dowd should be doing... something appropriate for someone possessing her skill set.

Right there, I think I may have hit a deer swerving around any number of possible snarky remarks. It's probably been a strain for you, as well, to avoid writing another Dowd post. It's been, let's see, six days since the last one.

It's a charitable time of year, I'm doing the best I can to act appropriately toward others. No Dowd jokes at least 'till '06. Keeping in mind that any day I'm put in the same category as 'people' is a good one.

Posted by: Mr. Snitch! at 7:10 PM on 14 December 2005

Mo does have plenty of talent, but not she's not funny enough (though she can be clever as hell) to be a lefty P.J. O'Rourke, and not she's serious enough about her craft to be...well, any political commentator who actually has something to say, several times a week.

Posted by: John Salmon at 8:46 PM on 14 December 2005

I hope you will try to write the book you should have written this time around. A book that should not contain the words "men" or "me" or "Bush" at all...

(emphasis added)

In other words, the Anchoress wants Mo to write about what she knows.

Posted by: McGehee at 8:22 AM on 15 December 2005