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Unsinkable Molly
Although Molly Ivinsís new book is being cast as a Ďretrospective,í she expects to find plenty more chicken-fried nincompoopery to laugh at in the years to come

MOLLY IVINS IS a little worried that her new book, Who Let the Dogs In? (Random House), is being billed as a "career retrospective." It makes the 59-year-old feel, she sighs, "faintly dead."

But with its collection of more than 100 of the syndicated columnistís observations on American politics, itís a fair description. In the book, Ivins takes aim at everyone from Phil Gramm to Tom DeLay to Bill Clinton to George W., offering gems like "Letís have a new rule: If you pronounce the word nukular, you shouldnít go around nullifying nuclear treaties. Or building nuclear power plants" and "Newt Gingrich has already achieved the improbable effect of making Bob Dole seem cuddly."

The Texas native, whose work has appeared in Esquire, Mother Jones, the Nation, and the Atlantic Monthly, among others, has previously written five best-selling books, including BUSHWHACKED: Life in George W. Bushís America (Random House, 2003).

Q: Why this book, and why now?

A: Well, now thereís a good question. It was really the brainchild of Jonathan Karp, my editor, who says he sees it as a career retrospective ó a prospect that makes me feel faintly dead. I donít know that the world was particularly waiting for a retrospective collection from me. But here it is.

Q: What do you hope readers will take away with them, from reading this book?

A: The interesting thing is, youíre a journalist, they come in and they say, "Okay, weíre bringing out a bunch of your stuff," and you go, "Ummm?" I mean, what is the connection? What makes this a collection? And I really was kind of surprised to find that the connections are just so strong, theyíre so thematic, that it goes through pretty much everything I write. And there it is, after all this time. Still think this is funny, still think itís important, still want people to pay attention to it. And I still think that we can fix it.

Q: If you didnít think that, would you even be writing anymore?

A: No, I wouldnít. I keep thinking, I suppose we all do ó what was it Lily Tomlin said? "No matter how cynical you get, itís hard to keep up." And I suppose weíre all entitled, I believe we are, to be cynical about American politics at this point. But thereís so much thatís at stake, thereís so much that matters more than being able to slip off a cheap comment about what dodo birds these people all are, that I really think itís worth taking seriously. And oddly enough, the best way to take it seriously is to laugh at it.

Q: And it seems like not enough people on the left do.

A: Well, Iíd say political humor is a bit limited on both sides. But as you know, we are in a time of polarization, and you watch people try to have political conversations anymore, they get all red in the face, the tendons stand out in their necks, their wattles start to shake like a turkey gobbler ó itís terrifying.

Q: Your bio reads, "Molly Ivins is a nationally syndicated political columnist who remains cheerful despite Texas politics." How do you remain cheerful? What cheers you?

A: Well, first of all, there are very few things on earth more amusing than Texas politics. Grant you, it requires a strong stomach to enjoy this, but you remember, Iíve had decades of experience here. No, I really do think itís wonderful. There are days when I canít believe I get paid to do this. Itís like covering the circus. Itís like covering the zoo. Itís just heaven.

Q: So you donít get discouraged?

A: Oh, no! I mean, aside from thinking that maybe weíre losing everything, I donít get discouraged at all.

Q: Why do you continue to live in Texas?

A: Well, itís my home. [Texas Observer founding editor] Ronnie [Dugger] used to say, "Home is where you understand the sons of bitches." Texas is more fun. In a lot of the civilized East Coast, West Coast environments, people are always having to deal with shades of gray. The nice thing about Texas is that itís really quite simple: the bad guys wear black hats and the good guys wear white hats, and thereís not so much confusion. Itís a lot easier. And you never sit around having existential questions about what to do; itís always "Shut up and bail!"

Q: I assume you saw Fahrenheit 9/11?

A: I did, in fact.

Q: What did you think of it?

A: Lukewarm. I thought maybe as much as two-thirds of it was wasted. The rest was good enough so you could see what it mightíve been. But itís hard for me to judge, because of course I know all that stuff already. I know that many of the people who donít follow politics that closely come out going, "My God! I didnít know that!" But the whole portion he spent on the Bush-Saudi connection and the Unocal pipeline, you know, all thatís true, but itís not very relevant. Bless his heart, itís probably true of everybodyís work: if heíd taken a little more time and done a little more editing, he wouldíve had a better piece. Itís certainly true of my work.

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Issue Date: July 23 - 29, 2004
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