Molly Ivins was larger than life and people of that ilk do everything big. If you’re from Texas, you do things double big. In the Molly Ivins: A Rebel Life biography by Bill Minutaglia and W. Michael Smith (out in paperback today), we meet the legendary writer.
Molly grew up in privileged Houston, spoke fluent French, and attended all the right Eastern schools–but you’d never know it to listen to her. She was the prototypical 1960’s radicalized rich kid. She started out working for the Texas Observer and moved on to the holy of holies, The New York Times.
The mix just didn’t work; they couldn’t get around her phraseology, especially referring to a New Mexico chicken plucking festival as a “gang pluck.” Back in Austin, she fell into her niche and began amassing her devoted constituency. She mingled and drank with all the pols and cataloged their stories for use in the next column or book. She really was a foul-mouthed alchy. She swore like a stevedore and drank like, well, like a Texas journalist. Luckily, she was also a brilliant political journalist.
Her steely wit was compared to Mark Twain and Will Rogers, but she was much more her own woman, better than Dorothy Parker and without the cruelty. She once said, “Satire [is] the weapon of powerless people aimed at the powerful. When you use satire against powerless people… it is like kicking a cripple.”
She may have been the world’s champion at skewering people, but she had an ethical base that made her the champion of middle America, making 20th century politics less painful. Minutaglio and Smith have written a great rendition of Molly’s life, as much thanks to her obsessive stashing of letters, clippings, and beer soaked napkin-notes. Nothing was ever discarded–thank heavens. She taught us about the Texas “lege” and kept us going through the “Shrub” (G.W.Bush) years.
Oh, that she were here to deal with the Tea Partiers.
Louise Leetch divides her time between Chicago and Wisconsin. Both houses are just crammed with books. She collects her reviews on her GoodReads page.