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Molly Ivins: A Rebel Life Hardcover – November 10, 2009
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From Publishers Weekly
Until her death in 2007, Molly Ivins was a staple of the op-ed page, aiming her arrow at favorite targets like George W. Bush, Ronald Reagan, and the circus of Southern-particularly Texan-politics. The Texas daughter of an oil executive and major player in Houston society, Ivins enjoyed an early, privileged view of Texas deal making and the rise of modern Republicanism. Her subsequent career was a full-fledged rebellion, beginning with her father's conservatism, and culminating in a rejection of both "objective" (read: neutered) journalism and the oil-rich Republican machine. Ivins's insight couldn't be timelier, and the lines she crossed on behalf of women and journalists are overdue for celebration. She was also a fascinating and private person who charmed with her Southern character and was rumored to have had a number of high-profile affairs. An ideal investigation would get into these deep, dark corners, the way Ivins herself would have, but this biography is based on select personal papers and positive recollections, written by close admirers: Minutalglio is a Texas journalism professor, Smith was a long-time researcher for Ivins. Though they fail to explain what truly motivated Ivins's relentless crusade, or the deep tradition of American opposition behind her seemingly-anomalous Texas liberalism, this book should please fans and win Ivins new ones.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
“God I miss Molly Ivins! The Texas kicker spoke truth to power like nobody’s business. Bill Minutaglio and W. Michael Smith have elegantly bottled up her enduring charm in this winner of a book. A real page-turning hoot.”
Sir Harold Evans
“I was lucky enough to be the publisher of Molly Ivins’ iconoclastic, outrageously funny, laceratingly pointed political and social commentaries that made most male contemporaries—hello sweet pea—seem like shrinking violets, and I never knew the half of what made her tick so gloriously. The deeply researched biography by Bill Minutaglio and W. Michael Smith, written with affection but unflinching candor, reveals a brave, resilient woman with a personality bigger than Texas whom hundreds of thousands of her readers, like me, will wish they’d known better.”
“Fans of Ivins's work and readers interested in feminist history, contemporary politics, and media studies will like this first full-length biography of Ivins.”
“Filled with first-rate analysis, leavened by plenty of local color.”
Dallas Morning News
“Entertaining, readable.... Molly Ivins: A Rebel Life is a sobering account of the toll of addiction and cancer, but it's also full of wonderful stories about a complex, brilliant woman who will be remembered for her trademark wit and down-home wisdom
“An inside look at the world of journalism while describing in moving detail Ivins’ struggle with cancer.”
San Antonio News-Express
“For those who miss the wit and whip of Molly Ivins, the new biography of her life will make you laugh, cry, shudder and think.”
Cleveland Plain Dealer
“This biography will be enjoyed…. It will help a new crop of readers discover an American original.”
“Poignant… personal, empathetic.”
Megan Garber, Columbia Journalism Review
“Meticulous…. A Rebel Life could easily have reduced Ivins’s life to a kind of ongoing dialectic: public persona versus private person, expectations versus here’s where you can put your expectations. It could have also devolved into a simple study of the journalist’s body of work. But thankfully, the authors resist reductive aesthetics in favor of something both more challenging and more rewarding: empathy. They provide a portrait of their subject that is loving in the most literal sense. They treat her simply as a person, with the attendant freight of ego and insecurity, strength and frailty… the biography is like its subject: unrelentingly honest, unapologetically filtered.”
Columbia Journalism Review
“Meticulous…. A Rebel Life could easily have reduced Ivins’s life to a kind of ongoing dialectic: public persona versus private person, expectations versus here’s where you can put your expectations. It could have also devolved into a simple study of the journalist’s body of work. But thankfully, the authors resist reductive aesthetics in favor of something both more challenging and more rewarding: empathy. They provide a portrait of their subject that is loving in the most literal sense. They treat her simply as a person, with the attendant freight of ego and insecurity, strength and frailty… the biography is like its subject: unrelentingly honest, unapologetically filtered”
Lloyd Grove,New York Times Book Review
“Minutaglio, the author of a well-received Bush biography, First Son, and Smith, who spent six years working for Ivins as a researcher and gofer, draw on voluminous private papers and interviews to produce a painfully intimate portrait . . . chockablock with colorful anecdotes and psychological insights”
Norman J. Glickman, Philadelphia Inquirer
“[Minutaglio & Smith] have vividly captured Ivins’ life—the bright and funny sides as well as the sad and dark…. People who read her columns or heard her on TV or NPR will find this a fascinating read. Those who didn’t know her work will be driven to her books…. [The authors] have painted a broad and deep picture of this national treasure. They have captured her public and private essences perfectly.”
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Molly was an upcruster from a wealthy Republican family who was quick to see how "things worked" by observing her own father and his cronies as they wheeled and dealed in the Houston of the oil boom. She was smart, well-educated, spoke French, and could slide from an East Coast cultured voice into her downhome Texas twang when she needed to in order to get the story that she wanted.
Her life was not an easy one. It's never easy when a person realizes that their parents' life and social milieu and political positions totally conflict with ones own view of the world. She spent her life dealing with that confict. It took a toll emotionally and physically and psychologically BUT at the end of the day, she was a voice that spoke to a lot of people -- even the ones who didn't agree with her political views could never deny that she could get to the heart of an issue quickly and expose it and make it comprehensible to the reading public.
I miss Molly Ivins and reading this book which was written by two people who knew her well made me realize once again that when we lose a voice like hers, we lose a lot.
Its weaknesses are lack of insight and inconsistency. For example, in one chapter, as Molly is coming to grips with the damage alcohol is causing her, she describes overhearing her friend Ann Richards saying about her, "I can't stand her any more." In the next chapter, Ivins and Richards are BFFs again with no explanation. In a column Molly wrote after her mother's death, Mrs. Ivins is described as several things, among them a bad housekeeper and 'ditsy', but other than in the words of one contemporary, none of those character traits are described in the chapters on Molly's childhood. Molly's father is referred to as a 'martinet' who caused Molly's self-destructive tendencies. The groundwork for understanding exactly how this happened should have been laid in describing Molly's childhood, but it wasn't.
She supposedly stopped drinking several times and underwent treatment at the Hazelden and the Betty Ford Clinics. Those events were referred to in retrospect, but the extreme circumstances that would have led to the decision to seek in-patient treatment are a mystery. Apparently she was close enough to the Clintons to rate a handwritten note of encouragement when she went public with her breast cancer diagnosis, but how that friendship came to be is a blank, and in one very odd scene, she and George W. Bush hug each other at a public event. Yes, that was weird, the authors seem to agree, but there's no explanation other than Ivins' own acknowlegement that President Bush was a likeable guy. Did President Bush feel the same way about her? The reader would like to know.
Molly was described as undergoing three rounds of cancer treatments when at that time she'd only undergone two. One chapter refers to her as child-like in her lack of self-discipline. In the next chapter her incredible self-discipline in never missing a deadline is discussed. Which is it? Perhaps if the authors had shown more and told less, it would have been a better book. This reader noticed that in several instances only one source was quoted to make a point, when a more rounded picture would have been more valuable. The whole book had a rushed and incomplete feeling, as if it was rushed to press while Ms. Ivins was still fresh in everyone's memory.
I'm glad I read this book. I wish it had been a little more informative in some areas and a little less in others. Perhaps the problem is that Ivins' death is still too recent for literary perspective, and that the authors maybe had too much material. Perhaps they'll try again with a bit more distance. Molly Ivins deserves it.
A plodding style could make it difficult for non-fans to slog through the first few chapters about her family life in Houston in the 1950s and her college exploits in the early sixties. But Bill Minutaglio and W. Michael Smith use massive research of her bountiful writings in newspapers and magazines from Texas to Minnesota to New York and back to Texas, interviewing Molly's many friends and co-workers along the way. Many of her longtime friends and fellow workers are as talented and famous as Molly was, so this is an especially appealing look at journalism to those of us who shared the profession from the late sixties through the first decade of the new century.
We had the good fortune to see Molly in a live college performance in Missouri late in her career and took to heart her autographed inscription in our copy of "Molly Ivins Can't Say That, Can She?": "Y'all Raise more Hell!"Molly Ivins Can't Say That, Can She?
Minutaglio and Smith apparently couldn't stand to leave out any of their research details, so it's a little repetitive in spots. But on a five-star scale, their effort gets four full stars -- a lot, even in Texas.
[[ASIN:B0032IKGT2 Molly Ivins: A Rebel Life (Hardcover)]