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Molly Ivins: A Rebel Life Hardcover – November 10, 2009

4.1 out of 5 stars 54 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

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.

Review

Douglas Brinkley
“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.”

Library Journal
“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.”

Newsweek
“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 

Minneapolis Star-Tribune
“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.”

Austin American-Statesman
“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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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 334 pages
  • Publisher: PublicAffairs; First Edition edition (November 10, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1586487175
  • ISBN-13: 978-1586487171
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.2 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (54 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,252,646 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By William Alexander on December 13, 2009
Format: Hardcover
I have been a fan of Molly Ivins for years, and one of my great regrets is that breast cancer took away this remarkable, larger-than-life but still very humble journalist too early in this decade since so much of our contemporary politics and discourse would have been perfect - to put it bluntly - "Ivins Bait."

What surpised me the most, however, was how the authors, Minutaglio and Smith, both of whom knew the prolific and principled gadfly well, managed to put together not a posthumous love letter, but a surprisingly frank and layered portrait. Ivins came from a socially conservative background and attended some of the finest schools in the world, but one would never know. What emerges is an Ivins tormented, driven, brash, magnificently read, sometimes oddly shy, but always - always - funny and aecerbic as only she could be. As I mentioned, I have been a fan for years. But I knew nothing of the person. Now I do, and I am glad I came on for the ride. Something in everyone, I think, can appreciate a person who used her many journalism plaques and honors as table trivets, but had no fear of any power that would cloud the eyes of her readership and the United States she loved so passionately.

I also really appreciate how the authors took great pains to preserve Ms. Ivins' authentic "voice" as told through her reams of paper, even down to mundane shopping lists. Molly was, apparently, one of those people who could never bear to throw one scrap in the trash, and the work shows how the authors went through these papers with a meticulousness that allowed them to almost tell her story as she might have told it. I think she would have loved this book, and that's just about as high a mark as I can give any biography.

Just wonderful. Buy it, enjoy, and remember what Ms. Molly always said - "Get out there folks, and raise hell!"

Five stars, no reservation.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Molly Ivins was a funny, incisive, brilliant observer of the American political landscape. Her years covering the Texas "lege" had given her a nose for smelling a skunk before it sprayed. She delighted her readers with her witty descriptions and analyses of politicians and their foibles. She called George W. Bush "Shrub" which perfectly described the less than brilliant son of the original Bush. She gave Texas Gov. Rick Perry the name "governor good hair" by which he is still known today.
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.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
While Molly Ivins: A Rebel Life is an interesting, and dare I say valuable, book; its flaws leave the impression that, well, Molly deserves better. The authors' painstaking interviews and research result in an oddly colorless portrait of one of journalism's trailblazing originals. It should have been a vivid story, but reads like a research paper that begins with "she was born" and ends with vignettes in which Molly comes across as a caricature of herself. The strengths of this book consist of the painstakingly researched episodes of Molly's life, the lists of her many friends and colleagues, her education, her years in New York, France, Austin and Dallas, and the development of her journalistic and public personas.

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.
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