Friday, December 13, 2013

Subject to Debate

2001, possibly first paperback edition, from Modern Library
Katha Pollitt
Subject to Debate: Sense and Dissents on Women, Politics, and Culture
Bought new for $13.95
Worn paperback

Instead of the longer essays of Reasonable Creatures, this is more of a "best of" from Pollitt's column in The Nation called, yes, "Subject to Debate."  As such, I didn't feel it sustained the heights of its predecessor, although she's still probably my all-time favorite columnist.  I had a Nation subscription into at least '95, and I remember seeing some of these pieces for the first time almost twenty years ago.  And yet, I found myself laughing hard early on, when she zaps Clinton, and Nixon.  There's a definite New-York-centricity to her writing, and so we get a slightly different take on Giuliani vs. Ofili's "elephant-dung Virgin Mary" artwork than in Lechner's book.

Pollitt's daughter Sophie was growing up, seemingly untraumatized by her mother's divorce and subsequent live-in with "The Last Marxist," and it's the then ten-year-old who makes the best comments on Titanic.  But understandably the elder Pollitt has great insights into The First Wives Club, which I recently saw for the second time.  Ironically, she comments on her future publisher Modern Library's choice for the 100 best books of the 20th century.*  Pollitt mostly writes of politics of course, local, national, and international.  I agreed with her for the most part, especially in why "we were wrong" to vote for Clinton in '92, and again when she reacts to how Clinton tried to cover up the fuss over the Lewinsky scandal by "carpet-bombing Iraq without so much as a phone-call to Congress, much less the U.N."

This book goes up to October 2000, the outer edge of the Clinton years.  We'll see what she says about the first half of George Bush II's administration in Virginity or Death!: And Other Social and Political Issues of Our Time in 2006.... 

*No "television criticism" tag though because, as Pollitt admits in an endnote, she lacked "television savvy."  I've never watched NYPD Blue either, so I identified with her there, too.

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