- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 23, 2003

The good girl
"Emily Dickinson, Edna St. Vincent Millay and Mary McCarthy: an aspiring undergraduate egghead's hot and holy trinity of brains and good looks. McCarthy, especially. Emily, after all, was a little on the plain side and did die a spinster's death in her childhood home, the only one she ever knew. Edna, another vixen versifier, seemed, somehow, simply too ethereal even for a poet to be really real, not quite the kind of woman you could fantasize duking it out with intellectually before hitting the sheets. Mary McCarthy seemed real. Too real, for some people.
"'Mary's smile is very famous,' opined Dwight Macdonald, a friend and fellow American intellectual of the mid-20th century. 'When most pretty girls smile at you, you feel terrific. When Mary smiles at you, you look to see if your fly is open.' Jason Epstein, a New York editor, put it more simply. 'She was trouble. You could see it a mile away.' Among her many nicknames was 'Bloody Mary.'"
"She set out to make a name for herself as a book and theatre critic for, among others, The New Republic, The Nation and The Partisan Review. By the time of her death in 1989, she would write five novels, three volumes of autobiography and several collections of assembled book reviews and essays."
Ray Robertson, writing on "An incitement to live," in the Jan. 12 edition of the Toronto Star
Dream mobile
"I don't own an SUV, but now that they've been identified as the locus of evil, I'm thinking of getting one. And if I do, I figure I might as well get the most obnoxious SUV I can find.
"My SUV, assuming Hummer comes out with a model for those who find the current ones too cramped, will look something like the Louisiana Superdome on wheels. It'll guzzle so much gas as I walk out to my driveway there will be squads of Saudi princes gaping and applauding. It'll come with little Hondas and Mazdas already embedded in the front grillwork. Inside I'll install video screens so that impressionable youngsters can play 'Grand Theft Auto' on the way to weekly NRA meetings. And there will be room in the back for tobacco lobbyists nibbling on french fries and endangered prawns.
"Please understand that I don't want to do this, but the campaign against the SUV is so fevered that I find myself being propelled in an equal and opposite direction.
"In centuries past, the armies of righteousness tended to at least fret about things that really matter: character, virtue, innocence, sin and depravity. These days moral energies are directed at health, safety and risk. Narcissism, dishonesty and promiscuity are regarded as mere lifestyle choices. But driving a car with trunk space is a sin worse than seven of the Ten Commandments. This is defining righteousness down."
David Brooks, writing on "The Scarlet SUV," in the Jan. 21 Wall Street Journal
Highbrow hip
"Does Christina Aguilera read the Economist? Does Britney Spears fancy herself a classical music aficionado?
"Probably not. But Shakira does. And she's really hoping that, in so doing, she'll show us that bared belly or no she's no average pop princess.
"'I started reading a magazine called the Economist,' the uni-named Colombian singer tells the upcoming issue of Latina magazine.
"Why? It makes her feel more connected with the world around her.
"'On the whole, these are historic moments we're going through, and I think it's important that I am conscious of what's going on in each of the countries that I visit,' she says. 'There are big anxieties in the world. You may not see it from the city that you live in, but I know these things because I come from Colombia, a country that has been in conflict for 40 years.'
"What's more, she says, she's recently become a major Vivaldi fan. One listen, she says, and she 'fell in love.'
"Next thing you know, she'll be sipping brandy and smoking a pipe."
Amy Reiter, writing on "Hey, Shakira pass the Grey Poupon!" Tuesday in Salon at www.salon.com

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