Vowell has made her own politics perfectly clear--"I am a capital-D Democrat"--but her allegiance is to whimsy. Not humor, which might expose the ridiculous, but whimsy, which merely makes light of it. And she is a true partisan. Of deaths caused by AIDS and poverty in Africa, she indignantly notes that it's "literally the dumbest thing I've ever heard." Literally? Dumbest? Really? Even the most correct of sentiments cannot withstand expression in such juvenile terms. Other times, Vowell simply free associates her way to a theory. What does she think of the Supreme Court ruling that allowed the Texas State Capitol to display a Ten Commandments statue? Well, "[t]he other night I was flipping channels and..." I'll spare you the next two paragraphs and tell you that our intrepid columnist discovered that human nature is imperfect.It sounds bloggy to me. Get used to it. This is the way people will write about politics in the future. The Times needs to appeal to younger readers, and that means the regular slots on the op-ed page when they open up are going to go to people like Vowell, and not to older writers who've built their reputations by following the established conventions of column writing. And this has to be what's really bugging McDonell so much. Hear his pain:
Vowell's qualifications for the job are limited. She has spent nearly ten years as a commentator on the radio show "This American Life," where she applies what the San Francisco Chronicle has called her "nasal and high-pitched, somewhere in the neighborhood of Bart Simpson's sister Lisa" voice to programs about popular culture and history. She has published four books of humorous essays. She is young and has appeared on "The Daily Show." She is popular. But in all these successes she has not, so far as I can detect, demonstrated a sophisticated or, for that matter, unique, grasp of current events. This did not prevent the Times from recruiting Vowell to fill the pages of, as she calls it, "the most uppity newspaper in the world."Is her voice even relevant or is McDonell just irritated? Actually, it is relevant, because there are already podcasts of the columns, and in the future, we'll want to hear the columnist and not just an actor doing the reading. Four books of humorous essays? That's a limited qualification for writing essays? Really, McDonell is quite ridiculous.