A crack team of Swedish novel readers are set to hand out the 2021 Nobel Prize on Oct. 10, and according to this sketchy looking British betting site, odds are on Haruki Murakami taking home “the silverware.” But I’m a woman of intuition, not numbers, and I have a hunch that the top honors will be bestowed upon New York Times opinion columnist Maureen Dowd for last weekend’s piece on that wine-swilling bi icon with a vintage steamer trunk of bolero jackets and Party City wigs, Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema.
The conceit of Dowd’s piece is that Sinema (that is, Dowd points out, a homonym of “Cinema”) (My life is a movie…, I can almost hear Sinema whisper to the wind as she drives around Phoenix in a Nissan Cube or a refurbished Mustang...) is the Senate chamber’s sexiest, most mercurial starlet.
“She sweeps — and sometimes, when the triathlete has a sports injury, limps — through the Senate like a silent film star,” Dowd writes. I wish I could craft a sentence like this. This is one of the only earned usages of the double em dash I’ve ever seen in my long career of stumbling across shoe-horned metaphors while reading opinion pieces for pleasure.
Dowd claims a top Democrat called Sinema “The Greta Garbo of Congress,” but I don’t buy that Dowd didn’t coin that herself in order to set thematic precedent for her piece. Nobody in Congress is creative enough to craft a sobriquet like that. You think Sen. Debbie Stabenow has time for this? And I don’t think The Squad cares much for silent film.
Dowd says Sinema’s leading man is Sen. Joe Manchin, the least compelling guy to ever make it out of West Virginia. Dowd also claims reporters “have come up with Bennifer-style nicknames for them, including Manchinema and Sinemanch.” Maybe, if the Bennifer she’s thinking of is composed of two randos who just met each other and have no chemistry like, I don’t know, Benjamin Netanyahu and Jennifer Love Hewitt.
Another sentence that qualifies as award-winning fiction, based on the fact that it is almost impossible for me to believe that a paper of note published it: “[Sinema’s] spokesman said that she had a doctor’s appointment for a foot injury, but The Times reported that she was also slated to play footsie with donors at her political action committee’s dinner at a fancy resort.”
Dowd hypes plenty of Sinema’s fashions, including her wigs, her “Dangerous Creature” sweater, her newsboy caps, her $15 minimum wage nay vote thumbs-downed with “a ring that expressed the sentiment ‘Kiss off,’ but in a more vulgar way, and Sinema’s bare shoulders, apparently forbidden on the floor. “But the mandarins quit worrying about it for members once their colleague blithely turned the hallowed marble halls into an iconoclastic catwalk,” Dowd writes.
For an opinion piece, Dowd doesn’t take much of a stand on Sinema’s politics, instead allowing anonymous members of Congress to do the talking.
“It’s hard to look at her actions and not conclude that the donations are part of the story. If she’s here to fight for corporate power and lower taxes for the wealthy and get more money for pharma executives, be on the level and say it,” a progressive tells Dowd.
That is quite the story. Rivals anything the two-bit hack Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o could write.