Section: News

New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd to visit campus

New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd to visit campus

In June 2014, Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd wrote about trying marijuana-laced candy in her Denver, Colo. hotel room while reporting on the state’s legalization of the drug.

“I was panting and paranoid, sure that when the room-service waiter knocked and I didn’t answer, he’d call the police and have me arrested for being unable to handle my candy,” Dowd wrote.

This excerpt from her op-ed is indicative of Dowd’s inimitable style of political and social commentary, which she will bring to Kenyon next Tuesday in a conversation about the 2016 election with Carl Hulse, The New York Times’ chief Washington correspondent. The event is sponsored by the Faculty Lectureships Committee.

Assistant Professor of Political Science Jacqueline McAllister was inspired to propose Dowd as a speaker by the upcoming presidential election. McAllister first met Dowd when she was a student at Wellesley College and organized a talk for the columnist. Emboldened by the former connection and fortuitous timing, the Faculty Lectureships Committee invited Dowd last spring.

“She’ll really force people to think critically about even their preferred candidate,” McAllister said. “People get pretty rooted to their candidates, and I think she might shake that up a little bit and kind of get us to think a little bit deeper about some of the issues and problems and strengths with both candidates.”

Dowd began her career at the Times in 1983 as a metro reporter. She moved to the newspaper’s Washington bureau in 1986 to cover politics and served as the Times’ White House correspondent. She would later earn her own column in the Times’ op-ed section. Dowd has also authored three books; her most recent collection of commentary, The Year of Voting Dangerously, was published in September.

Dowd was hired by Anna Quindlen, the third woman to have a regular op-ed column in the Times, according to a 2005 article in New York Magazine; when Quindlen retired from writing her column in 1995, she proposed Dowd as her replacement. In 1999, Dowd won the Pulitzer Prize for distinguished commentary for her coverage of Monica Lewinsky.

“To be a columnist you have to create a persona,” Quindlen said in the New York Magazine story. “The rap on Maureen as a reporter was that there was too much persona in the prose.”

Persona is a trademark characteristic of Dowd’s commentary: The description of The Year of Voting Dangerously calls the book a collection of Dowd’s “incendiary takes and takedowns” related to the 2016 presidential race. The book, which compiles several of Dowd’s previously published columns in the Times and brand-new essays, has garnered mixed reviews. “Dowd was born to write about this race,” Jim VandeHei wrote in the New York Times Book Review. Users on Goodreads, a social media website for sharing book reviews, complimented Dowd’s wit but found the book repetitive, and criticized it for including little new material.

McAllister said she anticipates Dowd’s talk at Kenyon will result in constructive — rather than incendiary — discussion.

“Hopefully we’ll up the ante in terms of dialogue surrounding the presidential race,” she said.

“The 2016 Election: A Conversation with Maureen Dowd,” moderated by Carl Hulse, will take place on Tuesday, Oct. 18 at 7:30 p.m. in Rosse Hall. A reception and book signing will follow in the Stroud Lobby of Storer Hall. The Year of Voting Dangerously is available at the Kenyon Bookstore.

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