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Saturday, April 22, 2006

My Givhan Take

The End of Western Civilization Part 11,462: Robin Givhan, who has managed to turn shallow snark into a full-time job at the Washington Post, was awarded a Pulitzer Prize for criticism which her Post colleague Howard Kurtz blandly described as "her sometimes unorthodox writing about fashion." This is the woman whose commentary on the nomination of John Roberts to the Supreme Court consisted of griping about his small children's outfits, and who gasped in horror when Dick Cheney wore a winter coat outdoors in the winter.

But there's something even more embarrassing about honoring Robin Givhan with a prize for writing: she's a lousy writer. Her Friday column, a pseudosociological analysis of the decision of a bunch of gay parents to wear rainbow leis to the White House Easter Egg Roll, contains the following sentence:

In matters of racial equality -- particularly during the civil rights movement -- people of color strived to make a similar point.

Strived? Strived?!? The past tense of strive is strove.

She doesn't even write on deadline. This piece, conceived on Monday, was published on Friday. She is employed by, like it or not, one of the premier papers in the world. She is paid to exercise her puerile pomo sensibility for an audience of thousands, is feted and pampered and praised for her "witty, closely observed essays that transform fashion criticism into cultural criticism," and she couldn't write her way out of a tenth grade essay test at a public school. That low-level dust cloud over Maryland must be Whittaker Chambers's ashes erupting from their urn in disgust.


Hunter Baker said...

I think it's in the rules that no Pulitzer can be awarded to a person who has English for their first language and employs the word "strived." Notify the committee.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Now that's some real good writing. Ace, Miz H.

Jay D. Homnick said...

Kath, I'm with Tom that your writing here is cool and your point is strong.

If I may modify a tad, being kind of a language guy, allow me to point out that strived is accepted as an alternate to strove.

However, you are 100 percent right that anyone with an 'ear' would see that 'strove' works better in that particular sentence.

A good writer might write: "Steve Forbes strived to achieve a sense of seriousness in his campaign." But in the following sentence, only 'strove' works: "The Eagles strove in Hotel California to fashion a signature sound that they could hearken back to for decades."

See the difference?

Kathy Hutchins said...

allow me to point out that strived is accepted as an alternate to strove.

Not by me. (And not by the Microsoft Word spellchecker, either.) I get your point about the rhythm of the sentence, but I'd find another way to avoid 'strove.'

But then, I'm a stodgy old purist who mutters the Agnus Dei in Latin while the rest of the congregation bleats out "Lamb of God" to some saccharine St. Louis Jesuit jingle.

The more I think about Ms. Givhan, the more misgivings I feel. Her schtick is utterly repellent. She has fashioned an entire line of commentary upon judging souls by their disposable outer shells. John O'Hara and Sherwood Anderson rose to literary prominence by skewering the vapid shallows of bourgeousie culture; now we give Pulitzers for the celebration of shallowness.

Jay D. Homnick said...

Why, Kathy, you naughty girl, misgivings about Ms. Givhan, dear me!

Grave misgivings about Robin, were they?