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Feuilletonist of the Year 2011: Marie Burns

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I do not belong to the ranks of appeasable writers who, having publicly berated each other, embrace afterwards nationally like Prolaz and Vysonos, speaking vaingloriously of themselves and of reconciliation:

Indeed, it seems, we are in full conflict.

No, once annoyed, I long remain angry and calm down only after exhausting an entire arsenal of offensive comments, foreign anecdotes, and similar things. For the maintenance of myself in this grim disposition of soul, I carefully re-read the copied-into-a-special-notebook article that gave me reason for such exasperation.

"A Few Words About Mr. Bulgarin's Pinky and Related Matters", by Feofilakt Kosichkin (Alexander Pushkin), 1831 winner


This year the "Little Pinky" goes to... Marie Burns!

Ms. Burns got everyone's attention at nytimes.com, where she was champion of the 10-minute-sprint-to-the-top-reader-comment for several years running.  She was also a trusted and looked-forward-to voice.  Ms. Burns nowadays devotes her prodigious web-content-development energy to a daily column for the NYTimes eXaminer and her website, Reality Chex.

On these venues, she answers the question (among others): "What could Marie Burns do if she were given her own column (i.e., more than 1500 words and 10 minutes)?"  Her answer: Frank Rich-like depth with Marie Burns-like clarity & directness.

Here's an excerpt from one of her NYTimes eXaminer columns:

'So that’s Brooks’ “proof” that Depression-era Americans “trusted government,” but today’s Americans don’t. You might have noticed that Brooks, after citing a contemporary poll that doesn’t show what he says it shows, also does not cite any comparison polls from the 1930s. That’s because there weren’t any. According to a 2001 New York Times “Arts and Ideas” article, “public opinion surveys began testing trust in government in the 1950′s.” But that does not mean it is impossible to make educated assumptions about American attitudes toward government in pre-polling days. C. W. Brands, an actual historian who reviewed actual historical documents (rather than basing his conclusion on Brooksian-style mind-farts) wrote “that except in periods of war … Americans have always had high degrees of distrust of government…. ‘As I studied the question,’ [Brands said], ‘I came to feel that distrust of government was the basic default position for the United States.’” So Brooks is just making up “history.” He presents his miguided opinion as fact. He does that quite often.'

The column is here.

Here are excerpts from two columns about Mr. Brooks:"

'You might think the Sidney Awards are prestigious accolades for literary and journalistic excellence. You might think that, until you find out that David Brooks single-handedly chooses the recipients of the Sidney Awards. (Brooks does not tell you this; you have to use the Googles to find out Sidney Awards are Brooks’ exclusive project.) As far as I can tell, the only prize money is the mention in Brooks’ column. No medal, no loving cup, no cash, no trip to Oslo or Stockholm or New York City.'
Not that Baker and Krugman’s economics lessons will do Brooks much good. He’ll still be there, smiling out from theNew York Times op-ed page like a reincarnation of Peter Sellers’ “Chauncey Gardiner,” the soft-headed Washington, D.C. gardener who is mistaken for an insightful businessman, and whose “simple brand of wisdom” is misread as profundity.'

The columns are here and here.  BTW, Ms. Burns doesn't just write Brooks reports.  It's probably just a case of attending to basic household chores first.