The Austin-American Statesman ran a full-color review of the new Molly Ivins biography, Molly Ivins: A Rebel Life, by Bill Minutaglio and W. Michael Smith, today. I picked up a copy of the book at the Texas Book Festival a few weeks ago, where I also got to see a panel with co-author Minutaglio, who spoke to a packed Capitol auditorium.
I never met Molly - in fact, I never even laid eyes on her in real life. Molly as a person has always been more of an intangible spirit to me. When I'm around any of her close friends, it often feels as if she just walked through the room and I happened to miss her. Next time.
Reading her biography has been much like poking through my sister's diary when I was eleven, or meeting a television star when you only know them as having played one role. It's easy to forget that people have lives much different from the one you might assign to them, and the book uncovers stories about Molly that I haven't heard told in the bars before.
She grew up with more privilege and with less chickens in her backyard than I'd always imagined. The daughter of an oil executive in Houston, her prescient world views came from rather narrow-minded beginnings. Lovingly inserted early excerpts of her childhood scribbles - a letter to herself warning herself not to read the letter, and at the end of the letter, admonishing herself for having read it; dispatches from the miseries (read: bunkmates) of camp - all reveal a much more vulnerable, albeit equally opinionated, Molly of yesterday than is portrayed in the caricatures of today.
But while her physical being might elude me, her voice never ceases to stomp its way across a page and in A Rebel Life, it is no different. It evolves and matures, but it is always hers, in letters and opinions that hang in the air. And even though I might have missed her when she was leaving, it's a comfort to get to see where she was coming from.