Thursday, July 22, 2004

Is Martha Stewart Living?

So Martha Stewart plans to write a book--indeed, she has been keeping diaries right along. "There's no how-to book about this," she said. Will she follow it up with one on the proper prison manners for white-color criminals? Actually Susan McDougal has already done that, and more, in her Whitewater memoir The Woman Who Wouldn't Talk. (It is very bad manners to reach for your food rather than ask for it to be passed.)

A free speech expert was on the radio this afternoon defending Stewart's right to write, against suggestions that she would be "profiting from her own crime." Something about a statute, probably unconstitutional, that keeps criminals from writing about their cases? I didn't catch it all.

I haven't given Martha Stewart much thought since my small wedding, where I confess that her advice on bouquets was invaluable. But I do think Melinda Ruley has her quite summed up:
Martha was the perfect rug merchant: She told the American public what it wanted and then she sold it to them. Like any successful mogul, she created--or at least tweaked--the desire in order to fill it. In the end, though, she handed out her favors at the back door. Pocketed the money and washed her hands. She could hide her maneuvers well enough on camera, and in the slick pages of a magazine, but in the crude light of a public courtroom her true colors emerged. And they weren't celadon or pomegranate.

There's a great line in Joan Didion's essay on self respect that says, "to give formal dinners in a rain forest would be pointless did not the candlelight flickering on the liana call forth deeper, stronger disciplines, values instilled long before." Stewart had the flickering candles--dipped them herself, in fact--but there was none of the rest. In the end, she was just another material girl, a rug merchant whose finest fabrics showed themselves, upon closer inspection, to be threadbare and soiled.

UPDATE: How Appealing has a link to the radio show I heard: it was Julie Hilden of FindLaw on NPR's "Day to Day": "Can jailhouse scribes profit from their crimes?"

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