Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Q&A with Ana Marie Cox, aka Wonkette, on "Dog Days"

Ana Marie Cox is known to most by her online moniker “Wonkette.” As editor and principal writer of “,” a scabrous two-year-old Washington D.C. blog about misbehavior amongst our elected officials, Cox has become one of the queens of the blogosphere.

But at the ripe age of 33, Cox is leaving the blog behind to focus on writing books, and adopting the mantle of “Wonkette Emeritus.”

A photogenic strawberry blond, Cox has become well known for her looks and the smattering of star-spangled tattoos on her right arm--usually prominent in her publicity snaps—as her trenchant observations about Beltway society.

She is touring the country to promote her first novel “Dog Days” (Riverhead Books, 274 pages, $23.95), a political satire about a Democratic presidential campaign run amok. Cox spoke with Edward Nawotka by phone while in-between tour stops in California.

Nawotka: How do you succinctly describe your novel to people who haven’t read it yet?

Cox: It is a fantasia of the Kerry campaign and takes a fun house mirror view of the last election and looks at it through the eyes of a young communications worker. Two aspects of her life begin to be threatened: She has an affair with a married man and her candidate is attacked by a Swift-boat style campaign. So she and her friend come up with a “Wag the Dog”-type distraction. Chaos and hilarity ensue.

Nawotka: Since you’ve been on book tour, have people been more interested in asking about the blog or the novel?

Cox: I’ve been lucky and most people have been genuinely interested in the book. Questions have ranged from my favorite brand of gin to “When do you think America might lose its foreign policy dominance?”

Nawotka: Gin? That’s not the type of question that Paul Bremer is getting on his tour.

Cox: Bremer is definitely getting the question about foreign policy. But I also write a lot about drinking. Because I did a blog for so long people seem to think that I know something about politics.

Nawotka: Were you able to do things with your characters that you hoped people in real life would do?

Cox: They definitely had better conversations. They’re wittier. But they have just as dirty lines. There’s a lot of ham-fisted flirting that happens, which I think is an accurate reflection of Washington.

Nawotka: You’ve said that D.C. is “the only city in America run by nerds.” But Silicon Valley is also full of nerds, and you don’t get the sense the people out there are having a lot of sex.

Cox: I don’t think people there have the same fate-of-the-free-world sense of purpose. That can be a real aphrodisiac.

Nawotka: You also write that Washington D.C. is a lot like high school. How so?

Cox: Well, it’s very cliquish and status oriented. People are really insecure and ambitious. Who you have lunch with matters, a lot. There is a prom, which is the White House Correspondent’s Dinner. Finally, there is no such thing as having a separate life from Washington. It’s all consuming in the same way life was in high school, when everything matters so much all the time.

Nawotka: Do you have the same kind of break downs that you had in the movie “The Breakfast Club,” with the jocks, brainiacs…

Cox: There are not the jocks, but I think there are probably nerds of the nerds. But I haven’t met them. There are very deep in the bowels of some think tank somewhere.

Nawotka: If you could go back and spend any time with any politician from the last 100 years, who would it be?

Cox: Lyndon Johnson. He was a heck of a guy who was willing to cut a lot of corners to accomplish something he thought was ultimately a moral good. He was also a big fan of bourbon, as am I.

Nawotka: Any particular brand?

Cox: Maker’s Mark is my default choice.

Nawotka: Now that you’re Wonkette Emeritus, what’s next?

Cox: I’m writing an anthropological study of young conservatives. It’s a culture I don’t understand and is very important in this country. I plan on studying it without bringing a whole lot of judgment to it. Although, I plan to mock for mocking’s sake.

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