Beyond Wonkette

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Ana Marie Cox knows how to make a stir. She became the talk of the town in Washington, D.C., as the blogger Wonkette, covering politics with a racy edge. Now, her new book, Dog Days, a roman à clef about a 28-year-staffer on the 2004 campaign of Democratic candidate John Hillman (get it?) who is having an affair with a married political journalist, Cox making waves in the same mainstream media that she saucily disses. This week, she sold her second book to Riverhead with typical Wonkette fanfare. We caught up with Ana Marie by phone on a train to D.C., returning from a publicity trip to New York, with her husband, Chris Lehmann, an editor at Congressional Quarterly Weekly.

Galley Girl: How does this role feel, as opposed to being a blogger?

NINA SUBIN

Ana Marie Cox: Well, I have to wear pants. That's a big difference. When you're a blogger, pants are optional. It's very exciting. I'm very grateful to all of the people who have been helping me along with this, and who've made it happen.

GG: You've stepped down from being Wonkette. Why?

AMC: Well, I had been doing it for two years, which is an eternity in blogtime. And I have a contract to write another book. It seemed like a good time to let someone else not wear the pants.

GG: How did Wonkette start?

AMC: I had had my own blog, where I entertained a couple dozen friends and enemies that bothered to read it. I wrote some about politics. Then, an eccentric British guy named Nick Denton, who has a kind of blog empire, decided that he wanted to add a D.C. outpost to his holdings. He looked around for someone in Washington. I think the pool of people who were willing not to take either themselves or the city very seriously was pretty small. So I got the job.

GG: How would you describe your mission with the blog?

AMC: I usually describe it as throwing spitballs. Washington is a lot like high school, and they were missing a class clown, I guess.

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GG: You've been described as being “potty-mouthed.” Do you work blue?

AMC: I would say that my language is a lovely shade of azure, sort of a turquoise, really. I don't actually speak that way, some people are surprised to hear, that not every other word out of my mouth is unprintable. But I think that I probably — maybe — overdid it a bit in the column, especially at first, because I was kind of reveling in being able to curse, like a 12-year-old who's looking at dirty words in the dictionary.

GG: Galley Girl is way outside of the Beltway — if I were a Washington reporter, would I recognize everyone in the book?

AMC: I don't think so, because it's fiction. I think what you would recognize are types, through these archetypal washington characters — the insecure reporter; the blowhards; the socialites; the scrappy newcomer. Several different people could go into each single character in the book.

GG: If you were blogging right now, how would you cover the Abramoff scandal? What are the mechanics of how you would do it?

AMC: Well, you sit down at the computer (laughs). The dirty truth about blogging is that there isn't a lot of original reporting. But I think that what bloggers do well— or at least I hope what they do well, and that I did well — is pick out the brilliant absurdities in any particular news story. And I think there are a lot of them in the Abramoff case. There are some very cinematic and theatrical aspects to it, right down to him coming out of the courthouse dressed like a gangster. I also think it's fun watching all of these people distancing themselves from him, and going back and looking through their own histories to see what kind of connections they had to Abramoff. It kind of reminds me of what happens when someone gets a venereal disease, and the group of people all has to figure out who passed fluids with whom. Only now it's dirty money, not actual dirty parts.

GG: What will be in your next book?

AMC: It's nonfiction, which means I'll have to leave the house. More pants. I'm really looking forward to it. It's about the next generation of political leaders. Generation Y and their politics.

GG: I noticed in a photo, you have tattoos on your arm.

AMC: I have three stars. They don't mean anything at all. They mean I was 21 in the mid-90s when people were getting tattoos.