On Sept. 7, 2006, Ms. Smith gave birth to a daughter, Dannielynn. On Sept. 10, Daniel, Ms. Smith’s son from her first marriage, died suddenly while visiting mother and child in the hospital in the Bahamas. A medical examiner hired by the family found that the death was the accidental result of the interaction of methadone with antidepressants.
The tantalizing, lingering qualification: "hired by the family..." Again and again Ms. Goodnough gives us facts, simply arranged or juxtaposed on the page, with less explanation than you would expect, and says more with less elucidation than reporters on CNN could ever manage in 3 hours of Idiot Coverage. Her journalistic "objectivity" is a linguistic pose behind which she hides the daggers of her insight. For instance, this supposedly harmless listing of her professional accomplishments:
She appeared in several movies, among them “The Hudsucker Proxy” (1994) and “Naked Gun 33 1/3: The Final Insult” (1994). Her other cinematic credits include “Playboy Video Playmate Calendar” (1993); and “Playboy’s 50th Anniversary Celebration” (2003).
And finally, I will hold up as paragon of simple, unflinching narrative, this timeline of her teens and twenties:
When she was a teenager, she married Billy Smith, a 16-year-old fry cook. Their son, Daniel, was born in 1986; the couple divorced in 1987.
Ms. Smith worked as a waitress, later becoming a topless dancer in Houston. After submitting photos to Playboy, she appeared on the cover of the March 1992 issue. In 1993, she was named Playmate of the Year.
In 1994, Ms. Smith married J. Howard Marshall II, a Texas oil billionaire and former professor of trusts and estates at Yale Law School whom she had met in the course of her dancing career. She was 26; he was 89. Married life for Ms. Smith was a bounteous stream of clothes and jewelry.
"In the course of her dancing career"! Bravo, Abby. No one could have written it better. And this new Anna seems to me just as tragic as Tolstoy's, just as symptomatic of the age.
P.S. the Washington Post obituary is--I am not kidding!--an extended comparison of Anna Nicole Smith to Odette from In Search of Lost Time, Violetta from La Traviata, and Tolstoy's "Kreutzer Sonata." Yeesh! What a cultural fount this is turning out to be!