I was asked to comment on Anna Nicole

over on PFFA, that is.

Fat chance.

But here, culled from Bella Stander, is something that does:

AS EVERYONE who is not locked in a dungeon knows, the story of Anna Nicole Smith has received overwhelming attention in recent weeks. The mainstream American press, in fact, has taken a good deal of stick from its more highbrow readers for devoting so many inches to the unfolding narrative of this woman, her lovers and her child.

But how could it be otherwise? This story was destined from the outset to take over Page 1 — precisely because it is a classic, a melodrama with exactly the kind of plot that has fascinated people as long as there’s been literature and stories to tell. Following its twists and turns, it’s impossible not to get the blurry feeling that one is reading a good old-fashioned novel.

Does this, for instance, sound familiar? In 1878, Anthony Trollope (that greatest of Victorian storytellers) offered his loyal readers “Is He Popenjoy?” It’s my favorite of the 47 novels he published, and it has an irresistible, hook-in-the-jaw story. A British aristocrat, fabulously wealthy, goes off to Italy and is trapped into marriage by a scheming foreign Delilah. He has a son and heir — thus disowning the thoroughly decent, and somewhat distant, English relative who had expected to inherit. But did the Marquis of Brotherton actually marry his foreign floozy? Is this young son indeed the heir, or is he a bastard? Can the lawyers save the day? A title, a vast fortune, a great country house hang in the balance.


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