Seamus and the Art of Repetition

“I don’t know if I ever mentioned this,” Gail Collins cheekily wrote in her New York Times op-ed column yesterday, “but Mitt Romney once drove to Canada with the family Irish setter on the roof of the car.”

I’ve been reading Gail Collins for years now , and every time I see that the column is about Romney, I look for it, wait for it, can’t concentrate until I finally get to the paragraph when she informs us that Mitt Romney once drove to Canada with the family dog strapped to the roof of the car.   Thanks to Gail Collins, I can articulate this dog story better than I can articulate Romney’s positions on Iran, same-sex marriage, or the 2009 auto bailout.  (Although I know enough about them to disagree with him on all three positions.)  I know I’d be disappointed if Gail somehow forgot to mention poor Seamus the dog, but as far as I remember, she hasn’t disappointed me.  If anything, yesterday’s column was more of a disappointment than most, since she devoted the article entirely to Seamus, introducing her article with Seamus, instead of tucking the tidbit, Where’s Waldo-style, in an unexpected corner of her column.

As a writer I’m often scolded for repeating the same word or phrase; but this, I think, is repetition done right. (I suppose it also helps that I can’t stand Romney.)  But can someone help explain the craving I feel to read about Seamus whenever I pick up a Gail Collins article?  Is it some sort of Pavlovian reflex — the writer holding up the verbal treat over which the reader should salivate?  I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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