Reading Rogue: I will not falter

>> Sunday, November 29, 2009

Here is how Sarah Palin gets what she wants, those times she doesn't quit when the going gets hard: she dulls her enemies into submission. I have reached the point of the book I expected when I took up the challenge of reading Going Rogue for hire, and I suspect it's the part Lynn Vincent wrote because most of the paragraphs land properly. But it's increasingly tedious stuff. In addition to the ever-present contradictions, it's pretty obvious there's a lot of score-settling going on, most of it petty. And then there's the temptation to fact-check, which is probably a mistake.

Is Sarah Palin exaggerating the size of the state budgets she dealt with in Alaska? Possibly, but even if she's not, the budget she's talking about is in the bottom half of states nationwide, comparable to what some mayors handle in America's larger cities, and well under half of what the mayor of New York City has on his desk. Not to mention it's infinitesimal next to the national budget either way. But it's a red herring anyway, dignifying Mrs. Palin's implication that being governor of an unpopulated state is like being leader of the Free World in that sort of fashion.

Speaking of which, I'm a bit tired of Mrs. Palin's repetition that Alaska is the largest state in the nation, which is true and pointless. Of course it is, and so what? Which would you rather haul up a tall steep hill, a liter of sea-level air or a liter of lead? (Hint: one weighs around a hundredth of a pound and the other weighs nearly a hundred pounds.) Aside from all that vast, nearly-empty space I also have to think that if Alaskans are as independent as Mrs. Palin extols them to be, do they even need all that much governing, anyway?

It's tiring stuff.

You pretty quickly get used to telling Friends Of Sarah from Enemies Of Sarah. If somebody is described neutrally (or even, rarely, favorably), they never pissed her off. If somebody is described unfavorably (e.g. "a wealthy, effete young chap who had taken over his father's local Avis Rent A Car... major steps up from a previous job as our limo driver at Todd's cousin's wedding"), however, or in terms Mrs. Palin would see as unflattering (e.g. "after losing an eighteen -month battle to sell falafel on street corners"), it's only a matter of pages before we find out what score the ever-so-Christian-and-forgiving Palin was sharpening the scalpels for. And mind you, I'm less than halfway through this petty, vindictive, toxic book; I haven't even gotten to the 2008 dirt that everyone has been talking about, where Mrs. Palin tries to settle with McCain staffers.

I have to admit that I like good cattiness, mind you. A nice bit of sharpness from Oscar Wilde or Dorothy Parker, or crazed vituperation from someone like Harlan Ellison or Hunter Thompson can keep me snickering for hours or even days. I would like to think I've managed a few posts here at Shoulders Of Giant Midgets that took the art of unpleasantness somewhere amusing, if not to the brilliant and exalted depths of the great literary quippers and ranters. But Palin's jabs mostly aren't very clever, and they're all fairly predictable, and her attempts to conceal a righteous bitchiness--she's the values candidate who loves Jesus and small-town friendliness, of course, and it wouldn't be seemly--generally don't stand her in good stead. There's maybe one exception, on page 77, where Palin writes of her one-time mentor Nick Carney, who (she felt) turned against her:

But in the end, remembering that we all teach our kids that life is too short to hold a grudge, when Nick was home recovering from knee surgery, I knocked on his door. He hobbled to it in pain. It was "Good Neighbor Day in Wasilla." I brought him a pretty white Peace Lily.

That's actually sort of clever. Assuming, that is, that Mrs. Palin's not so dumb that she was being sincere, which I personally doubt. I do wonder, though, how many Palinistas will skim that paragraph and find it heartwarming?

Anyway, it's a lot of that sort of thing. I may have some blog entries to post about some odd things Mrs. Palin has to say about two of her major achievements, but this is all I'm likely to write today, since I have other things I'd like to do today that are more important to me than reading any more of Going Rogue or writing about it. But I won't quit reading the book altogether, though I'm less sanguine about doing it in a week. No, seriously: the only way to read this book quickly is to not think about anything you're reading, and I have trouble doing that. And thinking about it is not only painful, but it's also time-consuming because you find yourself scribbling notes in a margin for several minutes or going online to check things you'd think you could take for granted with a less-disingenuous and agenda-driven author.

A quick f'r'instance, and then I'm wrapping this up for real today: I thought it was odd on pages 44 and 45 when Mrs. Palin wrote of her college years:

I was amazed when my education became an issue in the vice presidential campaign. "Well, look at that," the pundits said, "she went to all those different schools and it took her five years to graduate."

Yes, it did take me five years because I paid my own way. Tilly [childhood friend Kim "Tilly" Ketchum] and I came home to Alaska between semesters and worked so we could earn money to pay for the next term. Sometimes we had to take a semester off and work until we could afford tuition again. I remember that was an honorable thing.

Then, reaching the first pictures section of the book, I read this caption:

Graduation day, 1987, at the University of Idaho. I loved my years in college as a Vandal but was ready to return to Alaska and get busy on a full-time career. This picture is in front of "The Tower," an all-girls dorm where I lived for three years. [emphasis added]

There's nothing necessarily shameful in going to several colleges--I, myself, began my undergraduate career at the University Of North Carolina at Charlotte and ended it at Appalachian State University; I'm also honest enough to tell you why: although I did fine academically at UNCC, the year was a personal failure and a little bit of a psychological meltdown for me, and the mountains represented a comfort zone for me so I transferred to put distance between myself and some of the on-and-off-campus issues that I was not adequately handling. I'd call it a tactical retreat, but I'm willing to chalk it up to a number of mistakes and failures that I learned from (and that's all I'm going to say about it, too).

I have no idea why it's a problematic or possibly even shameful area for Mrs. Palin. Perhaps if she'd written an honest memoir, I'd know and even respect her candor or difficulties or hard-won wisdom. And frankly it's possible that the reason Palin went to four colleges during that five-year span (according to Wikipedia: (1) Hawaii-Pacific, (2) North Idaho College--which gave her a distinguished alumna award, (3) University Of Idaho and (4) Matanuska-Susitna College, followed by a return to the University Of Idaho for graduation) is exactly what Mrs. Palin represents it to be, financially driven. But how can I believe her on motivation when I clearly can't believe her on the number of years she resided in "The Tower." I know that she's being dishonest or misleading, how can I not wonder why?

Please note the larger problem this represents--and this goes back to why Going Rogue is such a hard book to actually read: the real issue is not that Mrs. Palin is disingenuous about what may well be a trivial detail that may even be irrelevant to her intelligence or capacity to lead; the real issue is that this is not an honest book, and I don't mean that she fudges details, I mean that this book is not really about Mrs. Palin's short life on Earth and what she's learned from it, but rather is about why Palinistas ought to love and obey their queen. A real, honest-to-goodness memoir would actually take up a matter like the author's academic career and spend some time with it, talking about campus life and friends and accomplishments and failures, maybe offer a funny anecdote and possibly also a tragic one, and it might even take up a whole chapter instead of two brief paragraphs. It doesn't do Mrs. Palin much good to gloss and spin something that's out there and that's been a substantial topic of conversation, it only makes her look like she's covering something, whether it's bad grades or something else. But that's not even that important since the book isn't really about "An American Life," it's about Sarah Palin's ambitions and narcissism. And I also can't help noticing I have now written more about Mrs. Sarah Palin's education than she does in what's ostensibly a memoir, but isn't really.

And that's one reason this book is an effort. You'd think it was a liter of air. It's not.

It's pure osmium.


Jeff Hentosz Sunday, November 29, 2009 at 4:30:00 PM EST  

"...losing an eighteen-month battle to sell falafel on street corners..."

In Alaska!? Sorry, but I gotta side with The Pit Bull on this one. That person's asking for derision.

Alma,  Sunday, November 29, 2009 at 6:36:00 PM EST  

Ooops, here's the direct link to YouTube

Eric Sunday, November 29, 2009 at 6:49:00 PM EST  

Alma, thank you a million times, that deserves a blog post!

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