11 Dec 2009

Palin Gets Another Good Review

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Sarah Palin’s memoir Going Rogue has been been sitting on top of best seller lists for weeks, and has been reprinted 13 times for a total of 2.8 million copies… so far.

Palin even attracted a favorable review from liberal Bay Area critic Sandra Tsing Loh, and now, even more remarkably, we find kind words from postmodernist literary critic Stanley Fish.

When I walked into the Strand Bookstore in Manhattan last week, I headed straight for the bright young thing who wore an “Ask Me” button, and asked her to point me to the section of the store where I might find Sarah Palin’s memoir, “Going Rogue: An American Life.” She looked at me as if I had requested a copy of “Mein Kampf” signed in blood by the author, and directed me to the nearest Barnes and Noble, where, presumably, readers of dubious taste and sensibility could find what they wanted.

A few days later, I attended a seminar on political and legal theory where a distinguished scholar observed that every group has its official list of angels and devils. As an example, he offered the fact (of which he was supremely confident) that few, if any, in the room were likely to be Sarah Palin fans. By that time I had begun reading Palin’s book, and while I wouldn’t count myself a fan in the sense of being a supporter, I found it compelling and very well done. …

For many politicians, family life is sandwiched in between long hours in public service. Palin wants us to know that for her it is the reverse. Political success is an accident that says nothing about you. Success as a wife, mother and citizen says everything.

Do I believe any of this? It doesn’t matter. What matters is that she does, and that her readers feel they are hearing an authentic voice. I find the voice undeniably authentic (yes, I know the book was written “with the help” of Lynn Vincent, but many books, including my most recent one, are put together by an editor). It is the voice of small-town America, with its folk wisdom, regional pride, common sense, distrust of rhetoric (itself a rhetorical trope), love of country and instinctive (not doctrinal) piety. It says, here are some of the great things that have happened to me, but they are not what makes my life great and American. (“An American life is an extraordinary life.”) It says, don’t you agree with me that family, freedom and the beauties of nature are what sustain us? And it also says, vote for me next time. For it is the voice of a politician, of the little girl who thought she could fly, tried it, scraped her knees, dusted herself off and “kept walking.”

In the end, perseverance, the ability to absorb defeat without falling into defeatism, is the key to Palin’s character. It’s what makes her run in both senses of the word and it is no accident that the physical act of running is throughout the book the metaphor for joy and real life. Her handlers in the McCain campaign wouldn’t let her run (a mistake, I think, even at the level of photo-op), no doubt because they feared another opportunity to go “off script,” to “go rogue.”

But run she does (and falls, but so what?), and when it is all over and she has lost the vice presidency and resigned the governorship, she goes on a long run and rehearses in her mind the eventful year she has chronicled. And as she runs, she achieves equilibrium and hope: “We’ve been through amazing days, and really, there wasn’t one thing to complain about. I feel such freedom, such hope, such thankfulness for our country, a place where nothing is hopeless.”

The message is clear. America can’t be stopped. I can’t be stopped. I’ve stumbled and fallen, but I always get up and run again. Her political opponents, especially those who dismissed Ronald Reagan before he was elected, should take note. Wherever you are, you better watch out. Sarah Palin is coming to town.

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One Feedback on "Palin Gets Another Good Review"

ThomasS

I don’t think its so much a good review as it is a warning that “Palin could be another Reagan so lets not underestimate her.” In typical post-modern speak he is also alluding to the Manhattan Sophists trope, and we should therefore not forget, that Americans are still not fully enlightened or broken to the statist saddle and “flyover country” may yet go for all this “Palin as Reagan and America is still special shtick.”

You can tell he was writing for a broader audience by the way he didn’t beat his little race drum over Palin having “good hair” or not marrying outside her “own group.” That will come later.



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