Going Rogue, Chapter 1

>> Tuesday, November 17, 2009

I should note at the outset that Going Rogue is substantially worse than even I could have predicted. The opening chapter is clearly supposed to bear several loads, including (1) establishing Palin's geographic and cultural bona fides; and (2) conveying her abiding love for Jeebus, family and Ronald Reagan. In each case, the results are pretty unimpressive.

For starters, Palin's ghost-polished descriptions of Alaska's landscape and cultural peculiarities are delivered with roughly the same verve as I'd expect to find in a mediocre historical novel written by someone who, at most, had visited the state on a cruise ship. We learn for example, the astonishing and widely-underpublicized fact that Alaskan nights are incredibly short during the summertime,

creating a euphoria that runs through our veins. Hour after hour, there is still more time and more daylight to accomplish one more thing. If we told our kids to be home before dark, we wouldn't see them for weeks.
Perhaps I haven't had enough experience with the "euphoria" of "accomplish[ing] one more thing" recently, but there's something really underwhelming about Palin's trek through the list of Generically Oddball Stuff about Alaska. Yes, people up here shoot a lot of megafauna; yes, people up here chop a lot of firewood; yes, people up here can grow gigantic heads of cabbage; yes, people up here are impressed by grazing sheep. But people up here also do tons of meth, beat the shit out of their kids, and half-purposely ram their cars into trees. When you remember that Sarah Palin is earning well over $1 million for this book, it's hard not to feel cheated when she reminds everyone that Alaska has glaciers bigger than Delaware.

Moving beyond the scenic and cultural moorings of chapter 1, we learn a bit -- all of it vaguely detailed -- about the roots of Palin's political beliefs. In a passage whose goofiness resists description, for example, we read about Palin's childhood immersion in the minutia of the Watergate investigation:
It amazed me that the whole country seemed riveted, unified by watching the events unfold. It was the first time since the moon landing that I'd seen that, so I knew Watergate had to be big. When Gerald Ford took over, I knew who he was because I remembered reading about him and seeing him a picture in a scholastic magazine. He'd been America's vice president then, sitting parade-style atop the backseat of a convertible, waving at the crowd. Now he was our president!
I'll concede that Sarah Palin was ten years old when Nixon resigned, but this is a brainless waste of a paragraph. When we consider that Palin traces her awareness of "the skewed priorities of government" to a ticket she received for underage snow-machining, one has to marvel at Sarah Palin's inability to say anything interesting about the most grotesque political conspiracy in the nation's history. She manages to write as if she's responding to a question from Charles Gibson, except that Charles Gibson is nowhere to be found.

Her ode to Reagan is similarly inept, larded with bog-standard wingnuttia like "[he] won the Cold War without firing a shot" and "[he] restored our faith" in America after the Carter interregnum. Reagan, we learn, "radiated confidence and optimism" and "had a steel spine." He believed in "ideas" like "cutting taxes" and "building a strong national defense." It's pretty vacant stuff all around, but I'm sure the second chapter will be a thousand times better.


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