Thursday, May 14, 2009

Sarah Palin Book Deal: Of Moose and (Wo)men

Books by politicians have never gone out of fashion. A politician is not the normal hack who piles up rejection slips and who spends a good deal of time bitching about literary trends. The politician needn't concern himself with aggravated post-postmodernism or with the difficulties of creating compelling dialogue. He is writing an autobiography, not a novel. It is nearly assured his work will end up on The New York Times Best Seller list, next to such books as Why We Suck by Denis Leary.

Some politicians have written compelling books about compelling lives. For the most part, they are people of distinction and merit, not people who blundered into success by fluke occurrence.

It was by such a fluke that Alaska governor Sarah Palin stumbled onto the McCain Presidential ticket. Now, HarperCollins has signed Palin to a deal; the book will be released in the spring of 2010.

Palin is not Barack Obama. She's not Benjamin Franklin, either. She isn't completely writing her own book, but lightning will most assuredly strike twice in the same place. Palin is still quite capable of a direct hit.

If Palin's writing is anything like her speaking, the co-writer is mandatory despite Palin's journalism degree. HarperCollins assures that the thoughts will be all Palin's.

Palin's life is ripe material for a book, although it is hard to say where she falls in the spectrum of feminist literature. Categorically, she appears to fall somewhere between feminine mystique and cultural feminism. She will no doubt present herself as a modern woman with modern concerns, stressing the overplayed "soccer mom" angle she used to convince the public that she was one with the motherly masses.

In her attempts to convince America of her ordinariness, she inadvertently presented the opportunity for more than a single book, and certainly more than mere autobiography. Her experience is such that the following books could be penned, most from her convoluted recent history:

WHITE CHICK, WHITE HOUSE (Fiction, psychological thriller. Palin foolishly accepts publisher's title after being told that color contrast to current administration is essential to maintaining her dwindling fan base. Publisher uses Palin to prove that white is not drained of color)

(Non-fiction. A ghostwritten account of Palin's brief tenure as Vice Presidential nominee and Republican Party shill)

(Poetry, therapeutic. Bristol and Sarah Palin collaborate on a series of villanelles dealing with mother-daughter conflicts and women's hidden hatred of men.)

OF MOOSE AND (WO)MEN: (Fiction, novel. The struggle of an average-looking and outdoorsy girl to homestead in Alaska and simultaneously compete in beauty pageants. She loses the crown but wins a prize for growing a monster cabbage)

THE SEDUCTION OF SARAH (Fiction, romance. Sarah is seduced and ruined by a powerful and dangerous cabal of conservative Floridians)

LAND OF THE MIDNIGHT GUN: (Non-fiction, instruction. A shooting manual and guide to cosmetic application for housewives whose husbands may develop a wandering eye)

ALASKA AND ME (Fiction, travel. A harried female executive leaves Anchorage for the wilderness and falls in love with both Mt. Denali and the bus driver who has made the ultimate sacrifice of driving tourists around it)

Palin has covered a lot of ground. Alaska is a big place. So is the national political stage. She has, in less than a year, excited the landscape with amusement and alarm. There is no common thread running through the narrative. It takes some doing to combine firearms with soccer and Wasilla with Tahari, not to mention the confusion with basic geography and the inability to answer straightforward questions about which newspapers one reads. This deficiency has since been smartly rectified. Palin is quoted as saying that she has read and admired the autobiography of Katherine Graham, former publisher of The Washington Post. This is a clever choice to cite; Graham neatly verged into the feminist movement of the 1960s after overcoming a self-doubt that is apparently outside of Palin's experience. And why should doubt go hand in hand with gender? She was never a quivering wreck in the face of greater knowledge. She has pressed her (red) suit with peculiar virtues that either are or are not Alaskan, and if they aren't, they weren't going to bring in the big tourist bucks anyway. Her book will be more successful than her bid. People may move to Alaska because of it. More than that will seek hunting licenses. Young girls may enter beauty pageants, and the rest of us may do something disdainful, like re-reading Plato's Republic.

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