No, we have not read Sarah Palin's new book, Goin' Rogue. But we can say with some authority that it is the most moving and affecting memoir published in the English language since Speak, Memory.
It can best be described as a stunning piece of experimental metafiction. What if a rote, ghost-written political memoir by a second-place vice presidential candidate was penned by a Faulknerian unreliable narrator? It's like The Turn of the Screw, only the ghost is Steve Schmidt. Our protagonist, "Sarah Palin," deliberately withholds and exaggerates, even dropping into italicized internal monologue to signify that a real whooper's on the way.
Palin's grasp of American dialect is more S.E. Hinton than Twain, of course (while occasionally stunning in its experimental ambition, it is her first published work). But what it occasionally lacks in conversational verisimilitude ("a big darn deal"?) it usually makes up for in unexpected humor. Here she is describing the moment when "Sarah Palin" first learns that she's "pregnant" with the mysterious talisman "Trig":
Slowly a pink image materialized on the stick. Holy geez!
"Trig" inspires this delightfully batty biblical allusion:
Yes Lord, I thought. My name is Sarah, but my husband isn't Abraham. His name is Todd!
Did Todd offer Sarah to the Pharaoh and come away with rewards and riches? When Todd asked for another son, did Sarah offer him her handmaiden, Meg Stapleton? So many questions!
Every so often, the tone abruptly (and cleverly) switches to a savage parody of the pretentious poetics that the sort of person who'd attempt them would call "high-falutin.'" Kakutani highlights a winner from the first page (didn't finish before your deadline, Michiko?)
I breathed in an autumn bouquet that combined everything small-town America with rugged splashes of the Last Frontier.
Exposing the useless charade of an loser would-be Veep expounding on history and foreign policy (as if anyone cared! as if we believed they came up with their insights on their own!) Going Rogue presents a 15-year-old high school basketball team captain's thoughts on the Iran Hostage Crisis, and what it revealed about leadership:
I had followed the Iran hostage crisis and remember wondering why President Jimmy Carter didn't act more decisively. From my high schooler's perspective, I thought the question was, Why did he allow America to be humiliated and pushed around? The new president being sworn in radiated confidence and optimism. The enemies of freedom took notice. In years to come people would ask, What did he have that Carter didn't? To me the answer was obvious. He had a steel spine.
She uses the Dan Rathermism "high on the hog" and complains of being called a demeaning term for the lower classes that she wears with pride:
"My family was made to look like a herd of hillbillies who had come to the big city and started living high on the hog, and that hurt me for them."
"And that hurt me for them." Brilliant.
In this bravura passage, "Palin" complains that a fat man told her to eat well.
He then launched into a discussion of nutrition physiology, holding forth on the importance of carbohydrates to cognitive connections and blah-blah-blah. As he lectured, I took in his rotund physique and noted that he used nicotine to keep his own cognitive connections humming along.
I interrupted his lecture. "Steve, you know what I really need? Half an hour to go for a run in these beautiful cities we're visiting. Also, seeing my kids does wonders for my soul."
He barreled on as if I hadn't spoken. "Headquarters is flying in a nutritionist, and for three days you're going to be on a diet balanced in carbohydrates and nitrates and —"
I'm a forty-four year old, healthy, athletic woman raising five kids and governing a large state, I thought as his words faded into a background buzz. Sir, I really don't know you yet. But you've told me how to dress, what to say, who to talk to, a lot of people not to talk to, who my heroes are supposed to be and we're still losing. Now you're going to tell me what to eat?
A fat smoker told "Sarah Palin" to eat a balanced diet and that made her mad. We cannot recommend this book highly enough. And you can get it for free!
Oh, and PS: It turns out that Sarah Palin talks like that because of Government Socialism. Seriously! Alaska's Mat-Stu valley region was populated by upper midwestern farmers relocated to Alaska as part of a New Deal agricultural program. This was basically exactly the sort of thing Stalin would do, and though most of those 200 Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan families who were resettled in Alaska to farm hated it immensely and eventually left, they left behind a legacy of talking like a goober. (Palin also has a western influence in her accent, because her family is from Idaho. And also, obviously, she talks like even more of a goober when she is on television trying to prove that she is as much of a reactionary moron as the reactionary morons she is trying to appeal to. We all know Real Americans don't fully pronounce the suffixes of present participles, etc. etc..)