Popdose at Kirkus Reviews: “The Rogue: Searching for the Real Sarah Palin”

Written by Books, Kirkus Reviews

Joe McGinness’ scandalous expose of Tea Party cheerleader Sarah Palin gives her a most unlikely gift.

For more than 75 years, Kirkus Reviews has served as the industry bible for bookstore buyers, librarians, and ordinary readers alike. Now Popdose has joined the Kirkus Book Bloggers Network, taking to the virtual pages of Kirkus Reviews Online to dish on the best — and sometimes the worst — in pop-culture and celebrity books.

On the week of September 12, author Joe McGinniss gave Sarah Palin the one thing no one else ever could, whether he expected to or not. One has to assume not.

With the “premiere” of his book The Rogue: Searching for the Real Sarah Palin, as excerpts parsed out in Gary Trudeau’s comic strip Doonesbury, a clash of the old and the new comes into sharp relief. McGinniss, a renowned investigative journalist, famously rented a house next to the Palins in Alaska to get the scoop on the Tea Party lightning rod, former governor and vice-presidential candidate. What McGinniss came away with were salacious tales of sexual indiscretion, drugs, the cracking of her ultra-conservative veneer and incidents that can only be described as bizarre.

Unfortunately, handfuls of accounts fall in the pools of the unsubstantiated and, therefore, the unverifiable. Sordid recollections of youthful romps with black basketball players brush up against damning accounts of overt racism, thus attempting to clarify the hypocrisies which her detractors already insisted upon and her supporters flatly disbelieved. Extra-marital affairs and cocaine-fueled trips, and much more, cast her as more sinner than saint.

Trudeau, ever a lightning rod in the political sphere with the Doonesbury strip, cast his character Roland Headley, Fox News reporter, as the recipient of McGinniss’ manuscript. His mission as directed by his boss Roger (alluding to Fox News poobah Roger Ailes) was to tease the book on Twitter, but to put Palin in the best possible light, as she was considered an extremely valuable star in the Fox News firmament. Headley does his best, but finds the details hard, if not impossible, to spin.

For the sake of clarification, I myself am not a Palin supporter but will leave my own opinions of her out of this. Her foes find her the most divisive sort of political character, always projecting virtue but at the same time exhibiting duplicitous tendencies. Her fans lash out and call any negative points, even the most benign ones, slander and patently false. Considering the degree of unaccredited sources here, one has to look at McGinniss’ body of work as a tie-breaker, and even that has to be measured by how you feel about Palin. There is little room to be swayed or dismayed on either shore.

The bigger story is not so much about Palin or the book, but by the comic strip. Let us not mince words here: this is the most attention Doonesbury has received in years. In a world where Jon Stewart and The Daily Show has supplanted printed political humor as the resident gadfly, who knew anyone would be so sparked off by Trudeau’s inclusions? Many people probably didn’t know Doonesbury was still around; after all, in many newspapers it appears on the opinions page, not the comics page. In others, there’s no longer a comics page to be on. In even more, the paper itself no longer exists at all.

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