Skip to main content

The Rogue by Joe McGinniss

"I can see Russia from my
house. Did I say Russia?
I meant rush hour..."
I don’t remember why it was I’d asked for a copy for Christmas, but a copy I received and very grateful I was. It took me a while to work up to it, but post-Jonathan Carroll I felt the need to connect to something more contemporaneous so it got the nod. In the interim I had heard diddly squat about it, critical, positive or anecdotal. In itself, that may be nothing unusual as I wasn’t looking for anything, but in attempting to find a picture of my edition to use on the blog, I discovered that Crown had cancelled a UK paperback edition: strange or not? I considered the possible reasons (chiefly among them the likelihood that an update was due following announcements or developments, news of which I had not heard either) but was concerned that one might be that it was one-sided, trash-talking, anti-Palin hyperbole from a man of whom I knew only from his charming book on life at a minor Italian football club.*

Of course, fears were allayed once I’d actually started to read it.

The over reliance on blogs as sources aside** McGinniss appears to work tirelessly towards a balanced understanding of the background, upbringing and influences of Sarah Palin. That this task is tantamount to the punishment of Sisyphus is not his fault. McGinniss reports that he faced threats, calls from lunatics to kill him and his children and grandchildren, and down-right un-Alaskan rudeness in the wake of his rather dubiously motivated renting of the house next door to the Palin homestead on Lake Lucille, and yet still manages to remain equable and not feel the need to take advantage of the many proffered firearms for the famed Alaskan defence of self and property. He does so whilst preparing a frankly luminous book, laced with wit and insight in equal measure, and surprisingly, given the many other far easier targets in his sights***, levelling the most grievous charges not at Sarah Palin herself, damaged, deranged, deluded creature that she so clearly appears to be (from the outside and indeed the Outside), but at a media that obsequiously panders to her every outburst, and steadfastly refuses to allow her poisonous fruits to wither on her desiccated vine – “Lamestream media” indeed. Still, McGinniss points out, the two entities are co-dependent because Palin sells papers (and air time).

For a chap rarely interested in the minutiae of American politics, this book has caught my attention. It did randomly before Christmas and has done so again. I like McGinniss, a state of affairs with which I am comfortable. I don’t like Sarah Palin (and Todd, Bristol, dad Chuck Heath et cetera), ditto. That she could have even been considered suitable for a public service post seems ludicrous, let alone have been a candidate for a position that could have ended up with her as POTUS (if McCain keeled over or was shot by one of his own NRA loonies). It’s just as well serendipity has run out on her at last. God must have a keenly developed sense of humour if he did indeed tell her to run for President. What a joker!

As for McGinniss – I may just take a peek at some of his neglected back list.

*This fact still didn’t stop me from being surprised by the frequent references to excitement over the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.
** McGinniss qualifies this by explaining the near complete lack of alternative and / or balanced sources available. Palin does seem to polarise opinion in very much the same way as she appears to see things as either clearly good (i.e. on her side) or evil (i.e. not on her side). Besides, the Palins’ refusal to sanction – and by sanction please understand me to mean not threaten litigiously, libellously, financially or physically the friends, relatives, neighbours, peers, co-inhabitants and strangers of Alaska at large (and families) to and of the Palin family – any interaction with the stalker next door.
*** Not the infamous gun-sights that appeared on Palin’s PAC site over the state of Congresswoman Gifford just before her unfortunate and near fatal assault...


How's about that then?

Selected Holiday Reading - The In-Betweeners Abroad

I always try to travel light, a goal, something with which those among you with bookish leanings will empathise, that is challenging for someone intending to do as much reading as they can whilst ignoring as much culture and scenery as is possible. So huzzah and indeed hurrah for the generic e-book reader and its market competitors. Ten years ago I would likely have suffered a paroxysm of disgust for any apologist of the hated technology. Now, it seems, I must take one everywhere I go for more than one night.

The trip to which I am coming, an August sojourn by ferry to Santander and then by VW through Calabria, the Basque country, and north through Aquitaine, Poitou-Charente, Pays de la Loire and Bretagne, was a chance to get some serious reading under the belt. Twelve days of driving, drinking, books and beaches. The only 'real' books that made the trip were The Vagabond's Breakfast, of which more anon, and All The Days And Nights which, as I was on a deadline, I quickly …

Under The Dust by Jordi Coca

So, wheel of fortune, count to 29, pin the tail, freebies off of peeps on Twitter etc. etc. Whatever the methods sometimes employed to pick the next book in my intertextual experience, the one that brought me to Jordi Coca brought me to a whopping great slice of nostalgia. Before I'd even opened it, it brought to mind Richard Gwyn, himself a published poet, author, biographer, translator and course director of the MA Creative Writing course at Cardiff University, who I recall for some odd reason gently encouraging me to read this novel, and by whose own work I was quietly impressed at the time. He was also an advocate of Roberto Bolaño, another writer in whose work I can immerse myself but from which I emerge drained, as mentioned previously. Before that, though, there is this sticker on the front, declaring 'Signed by the Author at Waterstone's'. It is indeed signed by Jordi Coca, not adding any particular intrinsic value to the book, not for me anyway, but more impor…

The One from the Other by Philip Kerr

Philip Kerr is an author I have been reluctant to attempt to review for some time. His Berlin Noir trilogy cost me some hours of sleeplessness and in the end I decided to skip a review and just be happy to have read it and therefore move it from the pile of unread novels, via the edge of my desk where the “to review” pile occasionally falls over on to the typewriter and spills my pen pot across the floor and thus causes significant risks when stumbling blindly about the room at night too drunk to remember where my bed is or having just been jolted awake by the boy shrieking from the next room and running asleep into walls and doors, to the back half of my giant Ikea bookcase where novels that have been read and have caused my self-esteem to shatter on the diamond-hard edges of someone else’s talent currently reside, gathering dust and moisture until hitting the mildew tipping point and becoming physically dangerous in their own right. This awesome crew consists mainly of Will Self, Jo…

Hannah Green And Her Unfeasibly Mundane Existence by Michael Marshall Smith

I was sold this book by Simon at the Big Green Bookshop in return for the money it cost plus a small donation towards operating costs and postage. 

In truth, I'd forgotten it was on its way, and it was a fucking lovely surprise when it arrived at my desk in work, my letterbox at the time being a tad short on width and breadth and unlikely to admit a hardback plus packaging. I recall very much enjoying reading Michael Marshall Smith, and I also enjoyed re-reading him, recently, and I documented this here, here and here. This was a book for which I hadn't realised I'd been waiting for a long time. 

However, had I not the history and warm, cosy feelings safely tucked up in the nostalgia bank, I would probably not have picked this up, going solely on the cover. There's a clock, the silhouette of a small girl, and leaves, along with a colour contrast and meandering font which brought to mind something cringe-worthily reminiscent of Alexander McCall-Smith*, or the covers of Sc…