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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?

Damned If I Do by Percival Everett

Where I should be recovering from a particularly nasty stomach bug, rather I appear to be on a Percival Everett trip today - first Strom, now Damned - but he really is that good. Good as in read-everything-he's-written-now good. Good as in I'm writing this on my iPad never more than two meters from the nearest toilet good. That's good. 

Damned If I Do is short stories, yes. That I have a curious relationship with short fiction is undisputed, but there are some like Breece D'J Pancake and Haruki Murakami that just have to be read, objections or no. Thankfully, it appears Everett has inherited some of their ability to write convincing, understated and ultimately addictive snippets of prose. And snippets they are. Somewhere I read once a quote from China Mielville where he says he just loves it when writers don't show the reader the monster in its entirety, that leaving something of the horror to the imagination of his audience adds a level of engagement and makes the …

A Death In The Family: My Struggle Volume 1 by Karl Ove Knausgaard

I sit here, wearing my limited edition Knausgaard t-shirt, immensely grateful to the kind people at Vintage Books for their surprising gift of the first four novels (and aforementioned t-shirt) simply as a result of being able to post a comment on their YouTube Vlog. There may have been a hidden agenda, considering I'm a book blogger (What, interrobang, a book blogger, interrobang and so on...) but I prefer to believe they picked me at random. Because I'm ace. 
Nonetheless, I had no idea what to expect of these books. I did do a little reading, and found lots of very interesting articles about Karl Ove Knausgaard, including this entertaining one in the Wall Street Journal. But in all honesty, nothing prepared me for reading them, and I can see why they cause controversy and consternation wherever they are translated (which is pretty much everywhere).
First off, being intelligent and perspicacious readers as I trust you all to be, you will no doubt have spotted the whole Godwin&#…

A Bright Moon For Fools by Jasper Gibson

Ah, what would be a review penned by yours truly without some sort of grovelling apology at the outset? A better review no doubt, but that aside I can't help but continue the tiresome tradition with an apology. Sorry to my regular robotic readers (hi bots!) but I have been very neglectful of the blog of late, having been tied up with my pursuit of a broader spectrum of dilettantism; I've been taking part in a number of MOOCs offered by various HEIs on the FutureLearn platform. Worth checking out if you ask me.

(Subtle enough plug, you think?)
Anyway, the break afforded by a foray into further education has proved something of a test for Jasper Gibson and his fiction. In truth, it took me a little while to remember what exactly the novel was about, who was in it, and how I felt about the whole thing. Instant alarm bells. Of course, having had a break, I'd had a good crack at filling my head with a whole bunch of other things worth remembering, so maybe it all just got squeeze…

Open Door by Iosi Havilio

*Shame Klaxon*
I am ashamed to admit it but I know next to nothing about Borges. I know the names of his books. I know he crops up almost without fail when conversations include literature from South America. I know his words book-end so many novels that I have that habitual proving-my-bold-assertion-mind-blankness which means my brain knows it to be true and won't humour your scepticism with an example*. And I know it's likely the biggest single lacuna in my entire reading history**.
So you may imagine my lack of surprise, on finishing this novel and reading the afterword by Oscar Guardiola-Rivera, lecturer at Birkbeck College, London, and author of works on the history and politics of Latin America, that Borges pops up, within three lines of text. Three lines! He wastes no time does Oscar. Of course, my shame bristled and I was ready to adopt the usual casual hostility to something of which I was ignorant. But straight away, I understood what he was saying. I have often consid…