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Erik Wemple
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Posted at 11:34 AM ET, 10/03/2011

Palin book: The good McGinniss, the bad McGinniss

Thank God the Erik Wemple Blog isn’t the Erik Wemple Book-Reviewing Blog. Because I’d never be able to render a unified judgement on Joe MicGinniss’s “The Rogue: Searching for the Real Sarah Palin.”

The book is a work of duality. In some passages, McGinniss displays deft writing, good sourcing, solid journalism. In others, all those qualities disappear. Over the next few days, the Erik Wemple Blog will be inventorying it all.

Being a positive blog, we’ll start with the good.

“The Rogue” moves. Though it occasionally delves into the minutiae of Palin’s political career, it generally does so through the narrative perspective of someone in Alaska’s political class, someone who can give the topic a personal spin. That’s why the book is a page-turner---there’s a lot of mini-portraiture in its 320 pages. It tells the story of Sarah Palin through those who she stampeded.

As McGinniss explains, Palin cut off his access to her friends and supporters. People were told not to cooperate: Simply don’t talk to this guy.

What resulted was a glorious journalistic inversion. When McGinniss at last finds someone who’ll speak up on Palin’s behalf, the Palin defender insists on anonymity, which is usually a refuge for detractors. Not only that, but McGinniss has to meet her at a “deserted” joint on Knik-Goose Bay Road.

All the preparations and negotiations prove worthwhile, as the interview with the anonymous Palinite is the highlight of this book.

Here’s how it plays out: McGinniss throws out some questions, and the Palinite just gushes. For instance, McGinniss notes that Palin’s famous imbroglio with the oil and gas commission gave her the profile of a statewide politico.

Palinite: “Yes, but she didn’t want that. Sarah never thinks of herself. She only thinks about the good she can do for others.”

McGinniss notes that people in Alaska have lost their romance with the former governor. Palinite: “Because of the press and the bloggers. All that negativity. Nobody ever writes about the good that she does.”Palinite then recounts an episode in which Palin gave a present to a boy who had been in a bicycle accident.

The Palinite’s over-the-top comments set up this classic moment:

This goes on for another hour. Dutifully, I take notes. This woman’s eyes are like laser beams on my notebook. She seems able to read my handwriting upside down better than I can read it as I write.
“I said she deals with stress with grace and dignity. Why didn’t you write that down?”

McGinniss: “It’s one of those phrases I won’t forget”

Next in the series: Bad Joe---Why all the adverb-comma constructions?

By  |  11:34 AM ET, 10/03/2011

 
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